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Bryce M.  Wright (Sr.)

Bryce McMurdo Wright, Sr. (spelled "Brice" before 1860) was one of England's most prominent 19th-century mineral dealers. He and his son (Bryce McMurdo Wright, Jr., 1850-1895) dealt in minerals, fossils, shells, rocks, gems, corals, ethnological collectibles, and worked stones old and new for over 50 years. Despite their varied and worldwide stock in trade, it is for the minerals of northern England that their name is best remembered.

Wright Sr. was born around 1814 in Dumfries, Scotland and raised in Hesket Newmarket, Caldbeck, Cumberland, England. Little is known of his early decades, but according to Charles Pennypacker he worked as a miner in Cumberland, probably in the Caldbeck lead mines. His formal education was minimal, but more important to his success were his commercial acumen and tenacity, his capacity for learning and hard work, and above all his good fortune to be in the right place at the right time. In 1842 he married Jane Smith in Liverpool, where he was working as a painter. However, in 1843 he sold several fine self-collected Caldbeck Fells mineral specimens to the British Museum, and had probably been mining and selling mineral specimens privately for a number of years before that. In the following years he made regular sales to the Museum of up to 100 specimens at a time. In 1845 he turned professional mineral dealer, and in 1849 he opened a shop in Liverpool. His advertising in 1854, mentioned his "extensive collection of minerals...of upwards of 3,000 specimens," including "many exceedingly rare substances."

In 1855 he moved from Liverpool to London and opened a shop there at 4 Stanley Street, Brompton; two years later he moved to no.36 Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, in the heart of London's "natural history district," just across the road from the British Museum. By 1857 he was claiming a stock of 7,000 mineral specimens , and by 1860, 10,000 specimens. He moved to No. 90 on the same street in 1866, where he remained until his death eight years later. The business flourished in that neighborhood, Wright becoming the most successful and the best-known London-based mineral and fossil dealer of the mid-nineteenth century. Some of the staff of the British Museum became personal friends and provide him with valuable professional scientific support. In 1868 he claimed to be in "direct communication with the most experienced miners in Cornwall and Cumberland, and also with Collecting Naturalists in Germany, Russia, India, and America." He even rented specimens out as temporary decorations for parties and lectures.

Wright traveled extensively throughout England five or six times a year, and occasionally on the continent, in search of minerals; one of his earliest trading contacts in America was William W. Jefferis (18201906) (q.v.), a mineral collector from West Chester, Pennsylvania. He sold specimens to the elite collectors of the day, including Clarence S. Bement (q.v.), and was an expert on the mines and localities of Cumberlnd. He died in London on October 10, 1874. Part of his excellent private mineral collection was auctioned in April 1875 by the J.C. Stevens auction house, amounting to about 1500 fine specimens, and 3,000 more of his specimens were offered for sale in 1881. His Business was taken over by his son, Bryce Wright, Jr. (q.v.)


Liverpool (1842-1855)
4 Stanley St. (1855-1857)
36 Great Russell St. (1857-1865)
90 Great Russell St. (1866-1874)

COOPER, m. p. (2006) Robbing the Sparry Garniture; A 200-Year History of British Mineral Dealers. Mineralogical Record (in press).
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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The Mineralogical Record - Bryce M.  Wright (Sr.) Portrait paintiing of Bryce Wright, Sr., dated 1853 (courtesy of Robert Wright)
The Mineralogical Record - Bryce M.  Wright (Sr.) 45 x 73 mm,
Extremely rare Liverpool label (1843-1855)
The Mineralogical Record - Bryce M.  Wright (Sr.) 47 x 67 mm,
Extremely rare Liverpool label (1843-1855)
The Mineralogical Record - Bryce M.  Wright (Sr.) 47 x 75 mm,
Extremely rare label, Liverpool address (1843-1855)
The Mineralogical Record - Bryce M.  Wright (Sr.) 46 x 78 mm,
Extremely rare label, Liverpool address (1843-1855)
The Mineralogical Record - Bryce M.  Wright (Sr.) 45 x 75 mm,
Extremely rare label, Liverpool address (1843-1855)
The Mineralogical Record - Bryce M.  Wright (Sr.) 40 x 72 mm,
36 Great Russell St. address (1857-1865)
The Mineralogical Record - Bryce M.  Wright (Sr.) 45 x 73 mm,
36 Russell St. address (1857-1865)
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