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Thomas D. Russell

The British mineral dealer Thomas Douton Russell was born in the parish of St. Sepulcher, London, Middlesex, England on March 1, 1838, the son of Lucy and Thomas Russell, a grocer. He apparently began selling specimens in 1848, at the age of ten. He attended school (the 1851 census lists him as a "scholar"), and in 1861, following his father's death, he worked as a clerk in the family grocery store in the Paddington area. He must have simultaneously been dealing in natural history specimens as well. And he developed a strong interest in microscopy; in 1868 he joined the Quekett Microscopical Club and donated 12 prepared slides to the Club's cabinet. He donated 18 more slides the following year.

Russell married a woman named Ellen in 1861 and by 1871 they had three children: Florence, Percy and Herbert.

Russell formally opened his "Natural History Stores" in 1869, dealing in minerals, fossils, rock specimens, British Natural History collections, shells, corals, zoophytes, annelids, crustacea, echinoderms, and especially prepared microscope slides. He listed himself as a "microscopist" on the 1871 census, and styled himself variously as a "Geologist and Microscopist" or "Mineralogist &c.," in his ads, wherein he also offered "select Minerals." The species he offered were relatively common and usually available priced by the dozen specimens rather than fine "cabinet quality" collector's specimens, though some may have been stocked. His high-quality microscope sections of rocks and minerals are highly sought after collectibles by modern microscopists. They are labeled simply "Russell, Preparer" or "Russell London." (Some carry no name but can be identified by his distinctive writing style.)

Although he was doing business on some level since 1848 (probably from his parents' home), his address is not known until 1868 (when he joined the Quekett Microscopical Club) and 1869 when he was advertising from the Whittington Club, which had been founded in 1846 at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in Arundel Street. Subsequently he operated from a series of addresses in and around London's "Natural History District," i.e. the area around Covent Garden from Bloomsbury (home to the British Museum) to the Strand. In the Spring of 1884 he moved "The Geological and Mineralogical Depot" east from Essex Street to 78 Newgate Street, where it became "The City Microscopical Studio and Geological Museum." In 1884, Russell exhibited at the International Health and Education Exhibition held in London's Royal Albert Hall. He was awarded a medal for his collections of geological specimens, which presumably were varieties of the boxed sets mentioned in his advertisements of the period. These ranged from the cheap "Popular" series in cardboard to the more expensive versions in mahogany cases.

The business was still in Newgate Street in 1902 when Russell's name was replaced in that year's London Trade Directory by that of William James Shaw at the same address. (Russell was listed as "retired" in the 1901 census, and died in 1928, at the age of 90.) Shaw identified the business on his letterhead as "W.J. Shaw successor to T.D. Russell" until about 1911 and then (for reasons that remain unclear) became "Russell & Shaw." Shaw removed to 11 John St, Bedford Row about 1907; he first appears in the London Trade Directory at this address in 1908. The entries in the London Trade Directories for this period still give only Shaw's name, but specimen labels seen from this address are printed "Russell & Shaw." However, there exist address labels on boxed sets of minerals printed "Thomas D. Russell" alone with the new 11 John Street address pasted over the old label. In the 1913 London Trade Directory the address changes again (to 38 Great James Street) and the entry is for Russell & Shaw. The last entry is in the 1924 directory. Sometime after this Russell & Shaw was taken over by J.R. Gregory and Co.

Unknown address (18481868)
Patson Villa, Canterbury Rd., Brixton (1868)
Westbourne Park Villas (1868)
Whittington Club, Arundel St. (1869?)
37 Arundel St., Strand (1873)
48 Essex St., Strand (18741884)
78 Newgate St. (1884 1901)

As Russell & Shaw or W.J. Shaw, Successor to T.D. Russell:

78 Newgate St. (19021907)
11 John St, Theobald's Rd. (19081913)
38 Great James St. (19141924)

COOPER, M.P. (2006) Robbing the Sparry Garniture; a 200-Year History of British Mineral Dealers. Mineralogical Record (in press).
Brian Stevenson, personal communication, 2010.
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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 - Thomas D. Russell 36 x 63 mm,
Essex Street address (1874-1884)
The Mineralogical Record - Thomas D. Russell 30 x 54 mm,
Essex Street address (1874-1884)
The Mineralogical Record - Thomas D. Russell 22 x 33 mm,
Essex Street address (1874-1884)
The Mineralogical Record - Thomas D. Russell 35 x 59 mm,
Newgate Street address (1884-1901)
The Mineralogical Record - Thomas D. Russell 48 x 71 mm,
Russell & Shaw label, John Street address (1908-1913)
The Mineralogical Record - Thomas D. Russell 47 x 72 mm,
Russell & Shaw, Great James Street address (1914-1924)
The Mineralogical Record - Thomas D. Russell Some of Russell's microscopy mounts. The Lapis Lazuli slide carries a monograph sticker and the date 1883. (Courtesy of Brian Stevenson,
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