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George L. English

George Letchworth English was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 14, 1864, the son of John and Amanda English. His early years were spent in that city, where his father was a publisher of theological books. His father died some time in the 1870s, leaving George's mother to support him and his three older sisters. George attended the Philadelphia Friends Central School, graduating in June 1881. It was while he was employed as a bookkeeper by a Philadelphia Insurance Company from 1881 to 1887 that he became intensely interested in minerals and began building up stock for a planned business selling mineral specimens.

George was living at 4061 Aspen Street in 1887, and had already started his fledgling mineral business (George L. English & Company) from his home; one label is known to have the Aspen Street address. That same year, with a partner, Edwin C. Atkinson, he opened a store in Philadelphia at 1512 Chestnut Street. His stock consisted of "a truly wonderful assortment" of Arizona wulfenites, vanadinites, azurites, and malachites in addition to fine crystallized Franklin fowlerites. Expeditions which he took in 1887, 1888, and 1889 (five months) to Europe, Canada, and the Eastern and Western States kept his establishment well supplied with magnificent specimens, and his worldwide contacts, from England to Japan, meant that shipments of new specimens arrived regularly. He opened a New York branch at 739-741 Broadway in July 1888. His ad in the May 1889 issue of The Exchangers' Monthly stated: "We deal exclusively in minerals; no rocks, fossils, Indian relics or curiosities" and "It is universally acknowledged that we have the finest ans most complete stock of minerals in the United States." In April 1890, with a third partner, mineral dealer William Niven, George L. English and Company moved their New York branch to 64 East Twelfth Street, New York City.

English traveled extensively, and a visit to Laurium, Greece (during his trip to Europe in 1891) resulted in his discovery of the mineral penfieldite, and in addition he procured an assortment of minerals which was said to have been the finest ever imported into this country at any one time. The most important acquisition of the 1891 trip was the entire stock and collection of the famous Swiss mineral dealer Hoseus. In 1893, William Niven left the company and English purchased full control of the business from him and Atkinson, closing his Philadelphia shop and moving all operations to the New York office. That same year English opened a temporary branch store in Chicago, in conjunction with the World's Columbian Exposition there that year; English's exhibit at the Exposition, consisting of a $20,000 collection of gems and mineral specimens, was so outstanding that he was awarded special diplomas and medals. In 1894 and 1896 other trips to European and American localities resulted in additional stocks of magnificent specimens.

In February 1896, an ad in The Mineral Collector announced that George L. English & Co. was being incorporated and reorganized, and was going public with a stock offering. The opening price was $100 per share for a total offering of 150 shares, payable in installments. English was president and general manager (and purchaser of "a large interest in the company"), Ernest Schernikow was made vice president, Albert C. Bates secretary and C.L. Hatch treasurer. Interestingly, the board of directors included Albert H. Petereit and Lazard Cahn, both of whom already were, or would sortly become, competing mineral dealers!

In January of 1899 English moved yet again, to larger quarters at 812-814 Greenwich Street. In March of 1901 he moved yet again, to 3-5 West 18th Street, and in February of 1903 he moved to quarters at 201 East 16th Street. These many moves, documented in his ads and reflected in the addresses on his labels, help collectors today date his labels fairly accurately.

Incidentally, it is no wonder that so many English labels have survived. One of the services he provided was to sell just the labels, preprinted with species and locality, of which he had over 2,000 to choose from. Beginning in 1898 a collector could send English an alphabetized collection inventory and receive labels for all of his specimens, whether originally purchased from English or not, at the rate of a half-cent per label.

On January 1, 1905 Ward's Natural Science Establishment purchased his business and stock of minerals, and transported everything to Rochester, New York. English moved (with his library and substantial personal collection of minerals) to Shelby, North Carolina, ostensibly retired from the mineral business but continuing to sell minerals, as his labels show. From 1905 to 1913 he worked there for the National Light and Thorium Corporation to locate monazite deposits in North and South Carolina. In 1913 he left North Carolina and became manager of the Mineral Department of Ward's Natural Science Establishment in Rochester, New York (finally bringing to an end dealing in his own name) and from 1922 to the time of his retirement in 1934 he served as their consulting mineralogist and buyer, making many important acquisitions. In 1924-25, as the result of another European trip, he acquired specimens for Wards's from the old English collections of John Ruskin, Baroness Burdett-Coutts, J. H. and Henry F. Collins, and Philip Rashleigh.

On July 1, 1934, English retired from his position at Ward's to devote his time to "professional mineralogical work, including appraisals of mineral collections, mineral surveys, collecting expeditions, technical aid to mineralogical museums, mineralogical writing and lecturing" (according to a notice published in The Mineralogist, July 1934). He completed the writing of his popular book Getting Acquainted with Minerals (1934), which was one of the best texts of his time for the elementary student and collector. His 1927 paper on "The scientific valuation of minerals" (American Mineralogist, 12, 197-209) was the first to propose a systematic basis for establishing the dollar values for mineral specimens. He also wrote Descriptive List of the New Minerals 1892-1938 (1939), giving brief summarized descriptions of nearly 2000 minerals. He was also the author of numerous articles on minerals written for the layman. He died January 2, 1944, at his winter residence, Winter Park, Florida.

A chronology of locations (as noted on labels) and corresponding dates may be summarized as follows:

4061 Aspen Street, Philadelphia
1881? to 1887

1512 Chestnut, Philadelphia
1887 to July 1888

1512 Chestnut, Philadelphia, and 739 &741 Broadway, NY
July 1888 to June 1891

733 & 735 Broadway, NY
June 1891 to December 1892

64 E. 12th Street, NY
January 1893 to January 1899

812 & 814 Greenwich, NY
January 1899 to February 1901

3 & 5 West 18th St., NY
March 1901 to January 1903

201 East 16th St., NY
February 1903 to January 1905

Shelby, NC
February 1905 to after 1917

BATES, A.C. (1905) George Letchworth English. The Mineral Collector, 12, no.3, p.33-35.
VANCE, R. C. (1945) Memorial of George Letchworth English. American Mineralogist, 30, 130-145.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2020)
Mineralogical Record
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Number of labels found: 30 | Labels being viewed: 1 to 8

The Mineralogical Record - George L. English George L. English (1893)
The Mineralogical Record - George L. English George Letchworth English
Portrait fromThe Mineral Collector (1905)
The Mineralogical Record - George L. English The earliest known English label, from 1887 or before when he was operating his business out of his home on Aspen Street in Philadelphia. G.L. English handwriting.(Courtesy of Paul Melville)
The Mineralogical Record - George L. English 46 x 87 mm,
A very early label from George English's first shop address, in Philadelphia (1887-1891), for a specimen of Bementite--described as a new species by Koenig in 1887, the year that English first opened his mineral shop on Chestnut Street. G.L. English handwriting.
The Mineralogical Record - George L. English 47 x 89 mm,
Philadelphia address (1887-1891), dated February 14, 1889. G.L. English handwriting.
The Mineralogical Record - George L. English 38 x 68 mm,
Philadelphia address (1887-1891), dated February 5, 1890.
The Mineralogical Record - George L. English 37 x 71 mm,
Philadelphia address (1887-1891), dated October 18, 1891.
The Mineralogical Record - George L. English 32 x 52 mm,
Philadelphia address (1887-1891). G.L. English handwriting.
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