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Earl W. Martin

Earl William Martin was born in Addison, Lenawee County, Michigan on August 2, 1885, the son of Della Rosa Adela Armstrong and William John Martin. He married Julia Cyllania Bird (1892-1968) in 1910, and lived in Ann Arbor all his life, listing his occupation as "farmer" at least as late as the 1940 census, and cited in the 1938 City Directory as a dairy farmer. Earl and Julia had three children: Margaret Jane Martin (1912-1982), William Richard Martin (1920-1996) and Katheryn Esther Martin (1923-1999).

Earl became active as a mineral collector and, according to a December 1963 ad in Rocks & Minerals, he launched a mineral business in 1942, perhaps having retired (at age 57) from dairy farming. He ran the mineral business from his home in Ann Arbor at 1884 Miller Avenue, and advertised as “E. W. Martin” in Rocks & Minerals beginning in June 1945. In that first ad he stated that “After several years of collecting [I] can offer selected specimens of 200 minerals. Northern Michigan copper, copper in calcite, half-breeds, magnificent crystallized silver for advanced collectors up to $75.00, beautiful Tri-State minerals, ruby zinc, cockscomb marcasite. Also thomsonite, Franklin Furnace material, Ceylon sapphires, benitoite, azurite, jasper, chafinite, Clay Center fluorite and celestite, Rosiclaire fluorite, agate.” In the following issue he offered cutting material and “nearly all Western minerals. Collections $5 and up.”

In November 1946 Martin announced: “I have just added the justly famous J. Frank Roberts collection of Detroit to my stock. This collection contains a large number of specimens of northern Michigan copper, copper in calcite, prehnite, mohawkite, and other minerals of Michigan. A large number of rare specimens from many foreign countries, and a beautiful fluorescent collection. I sincerely believe this purchase makes us headquarters of America for Northern Michigan minerals.” His last display ad appeared in January 1947.

The March 1946 issue of Desert Magazine reported that he attended a meeting of the Imperial Valley Gem and Mineral Society in California: "Earl W. Martin of Ann Arbor, Michigan, took over the program. He spoke for some time on the interest and vicissitudes of mineral collecting, both as amateur and professional. He then displayed his stock of rare minerals, such as Rosiclare fluorite, ruby zinc, needles of selenite, dog-tooth spar, higginsite, mica with garnet and other inclusions, odd crystals of galena and many others. Many members took the occasion to buy specimens to enrich their own collections." The May 1947 issue reported again on the Imperial Valley Society meeting, stating that "Mr. and Mrs. Earl W. Martin of Ann Arbor, Michigan, who were on their annual purchasing trip to the West Coast, displayed some of their beautiful specimens."

At some time in the 1950s Martin opened Martin's Gem and Mineral Studio at 201 E. Washington Street in Ann Arbor. William G. Lyon, who often visited the shop in 1959-1962 while in high school, described it as follows:

“This was a first rate ‘mineral studio,' not just the kind of ‘rock shop' that was typical of that era all over the west. Any free time I had on Saturdays, I spent going over the treasures in his cases, and discussing minerals. I had one invitation to view the personal collection of Earl and Julia – I remember especially the optical-quality pale yellow sphalerite crystals that he showed me. I remember two specimens in particular that were "going to the Smithsonian": a splendid single crystal of azurite about 3 inches in length (Tsumeb?); and a fine specimen of legrandite showing several nice radiating masses of yellow crystals.”

In 1962 or 1963 the shop was taken over by one of Earl's younger relatives, John A. Martin and his wife Eugenia. They claimed to have over 30,000 mineral specimens in stock. At some time after 1971 they moved the shop to a mall, probably in Brighton, Michigan about 15 miles north of Ann Arbor. John subscribed to the Mineralogical Record between 1978 and 1980, and died in 1997.

Julia Martin died in Ann Arbor in 1968, and Earl W. Martin died in Ann Arbor on November 3, 1972. The final disposition of his personal mineral collection remains unknown.

Social Security Death Index.
Michigan Death Index.
World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.
Ann Arbor Township Birth Records.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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The Mineralogical Record - Earl W. Martin Ad in Rocks & Minerals November 1946.
The Mineralogical Record - Earl W. Martin Earl Martin's Mineral Studio in Ann Arbor at 201 E. Washington Street.
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