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John F. Calvert

John Frederick, "Lord" Calvert (according to Cooper, 2006) was a collector, con-man, crank, dealer, mining engineer, inventor and gold prospector. Born in England in 1825, he claimed direct descent from Frederick Calvert, the 6th and last Lord Baltimore of Maryland (though Frederick Calvert actually had no male heirs), and was hailed as "the first discoverer of Australian gold" and "one of the greatest mining experts of this or any other age." He was, allegedly, "a dead shot, a born horseman, and an unequalled bushman and practical miner," and he said of himself "wherever there was an outcrop of gold which my opportunities allowed me to visit I was sure to be found on the back of it."

Calvert's "official" biographers tell of a man whose ancestry and upbringing fitted him perfectly for the life of a pioneer thinker and traveler: a man of ideas in advance of his own time, an explorer and gold prospector of extraordinary ability whose luck and genius never ran out, but whose vital contribution to science and exploration was never properly acknowledged. "Unofficially" he was a "blackguard" and a seducer of women, a "wild Australian Bushman" his life not so much the blameless and thankless struggle of an original freethinker against the prejudice and inertia of a blinkered establishment (as he would have us believe), but more the deliberate and systematic self-aggrandisement of a selfish and posturing opportunist, a charlatan of almost heroic proportions. He died in 1897 at his home in Caversham Road, London.

Calvert is now generally known either as the maker of the huge mineral and shell collection bought by American mineral dealer Martin Ehrmann in 1938; or as the (in)famous gold prospector and author of The Gold Rocks (1853) who found gold wherever he went; a man to whom collecting was an obsession and gold a passion. Highlights of his enormous mineral collection appear to have been a series of hematite crystals from Elba from the "Marryatt Collection" possibly made by Frederick Marryatt, who is known to have been stationed there; cuprite, liroconite and other minerals from Cornwall; dioptase from Kirghizia; azurite from Chessy; Siberian minerals supposedly collected in the company of Henry Heuland (but more likely purchased from his auctions); and gold acquired by Calvert himself from the gold fields of the world. Ehrmann purchased the seven van-loads of specimens for 2,000 and moved it all to his offices in New York. He employed several knowledgeable and enthusiastic mineral collectors to help process it, some of whom accepted specimens in lieu of money for their work. The minerals were sorted by collectors Neal Yedlin (1908-1977), Ernest Weidhaas (1888-1972), and Louis Moyd (later the first curator of minerals at the Canadian National Museum of Natural Sciences).

His residences and dates, which can be correllated with his labels, are as follows:

189 Strand

189 Strand & 61 Gr. Russell St.

189 Strand & 32 Soho Sq.

189 Strand & 17 Dean St.

167A & 189 Strand

164A & 189 Strand

Surry Chambers, 172 Strand

33 Caversham Rd.

72 Caversham Rd.

COOPER, M. P. (2006) Robbing the Sparry Garniture; A 200-Year History of British Mineral Dealers. Mineralogical Record, Tucson (in press).
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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 - John F. Calvert 49 x 54 mm;
On the reverse is handwritten "No. 30."
The Mineralogical Record - John F. Calvert 41 x 55 mm
The Mineralogical Record - John F. Calvert 41 x 64 mm,
A label prepared by Martin Ehrmann
The Mineralogical Record - John F. Calvert 42 x 63 mm;
A label prepared by Martin Ehrmann
The Mineralogical Record - John F. Calvert
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