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J. Willard  Baker

Joseph Willard Baker, prominent Rhode Island mineral collector, was born in Central Falls, Rhode Island on June 12, 1868, the son of Angella Alfaretta Amsbury and Charles Henry Baker, a mechanical engineer. He was educated in the public schools of Pawtucket and Providence, Rhode Island. In his business life he began as a clerk and rose to the position of secretary of the Jenckes Spinning Company, at that time the largest tire fabric mill in the United States. He was a Republican in politics, a Baptist, and a member of several fraternal orders including the Masons, the Royal and Select Masters, the Knights Templar; the Scottish Rite fraternity, the Shriners, and the Royal Arcanum.

Baker began collecting minerals in 1881, and it became his chief source of recreation for the rest of his life. He always enjoyed discussing minerals with students, teachers and other collectors, and was a regular lecturer at hobby shows. By the time of his death his mineral collection numbered some 3,750 carefully cataloged specimens of nearly 500 species from localities worldwide. Incorporated in his collection was an older collection he acquired which was started in 1805 (the name of that earlier collector is unknown). Baker was a member of the New York Mineralogical Society, and a charter member of the Mineralogical Society of America.

Baker married Lillie Caroline Cranston in 1888; they had one daughter, Louise. He died on May 14, 1940, at his home in West Wrentham, Massachusetts. The ultimate disposition of his large collection remains unknown.

AMERICAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY (1920) History of the State of Rhode Island.
ZODAC, P. (1940) J. Willard Baker [obituary]. Rocks & Minerals, 15 (11), 382.
DAKE, H. C. (1937) Baker collection. The Mineralogist, 5 (4), 6.
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