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 Ward's Natural Science Establishment
(1862-    )

Henry Augustus Ward was born in Rochester, New York on March 9, 1834, the son of Eliza Chapin and Henry Meigs Ward. His interests in science took him from the Middlebury Academy to the Paris School of Mines. As a scientist and explorer, Ward collected geological specimens from Europe and Africa, and gathered an impressive collection of meteorites. In 1860, he returned to Rochester where he was appointed Professor of Natural Sciences at the University of Rochester in 1861. But the life of a college teacher was not for him; an insatiable taste for collecting caused him to devote his life to collecting all manner of natural items. He founded Ward's Natural Science Establishment in 1862 and it became a leading 19th-century supplier of natural science materials to museums in North America. In 1875 he joined in a partnership with Edwin Howell to sell minerals under the name "Ward & Howell"; this lasted until 1891, when Howell left to form his own company ("Howell's Microcosm") in Washington, DC.

Henry Ward wanted to spend most of his time traveling around the world, and so he hired his cousin Frank A. Ward to help manage the company. Frank became treasurer of the Establishment in 1884 and supervised the operations in Rochester. In the few years before his death, Henry Ward gave up his interest in the company and Frank A. Ward became president. Henry died on July 4, 1906, after being struck by an automobile in Buffalo, New York, thus becoming that city's first traffic fatality.

In 1905 Ward's Natural Science Establishment purchased the business and stock of the Philadelphia mineral dealer George L. English. For eight years they struggled with the esoteric and unfamiliar field of mineral acquisition and sales, Finally, in 1913 George English was hired as manager of the Mineral Department and from 1922 to the time of his retirement in 1934 he served as Ward's consulting mineralogist.

By the 1920's, the original purpose of the Establishment began to prove inadequate, however, as museums started to operate their own collection and taxidermy departments, and their purchases from Ward's began to decline. A series of deaths in the Ward family in 1927, including Frank A. Ward, led the Ward family to donate the company to the University of Rochester in 1928. The Frank A. Ward Foundation of Natural Science at the University of Rochester, as the gift was known, did not prosper under its new owners. A fire in 1930 destroyed much of the company's records and inventory, and the Great Depression led to further reductions in sales. The University considered shutting down the company, but the scientific and museum community pleaded with the University to continue operations. Dean L. Gamble (1892-1981), a vice-president of the General Biological Supply House in Chicago, was hired to run Ward's and given complete control, along with a loan to finance further operations. Throughout the 1930's the Establishment operated on small budgets and continued to lose money until late in the decade. As the economy recovered before World War II, so did Ward's and in 1940, the University sold the company's stock to Dean L. Gamble and Frank Hawley Ward, Frank A. Ward's son, in exchange for the amount of money owed the University by Ward's.

Dean L. Gamble then led the transformation of Ward's from an obsolete museum supplier into a modern educational supply house. The company maintained its roots in the natural sciences, but shifted its emphasis to schools. William C. Gamble (b.1926) joined the Establishment in 1950, at the beginning of a period of expansion. He started as a sales representative, but quickly came to lead the company. Dean L. Gamble divorced and re-married in 1949, and moved to Monterey, California in the 1950's. He opened a subsidiary, Ward's of California, to serve the West Coast.

After rejecting various suitors for a corporate buy-out, Gamble arranged the sale of the Establishment, in April, 1970, to KDI Corporation of Cincinnati, Ohio, for $9.3 million in KDI stock. KDI decided to sell Ward's in August of 1980; Science Kit, a private science supplier, purchased Ward's for $3.2 million cash. Shortly after the purchase William Gamble was promoted to Chairman of the Board. Since then Ward's has consolidated all of its operations in a new facility in Henrietta, New York. The company continues to be a leading educational supplier. William Gamble took a position as Executive Vice-President with KDI Corporation and retired in 1986.

With regard to the Wards labels, there is no way of precisely dating them because the address has always been given only as "Rochester, New York," with no datable changes. However, those labels with George L. English's distinctive handwriting can be dated between 1913 and 1921, the years during which he managed the Ward's mineralogy department. They are arranged here in approximate chronological order, based on general style and appearance.

University of RochesteróWard's Natural Science Establishment Papers, 1876-1988;
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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Number of labels found: 29 | Labels being viewed: 1 to 8

The Mineralogical Record -  Ward's Natural Science Establishment Henry A. Ward (left) and Buffalo Bill
The Mineralogical Record -  Ward's Natural Science Establishment 44 x 83 mm,
A Ward & Howell label (1875-1891)
The Mineralogical Record -  Ward's Natural Science Establishment Three early Ward & Howell Labels. Auckland Museum collection, purchased 1885.
The Mineralogical Record -  Ward's Natural Science Establishment 41 x 75 mm
The Mineralogical Record -  Ward's Natural Science Establishment 32 x 54 mm
The Mineralogical Record -  Ward's Natural Science Establishment 30 x 54 mm
The Mineralogical Record -  Ward's Natural Science Establishment 26 x 58 mm,
George L. English handwriting (1913-1921).
The Mineralogical Record -  Ward's Natural Science Establishment 29 x 74 mm,
An exhibition label (note nail holes).
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