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George G. Rakestraw

George Gilbert Rakestraw was born November 25, 1827 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to an old colonial Quaker family of Cornish ancestry. He was one of the founders (with William Jefferis and George Washington Fiss) of the art and science of micromounting. He had been ordained as a Methodist minister by 1856, and served with distinction in the Civil War in 1864, as a chaplain for the 201st Pennsylvania Volunteers. His first wife, Mationa Fisher, whom he had married in 1858, died in 1866 and he then married Harriet Arthur in Philadelphia in 1867 (two children by each wife).

In 1878 Rakestraw was transferrd to a new pastorate serving the church in Cornwall, Pennsylvania, where he soon became interested in the minerals of the local iron mines, and in particular began to collect tiny specimens that required magnification for best observation. He purchased a fine binocular microscope (an 1876 Wenham-type "Centennial" model by Zentmeyer--state of the art at the time), and began acquiring books on mineralogy. At first he mounted his microminerals in a variety of little boxes, but for the sake of consistency he eventually setled on a rectangular cardboard box measuring 2.1 x 2.7 cm, and 1.6 cm deep. He glued a small label with his name on it to the botton of the box, and another label on which to record species and locality was affixed to the lid. In the early 1880's Rakestraw was transferred to a church in Philadelphia, where he came into contact with other mineral collectors, including fellow micromounter G.W. Fiss, and promoted micromounting to a very receptive crowd of enthusiasts. In 1897 he sold many of his best mounts to Clarence S. Bement, but retained a large collection as well.

Rakestraw died March 5, 1904, leaving a substantial collection to his son, Rev. Henry Hawk Rakestraw (1860-1907); following Henry's death in 1907 it was placed in storage for 24 years before coming into the possession of George Rakestraw's great grandson, John H. MacDonald. It proved to consist of over 1100 micromounts and 300 handspecimens. About 400 mounts also ended up in the collection of the late Paul Seel (probably originating from the specimens Rakestraw had sold to Bement), and may have been acquired from him by the late Lou Perloff, who bequeathed them to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

In June of 1999 John MacDonald presented the Rakestraw collection of micromounts to the Harvard Mineralogical Museum. It consists of micromounts in Rakestraw's rectangular pasteboard boxes and mounted on 3-inch glass slides. The collection is now housed in a cherry cabinet built by MacDonald. Accompanying the specimens are two of Rakestraw's microscopes, some miscellaneous apparatus, and several of his books. Included is a brass Zentmeyer binocular microscope, in its original case with the accessories. His books include An Introduction to Mineralogy (Comstock 1841), System of Mineralogy (J. D. Dana 1837-1868; 6th ed., E. S. Dana 1892), Catalogue of Minerals (16th ed., English 1894), and Mineralogy (Phillips 1928).

EBNER, J.C., Jr., and LININGER, J.L. (2003) Reverend George Gilbert Rakestraw: Patriarch of American micromineralogy. Matrix, 11 (1), 21-31.
WIGHT, Q. (1993) The Complete Book of Micromounting. Mineralogical Record, Tucson.
ANONYMOUS (1904) Obituary for George Rakestraw. Philadelphia Enquirer, March 8, 1904, p.7 (gives death date as March 5).
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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The Mineralogical Record - George G. Rakestraw George Gilbert Rakestraw
The Mineralogical Record - George G. Rakestraw 1-inch-wide labels for the top and bottom of micromount boxes
The Mineralogical Record - George G. Rakestraw 1-inch-wide labels for the top and bottom of micromount boxes.
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