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William C. Hart

William C. Hart ran the "Rocky Mountain Gem Store" (actually a mineral shop) at 101-103 Ruxton Avenue in Manitou Springs, Colorado. He was born in Bellevue, Calhoun County, Illinois in March 1849, the son of Ann and Henry G. Hart, a merchant and farmer. He married Ida McLain; on the 1880 census they are shown living in Big Thompson, Larimer County, Colorado, where William is farming and raising stock. In 1886-1890 he worked as a miner in Leadville, and is listed in the Leadville City Directory. In the early 1890's they moved to Manitou Springs where William opened his "curio shop" specializing in minerals.

On the 1900 census Hart and his wife are listed with six children, all born in Colorado beginning in 1880. It was Hart who, in 1902, supplied the first specimens of epidote and associated minerals from Prince of Wales Island, Alaska to Harvard mineralogist Charles Palache for study. Hart also discovered a spectacular vein of rose quartz up to 3 feet wide near Stove Prairie, Colorado and in 1905 removed 21,000 pounds of quartz from the vein. He also sold 5,000 pounds of Colorado petrified wood through his shop in 1907.

By 1910 Ida had died and William is listed as widowed and living by himself on Ruxton Avenue, dealing in "wholesale and retail merchandise; souvenirs and minerals." Also at the shop address of 103 Ruxton Avenue lived Jeanette Whitford, a widow four years younger than William, who was employed as a "saleswoman, souvenirs and minerals," in William's shop.

William C. Hart was among the founding members of the Mineralogical Society of America in 1919 (Am. Min. vol. 6, p. 46). His second wife, Helen Maud Rice, was a young woman 40 years his junior. At the time of the 1920 census the 71-year-old William was living temporarily in West Palm Beach, Florida with 31-year-old Helen; they had a five-year-old daughter, Phoebe, who had been born in Colorado in 1915. William lists his occupation as "Merchant, Curio." Helen died in 1922, at the age of 34.

On the 1930 census, William C. Hart appears with a third wife, 71-year-old Cora, in both Manitou Springs, Colorado (April 2, on Ruxton Avenue) and West Palm Beach, Florida (April 14), listing himself as "Proprietor, Curio Store" and "Retail Merchant, Curio Shop." He had the two stores, and spent the winter months every year in Florida. Hart and Denver dealer Arthur Pohndorf were the buyers of the first pocket of rhodochrosite crystals collected at the famous Sweet Home mine in 1929-1930.

Hart died in 1936. Two of his daughters kept the Manitou Springs shop open for a few years but eventually his large stock of minerals and meteorites was disposed of, some of it going to a local mineral dealer, Elmer Brown.

DAY, D.T. (1906) Mineral Resources of the United States, for 1905.
U.S. Federal Census, 1850-1930.
GAINES, R.V. (1980) Interview: Allan Caplan. Mineralogical Record, 11 (6), 351.
WHITE, G.M. (1981) Colorado in the old days [Letter].Mineralogical Record, 12 (3), 135-136.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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The Mineralogical Record - William C. Hart William C. Hart (ca. 1920) in front of the "Rocky Mountain Gem Store" which he opened in Manitou, Colorado in the late 1890s.
The Mineralogical Record - William C. Hart Packed display shelves in W.C. Hart's "Rocky Mountain Gem Store" in Manitou, Colorado ca. 1920.
The Mineralogical Record - William C. Hart Ad from Joseph Hiestand's 1895 catalog.
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