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Loris P. Woolery

Loris Pickard Woolery was born in Tombstone, Arizona on June 20, 1905, the son of Gloria May Pickard and Lee Oliver Woolery, an attorney. His parents met in Death Valley at the borax mines and moved to Tombstone in 1899. Loris lived his early years in Tombstone, then attended grammar school in Glendale, Arizona, and went on to Pomona College in California for a year. He then studied at the General Motors Institute in Flint, Michigan. Eventually he and his wife Colleen settled down in Bisbee where he worked in (and ultimately became President of) the Pioneer Title and Trust Company, a firm founded by his father.

Around 1954 a friend who had grown up in the Courtland-Gleeson mining district retired and sold his collection of Indian artifacts and a few ore samples and mineral specimens to the Woolerys. Loris's interest became aroused, and he took a University of Arizona extension course in mineral identification. Then a Bisbee miner named Walsh sold his excellent collection of Bisbee minerals to Woolery for $2500, and it became the nucleus for a growing Arizona collection. More purchases followed, including part of the collection William Imrich, a Bisbee barber. Woolery tracked down and purchased every good collection or hoard of Bisbee specimens he could find, and made it known among the miners that he would buy specimens they might bring out. Woolery also bought specimens from the legendary Butte, Montana mineral dealer Ed McDole (1912-1970).

After just seven or eight years of intense collecting the Woolery collection numbered about 2,000 fine specimens, most of them from Arizona. Around 1961 the famous Barcelona mineral collector Joaquin Folch-Girona visited the Woolerys to see their collection, and was so impressed that he offered $4,000 to have his pick of the top 20 pieces. The Woolery's refused, but the offer started a rumor going around the 1962 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show that the collection was for sale, and soon a prominent mineral dealer, probably Martin Ehrmann, was at their door trying to get them to set a price for the whole collection. They did: $10,000, which was apparently too steep for Ehrmann. Nevertheless, a consortium of foreign collectors began forming in order to pool funds to buy the collection and take it to Europe.

As it happened, the beloved Dean of Arizona rockhounds, Arthur L. Flagg, had died in 1961 and the Arizona Mineralogical Society had been looking for a way to create a suitable memorial. Buying the Woolery collection to establish an Arizona Earth Science Museum became their goal. They began a fundraising campaign, and organized the A.L. Flagg Foundation for the Advancement of Earth Sciences to administer it. After making a down payment of $1,500 they went to Bisbee in January 1963 with ten pickup trucks and a station wagon, packed up the Woolery collection and moved it to Phoenix. When Charles E. Goetz, owner of the 79 mine near Hayden, saw the collection he immediately donated another $12,000 to pay it off and build appropriate display cases for it in the Minerals Building on the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix. Today it is preserved in the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum at 1502 W. Washington in downtown Phoenix.

Colleen and Loris Woolery died in Tucson, she in January 1987 and he on December 7, 1993.

GETSINGER, F.R. (1965) The Woolery mineral collection. Arizona Highways, 41 (5), 31-37.
GRANT, R. (2007) More Foundation history. Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum Foundation News, 17 (1), p. 4.
Social Security Death Index.
US Federal Census 1910, 1920, 1930.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
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