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Ralph E. Merrill

Ralph Everett Merrill was born in Burbank, California on November 15, 1917, the son of Harvilla Myrtle "Biddie" Hooser and Harry Reese Merrill, a fruit farmer. In 1941 Ralph married Betty ___, but the marriage did not last. In 1945 he married Nedra Richins, but that union eventually ended as well.

Minerals Unlimited was founded in 1948 by Dave and Irene Grigsby and Scott and Miriam "Mimi" Williams. In 1953 Ralph joined the company and in 1954 and 1955 he purchased it from Grigsby and Williams. Scott and Mimi divorced, and Mimi and Ralph married in 1955. They each had children from previous marriages, and then had two more in 1956 (Wendi) and 1957.

Ralph's main interest was rare species rather than display-quality specimens, so that was the direction he turned the business as time went on. He spent a lot of time examining minerals under the microscope. At one time or another all seven of Ralph and Mimi's children worked as employees for the firm, but eventually all except Wendi found careers in other fields.

Minerals Unlimited was started in Berkeley, California, but eventually the property that it was located on was purchased by the city for a renovation project. The business was moved to 127 N. Downs St. in Ridgecrest in 1970. Five train boxcars and two moving vans were used to move over the stock of 100 tons of specimens!

The stock of minerals was obtained in a number of different ways. Some was personally collected by each of the successive owners, as well as by occasional employees. Some was traded for, some purchased from other businesses, as well as from individuals who sold minerals (especially John Patrick), and some came from a number of personal collections that were purchased.

Wendi L. Merrill Elkins (Mimi and Ralph's daughter; she married Daniel R. Elkins in 1989) inherited the business in 2003 and has been the owner of Minerals Unlimited since then. She has worked at Minerals Unlimited (wrapping specimens for the Special Offer sets at first) since she was eight years old, going onto the payroll officially when she was 16, and has been there almost all of the time since then. She took a year off when she was 19 to work for Si and Ann Frazier, who started a spin-off business from Minerals Unlimited around 1960, when Ralph and Mimi got out of the lapidary aspect of the field.

Mimi (born Miriam Francis Licker/Licher on March 17, 1926) worked at Minerals Unlimited steadily until the mid-1970s when she went back to college and receiving her degree. She then taught at California State University in Bakersfield for several years, retiring in 1994. She continued to assist the business with her writing skills for many years. In 2010 her memory and health began to decline, and at 84 years old she moved into an assisted living facility with around-the-clock monitoring for safety. She died May 30, 2014.

Ralph Merrill worked continuously at the shop until his death in Ridgecrest, California on November 3, 2001.

In 2013, Marcus J. Origlieri (The Mineral Zone, Tucson) purchased Ralph Merrill's personal collection of nearly 4100 pieces, mostly thumbnails and miniatures, from Wendi Merrill Elkins. Included were many fine minerals from the Schneider collection (University of Berlin), the collections of Magnus Vonsen (1880-1954) and Joseph B. Nichols (1884-1951), the collection of Paul Zimmerman (born 1943) and items traded from Harvard University (via Clifford Frondel). Some fine specimens in the collection also came originally from Scott Williams and David Grigsby, with their personal collection labels.

References: California Death Index,
California Marriage Index.
California Divorce Index.
California Birth Index.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
Biographical Archive, at]
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Number of labels found: 9 | Labels being viewed: 1 to 8

The Mineralogical Record - Ralph E. Merrill 43 x 71 mm; no address (presumably Durant Avenue)
The Mineralogical Record - Ralph E. Merrill 46 x 68 mm; no address (presumably Durant Avenue)
The Mineralogical Record - Ralph E. Merrill 47 x 71 mm; no address (presumably Durant Avenue)
The Mineralogical Record - Ralph E. Merrill 42 x 71 mm; no address (presumably Durant)
The Mineralogical Record - Ralph E. Merrill 50 x 77 mm; Durant address
The Mineralogical Record - Ralph E. Merrill 42 x 70 mm; University Avenue address. Specimen from the collection of Dr. G. Schneider, Berlin.
The Mineralogical Record - Ralph E. Merrill 49 x 73 mm; University Avenue address.
The Mineralogical Record - Ralph E. Merrill 50 x 87 mm; University Avenue address. Specimen from the Schmidt Collection (1870-1925)
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