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James Allen

James M. Allen, long-time proprietor of a mail-order mineral business called "Allen's Minerals," was born James Montgomery in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1939. He was the son of Helen Montgomery and an unknown father. She is listed in the April 4, 1940 census as married, but she was not living with a husband, and Montgomery was her maiden name, so presumably James was born out of wedlock and given up for adoption. The infant James also appears on the April 19, 1940 South Sioux City, Nebraska census, after having been adopted by Loretta Mildred Hileman and Wilber Eugene Allen, a salesman. Thus he became James Montgomery Allen.

James grew up in South Sioux City and developed an interest in minerals at an early age. By the age of 15 he was advertising minerals for sale in Rocks & Minerals, at first simply under the name of "Allen's." He attended South Dakota State University 1958, majoring in Geology, and appears as a member of the Geology Club in the 1958 school yearbook. Apparently he was still living at home part time because he listed his Nebraska address in his ads in Rocks & Minerals, --an address confirmed as the home of James M. Allen in the South Sioux City Directory for 1960.

James is known to have started Allen's Minerals in 1954 because his 1964 catalog is titled "Allen's Minerals Tenth Anniversary"). He specialized in the minerals from the Black Hills of South Dakota, and began advertising in Rocks & Minerals in May-June 1956, located in South Sioux City, Nebraska. He remained at that address through August 1961, then (probably following his graduation from college) moved briefly to Lead, South Dakota. In November 1961 he relocated to Selby, South Dakota. As of May 1963, he had relocated permanently to McCoy, Colorado. Catalog #8, dated 1963, announces his move to McCoy, "because of our occupation, that of mining geologist."

His 1964 catalog also states that a free mineral identification service was available from "the Mineral Research Division of Colorado Exploration Company (a subsidiary of Allen Minerals and Mining Company)." He was still located in McCoy at the time that his brief run of ads appeared in Mineralogical Record from July-Sept 1970 to May-June 1971. McCoy is an extremely small town in Eagle County, population 24 in 2010. Apparently James summered in Silverton, Colorado, in 1965. His most recent catalog in our files dates to Winter 1972.

Allen's Minerals (the same James Allen) was later located in Tombstone, Arizona (see label).

Allen's Minerals dealt in minerals (especially Franklin and Crestmore), micromounts, rocks, fossils, student identification specimens, mineral and rock collections and mineral books. Their 1963 catalog offers a unique service for a mineral dealer: "We will compile a report containing geology, mines, minerals, etc., of any mine or mining district in the United States for which we have information. The fee for this research is $34 per report. Our library on geologic topics contains over 3,000 volumes, and we should have information on any major area."

Despite his mineral identification service, Allen developed a reputation for incorrect species identifications in many of the mineral specimens he sold. He appears to have had an extensive personal collection with accompanying “James M. Allen” labels; one such label (for a gold specimen from the Mohawk mine, Nevada) carries the catalog number of 2036, suggesting the size of the collection.

James Allen died in Arizona in the late 1970s. He had built a rather substantial mineral collection (disposition unknown).
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
Biographical Archive, at]
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The Mineralogical Record - James Allen James Allen in 1958 (college yearbook)
The Mineralogical Record - James Allen 37 x 59 mm
The Mineralogical Record - James Allen 29 x 60 mm
The Mineralogical Record - James Allen Allen's Minerals 1969-1970 catalog
The Mineralogical Record - James Allen 38 x 48 mm
The Mineralogical Record - James Allen 37 x 64 mm
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