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Lucien W. Stilwell

Lucien White Stilwell was born in Manlius, New York on 24 March 1843, the eldest of eight children born to Lonson Stilwell and Mary K. White. He moved with his farming family to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and later attended Ripon College, where he studied literature and mathematics. In 1862, at the age of 19, he left his parents' farm and moved to Cairo, Illinois, where he worked at first for a produce company, and two years later joined in partnership with a friend to form the Bristol & Stilwell grocery business. In September 1873 Stilwell married Julia A. Bristol, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, and together they eventually had four children (two of whom died young). In 1874 he sold out to his partner, and entered the wholesale commission grain business as a member of the firm Cunningham & Stilwell. In 1878 he moved to Elgin, Illinois, where he worked as a bookkeeper for the Elgin Watch Company. After three or four months, however, he moved to Deadwood, Dakota Territory, where he arrived in 1879 to take a position with the banking house of Stebbins, Post & Mund. Stilwell also worked for some years as an accountant for the Merchants Bank of Deadwood.

While working at the bank, Stilwell had also begun a small side-business dealing in minerals, geological specimens and Indian artifacts. A 1912 Stilwell catalog states "established 1884." An 1889 ad in The Exchangers' Monthly boasts a "large series of Black Hills minerals." The "curio" business grew so large and profitable that in 1890 he resigned his position at the bank in order to devote his entire attention to selling specimens, fire insurance and card-mounted photos (among his notable portraits was one of Chief Rain-In-The-Face, a veteran of the battle of the Little Bighorn.) He was an "active worker in the cause of temperance and his cooperation [could] always be counted upon in any movement looking toward the moral betterment of the community." Kingsbury, in his History of Dakota Territory (1915), wrote:

"[Stilwell's] trade extends, both as to sale and purchase, to every civilized country of the world and is largely wholesale to dealers, museums, scientific laboratories, etc. His collection of Indian handiwork and relics, natural history, mineral, fossil and geological specimens, gems and elk teeth is among the most comprehensive and valuable in existence and he has furnished many consignments of specimens to the great British and European museums. He has made a deep study of his work and is a recognized authority, particularly on the geology of the Northwest."

According to a 1912 "Special Catalogue to Close Out Minerals and Fossils at a Large Discount," Stilwell had decided to close out his stock of "several thousand dollars worth of cabinet minerals" and fossils--about 100,000 specimens--in that year for two reasons: advancing age, and a desire to concentrate more fully on Indian relics and gem rough. The close-out sale was not entirely successful. Sixteen years later, a September 1928 ad in Rocks & Minerals states that Stilwell's entire stock of minerals had been taken over "recently" by the Kenneth J. Crawford Company, 220 Avenue A West, Bismarck, North Dakota. Stilwell died in Deadwood on 24 November 1932.

With regard to dating his labels, South Dakota achieved statehood in late 1889; therefore his "D.T." labels date between 1884 and 1889.

KINGSBURY, G. W. (1915) History of Dakota Territory. Chicago: S.J.Clarke Publishing Co.
1912 Catalogue M [courtesy of Tom Loomis]
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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 - Lucien W. Stilwell Lucien W. Stilwell
Photo from his 1912 catalog (Tom Loomis collection)
The Mineralogical Record - Lucien W. Stilwell 14 x 26 mm,
Label designed to be glued to a specimen. Note: "D. T." = Dakota Territory (1883-1889)
The Mineralogical Record - Lucien W. Stilwell 14 x 26 mm,
Label designed to be glued to a specimen. Note "D.T." for "Dakota Territory," 1883-1889.
The Mineralogical Record - Lucien W. Stilwell 13 x 22 mm,
Label glued to a specimen. Note "D.T." for "Dakota Territory," 1883-1889.
The Mineralogical Record - Lucien W. Stilwell 37 x 67 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Lucien W. Stilwell 36 x 63 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Lucien W. Stilwell 38 x 66 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Lucien W. Stilwell L. W. Stilwell advertising card postmarked November 1914.
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