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James M. Southwick

James Mortimer Southwick was born in Essex, Massachusetts in July of 1846, the son of James M. Southwick, a "trader," and Sarah Martin. He inherited his father's dry goods store in Providence, Rhode Island, but had a passion for natural history on the side. In the mid-1870's he rented part of a neighboring store and began to stock it with natural history specimens of various kinds, including minerals, hoping one day to open it to the public. In 1876 he met Frederick Tingley Jencks (born July 12, 1856ódied June 7, 1948), a young taxidermist and son of Ella Tingley and Charles W. Jencks, a manufacturer of paper boxes. They realized that together they could start the business immediately, and five days later, on December 1, 1876, they launched their new partnership. Jenck's minded the new store while Southwick continued to work in his dry goods shop.

The new company of "Southwick & Jencks" began advertising in naturalist periodicals, offering a line of mineral specimens, shells, stuffed birds, birds' eggs, and supplies. By 1879 their business had become sufficiently successful that they could afford to rent out a full store and hire an assistant, while Southwick closed his dry goods business to devote full time to natural history. In 1884 they began issuing their own monthly periodical, entitled Random Notes on Natural History. In 1886, however, Jencks was forced to retire because of an eye ailment. Southwick continued the business but had to discontinue the periodical for lack of time. For a while Southwick partnered with J. William Critchley, formerly of Ward's Natural Science Establishment, but finally sold the business (except for his mineral stock) in 1894 to Walter A. Angell and Harry A. Cash, who continued to operate their firm for many years under the name of Angell & Cash. The minerals went to Robert Burnham, who died in 1902, at which time the remaining mineral specimens were acquired by mineral dealer F.G. Hillman (q.v.) of New Bedford, Massachusetts.

In 1896 Southwick took a position as the director of the new natural history museum at Roger Williams Park, in Providence, Rhode Island. He contributed many self-collected mineral specimens from classic localities from the eastern United States and Canada. He also donated ore minerals from the gold, silver, and copper mines that were opened in the great western metals boom. Southwick died June 3, 1904, and the museum directorship was taken over by Charles Abbott Davis.

ANONYMOUS (1904) Death of James M. Southwick. The Mineral Collector. Vol. 11, no. 6, p. 74-75.
BARROW, M.V., Jr. (2000) The specimen dealer: entrepreneurial natural history in America's Guilded Age. Journal of the History of Biology, 33, 493-534.
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The Mineralogical Record - James M. Southwick The first issue of Southwick & Jancks' bulletin, Random Notes on Natural History (1884).
The Mineralogical Record - James M. Southwick 50 x 71 mm
The Mineralogical Record - James M. Southwick (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History)
The Mineralogical Record - James M. Southwick (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History)
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