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H. W. Hollenbush

Hiram W. Hollenbush was born in Ruscombmanor Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania, the eldest son of Catherine Strauss and Solomon Hollenbush (1805-1858), a carpenter. He learned carpentry and cabinetmaking from his father and working in that trade for a number of years. He married Adeline ____ (died 1887). Despite having had only 15 days of formal schooling, he proved to be natural born student. As a youth he began to study mineralogy, making the acquaintance of Dr. T. G. Bertolet of Friedensburg and spending his spare time in the doctor's library. Ultimately he adopted mineralogy and chemistry as his full-time profession some time after 1871 and became one of the best known mineral enthusiasts in the state.

"He devoted his life to the study of the minerals of the county, and accumulated a mass of fragmentary knowledge of the subject, which, but for his lack of the distinguishing mental trait of the successful scientist—the faculty to generalize facts—and a life-long struggle with poverty, might have secured him a high position among the mineralogists of his State and day." (Montgomery, 1886)

He was frequently called upon to examine mineral deposits in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and provided ore analyses for manufacturing firms and others interested in mining. He was also conversant in botany and astronomy, and constructed his own telescope entirely from scratch—including the grinding of the lenses. He was a founding member of the Reading Society of Natural Sciences in 1869. "The organization had a fair collection of birds, minerals, and general curiosities. It was dissolved in 1885 for want of patronage, and its collections distributed." His mineral collection was purchased upon his death by Nicholas H, Muhlenberg of Reading. The Berks Country Historical Society has an oil portrait of Hollenbush presented to them in 1923.

US Federal Census 1880.
Philadelphia Death Certificates, 1803-1915.
MENGEL, L. W. (1911) "Former scientists and scientific societies of Reading," Transactions of the Historical Society of Berks County, Part III, p. 101-105.
MONTGOMERY, M. L. (1886) History of Berks County in Pennsylvania. p. 35.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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