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John W. Lee

John W. Lee was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in October 1820. It was there that he and his younger brother, William M. Lee, "laid the foundations of the superb private collections left as a monument to half a century of enthusiastic devotion to his favorite science."

He began his carreer in Baltimore before 1850 as an architect and builder, and lived there for the rest of his life. He liked designing and building interior cabinetry, especially for his own large mineral collection. Though his collection was of worldwide scope, he specialized in the minerals of the Baltimore area. He was "not only an enthusiastic and judicious collector and a skilfull preparator of minerals, but he was a close student of much more than usual calibre. He worked diligently with reagents, blowpipe, microscope, and literature." He displayed his collection of gem minerals in a unique, "artistically conceived revolving cabinet." His labels are designed like those of his contemporary, the prominent Pennsylvania collector William W. Jefferis (1820-1906), whom he probably knew and admired.

Lee donated portions of his collection to the Women's College of Baltimore, Western Maryland College, the Smithsonian Institution, Johns Hopkins University, and the Maryland Academy of Sciences. He and two of his sons served in the Civil War, and his son John M.W. Lee became one of Baltimore's leading connoisseurs of rare books, prints, etchings and paintings.

BIBBINS, A. (1900) Memoirs of the late John W. Lee, Esq., of Baltimore, MD. The Mineral Collector, 7 (7), 108-110.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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The Mineralogical Record - John W. Lee 44 x 70 mm
The Mineralogical Record - John W. Lee 33 x 60 mm;
Carnegie Museum collection
The Mineralogical Record - John W. Lee 53 x 84 mm;
Carnegie Museum collection
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