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Ralph E. Mueller

Ralph Edward Mueller, prominent Arizona mineral dealer, was born July 1898 in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of Mabel and Edward H. Mueller, a real estate agent. He graduated from Wyandotte High School and then attended the University of Kansas until the outbreak of World War I, when he entered the Army Medical Corps. After the war he completed his M.D. degree at the University of Kansas Medical School, and had a prominent practice as an orthopaedic surgeon.

Around 1939 Dr. Mueller became interested in gem and mineral collecting. He and his wife Delpha (1904-1991) went on many field trips to collect opal, agate and other materials in Mexico. Eventually he accumulated several tons of specimens in his basement in Kansas City, and began purchasing diamond saws to cut up the material; at one time he had 14 saws running simultaneously. He began selling extra mineral lapidary material from his medical office and from his home at 3701 Valentine Road in 1945; he offered amethyst crystals from Mexico in very first issue of Lapidary Journal (April 1947).

In August 1950 he announced the opening of a new gem and mineral store in Kansas City called Ralph E. Mueller & Son. Following his retirement from medical practice in 1952 he retired to Phoenix, Arizona where he and his son James reopened their gem and mineral store ("Mueller & Son") at 1000 Camelback Avenue.

Ralph Mueller died December 6, 1957. His friend and occasional traveling companion, Lelande Quick (founder of Lapidary Journal) wrote of him: "In every corner of the land he had many friends, and we never heard anyone speak of him except in the highest terms. He was peculiarly without enemies, and because of his warm personality and professional background he brought great credit to the dealer ranks."

James "Jimmy" Mueller (son of Delpha and Ralph Mueller) was born in October 1926 in Kansas City, Missouri. He moved to Phoenix with his father in 1952 and operated the gem and mineral store (renamed simply "Mueller's" after Ralph's death) until well into the 1970s. Although Ralph had been more interested in lapidary, under Jim's management in 1968 the store shifted emphasis toward carrying high-quality crystallized mineral specimens as well as gems and jewelry. When Jim retired in the late 1970s the store was taken over by Kathie D. Brooks and Richard B. Brooks (Richard's father ran one of the local Cadillac dealerships); they were primarily gem and jewelry people who had little interest in mineral specimens.

Jim continued to deal in gemstones for a while after retiring. He continued to sell at mineral shows in Phoenix, from a hotel at the north end of the Cenvention Center Mall. Ultimately he retied on his boat at Rocky Point, Mexico, while his son continued to run the business for some time. Jim and his wife Dorris divorced in the early 1980s.

The shop at 1000 E. Camelback appears to have closed permanently around 1981, after which listings no longer appear in the annual Lapidary Journal Buyer's Guide..

QUICK, L. (1958) Dr. Ralph E. Mueller died. Lapidary Journal, 11 (6) (February), 701.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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The Mineralogical Record - Ralph E. Mueller Phoenix label,
59 x 93 mm.
The Mineralogical Record - Ralph E. Mueller Phoenix labels,
38 x 61 mm.
The Mineralogical Record - Ralph E. Mueller Phoenix labels,
38 x 61 mm.
The Mineralogical Record - Ralph E. Mueller Ad for Mueller's in the March 1972 issue of Lapidary Journal.
The Mineralogical Record - Ralph E. Mueller Business card for Kathie and Richard Brooks (late 1970s to 1982)
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