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Boodle Lane

Many people have dealt in the minerals of the Kansas-Missouri-Oklahoma "Tri-state" district, but the one everybody has always remembered is the legendary Boodle Lane in Galena, Kansas. During his 40 years in the mineral business a wealth of fabulous specimens, countless tons, were saved from the crusher to enrich collections and museums around the world.

Fred "Boodle" Lane was born April 25, 1892, in Leroy, Kansas, and (despite various stories that have circulated) was given his nickname at birth by his father. He was a veteran of World War I, who "drank hard, fought hard, and gambled on anything that came along." After returning from the war he worked as a miner, married in 1923, and adopted a son. He never liked working for wages, though, and preferred to operate as an independent miner, going into old mines on his own and working the walls and pillars for galena—a dangerous practice called "scrapping." He also culled over the old dumps looking for sphalerite to sell as ore. Following the lead of another local man who sold drinks from his truck at the side of the highway, Boodle decided to try selling apple cider and other fruit drinks to the miners coming off shift at the Picher, Oklahoma mines. He leased a piece of land on heavily traveled Route 66, a mile west of Galena, Kansas, and opened a roadside business that proved very successful. He soon branched out to selling fruit, potatoes and other groceries.

Around 1927 he heard that a tourist had offered a Joplin gas station owner a dollar for a cleavage lump of galena, so he decided to put a few minerals out amongst the groceries and see if passers-by were interested. They were. Once the miners learned of what he was doing, they began bringing in minerals to trade for fruit drinks, and the business blossomed. Boodle then drove to the mines himself to pick up more specimens in his $15 Model T Ford. He was allowed underground to haul out as much crystallized calcite and dolomite ("waste rock") as he could, so he self-collected a great deal of his own specimens over the years, and always provided detailed locality data to his customers (though an actual Boodle Lane label has not yet been found). Boodle was shown a copy of Rocks & Minerals, and immediately subscribed; his first small classified ad there appeared in June 1930, and read as follows:

"Anyone desiring specimens of the Joplin, Mo., Galena, Kas., and Picher, Okla. Districts write—Boodle's Mineral Specimens, Galena, Kas., for prices and information."

The response was immediate. Orders came in from all over the country, and prominent mineral dealers from California to New York visited him to buy minerals in wholesale lots at the rate of 10 cents per pound. In time he broadened his scope to include minerals from Clay Center, Ohio; the Illinois-Kentucky fluorite district; and Bisbee and Globe, Arizona among other places. At first his packing techniques for shipping specimens were poor and resulted in damage, but he was taken in hand by none other than Fred Pough and Boston collector Grace Dearborn, who showed him how to properly wrap and ship fine specimens.

Boodle's modest house was far too small to hold the thousands of specimens (many quite large) that he had on hand at any given time, so he covered his yard with piles of specimens and arrayed more specimens on makeshift tables, all outdoors, close to the highway. This amazing spectacle attracted many travelers on Route 66 who would pass his place, stop, turn around and come back to see what it was. Only the finest specimens for the advanced collectors and museums were kept in a shed. Good specimens of sphalerite ("ruby jack" and "black jack"), galena, pink dolomite, chalcopyrite, marcasite, and calcite as well as such uncommon minerals as wurtzite, enargite, and hemimorphite ("calamine") could all be purchased very inexpensively. He also packed assortments of specimens in barrels (known as "Boodle barrels") and shipped them all over the country. In the 1930's he put out a series of photographic postcards showing mines and miners on the surface and underground, and even a postcard showing the famous photo of him underground in a huge calcite pocket.

Boodle divorced and married again in 1942. His second wife, Lois Faye, became his partner in the mineral business. Boodle never kept a personal collection but Lois did; her two showcases of carefully selected specimens were sold to Missouri Minerals (q.v.) in Denver in the early 1960's. He died December 2, 1962.

BARKER, P.B. (1992) Boodle Lane. Matrix, 2 (6), 87-90.
KENNEDY, M. (1967) A tribute to Boodle Lane. Lapidary Journal, 21 (4), 544-550. (July)
SHAUB, B.M. (1963) Memorial to Fred (Boodle) Lane. Rocks & Minerals, 38 (5-6), 241-247.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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The Mineralogical Record - Boodle Lane Fred "Boodle" Lane
The Mineralogical Record - Boodle Lane Boodle Lane standing in a Tri-state calcite crystal vug.
The Mineralogical Record - Boodle Lane 49 x 88 mm,
One of Boodle Lane's business cards, with crushed galena and sphalerite clued on.
The Mineralogical Record - Boodle Lane 50 x 88 mm,
Another of Boodle Lane's business cards
The Mineralogical Record - Boodle Lane 50 x 88 mm,
The reverse side of the business card shown above--With notice to browsers, probably in Boodle's own hand. It was formerly tacked above specimens for sale in his shop.
The Mineralogical Record - Boodle Lane How many collector's can say they've had their own personal showcase in the Smithsonian? Boodle could, as shown in this postcard photo that he proudly sold in his shop.
The Mineralogical Record - Boodle Lane Boodle Lane's ad in the November 1935 issue of The Mineralogist.
The Mineralogical Record - Boodle Lane
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