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Pauline Armstrong

Pauline Armstrong, a top-echelon mineral collector in Chicago, Illinois, was born in Chicago on July 7, 1914, the daughter of Ella and Edwin A. Seipp, president of a real estate firm. She attended a private girls' school in the Washington, DC area, and as a young girl she remembered seeing Margaret Merriweather Post visiting her home for dinner on Fridays wearing her big diamonds just to impress the children. (The diamonds were later donated to the Smithsonian.) She graduated from Vassar College, and in her early years she was an active golfer, horsewoman and skier. She married William Brown Goltra (1901-1960), with whom she had two sons, and in 1965 she married Julian Armstrong, a retired packaging engineering consultant.

Pauline owned 1% of the Schlitz-Anheuser-Busch family fortune and inherited her father's holdings as well. Her first husband had been a vice-president of American Steel Foundries, and in the 1940s had started his own firm as Goltra Castings Company, specializing in small steel castings. When he died in 1960 Pauline inherited Goltra Foundries Inc. (which she ran successfully as CEO for 10 years before turning it over to her son, Oliver; the company is no longer is business). In a 1964 interview, she told a Chicago Tribune reporter that the foundry business was so dominated by males that at first she signed all documents “P.S. Goltra” and carefully deepened her voice when answering phone calls from customers who asked for “Mr. Goltra.” She was also fond of sailboat racing, and she skippered all-male crews in the Chicago Yacht Club's annual 333-mile race from Chicago to Mackinac Island, Michigan. She was the only woman skipper and one of only a handful of women in the race. She was one of the original investors in the town of Vail, Colorado, and owned one of the best lots there.

Pauline possessed a high intellect, and was an avid collector of art glass-—an interest she shared with Julian. Their collection of colored Steuben glass was exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, and she donated a number of artworks to the Art Institute. She was a trustee of the Art Institute and chairman of its textile committee. She also served as president of the Antiquarian Society and the Barrington Garden Club.

One of Pauline's three sons (Oliver Renard "Ren" Goltra) lives in Golden, Colorado and made first contact with mineral dealer Rich Kosnar, who subsequently sold Pauline many fine specimens. She was a woman of many interests, and had as exquisite taste in minerals as she had in art. She bought many mineral specimens and cut gems from Dr. Gary Hansen in St. Louis, as well as from the other prominent dealers of the 1970s such as Bill Larson and Dave Wilber. From Keith Proctor she purchased a stately, 4-inch, gemmy dark green apatite crystal group from Panasquiera and a "Christmas set" – a miniature-size Muzo emerald on a translucent quartz crystal paired with a similar-size red beryl on white quartz from Utah; the two beryls were bequeathed to the Field Museum in Chicago.

Pauline and Julian stopped collecting minerals temporarily when they had a yacht built and took off for a sailing voyage around the world. Unfortunately they did not get along well in such close proximity, and when they arrived in the Greek islands Pauline disembarked and flew home.

She continued to collect minerals for the rest of her life, building up a collection of about 400 specimens displayed in specially remodeled collection room in their spacious summer home in Barrington. Her collection was particularly rich in Tsumeb minerals in the 5 to 7-inch size range, 10 or 20 of which were world-class, including superb dioptase, reticulated cerussite and perhaps the best bayldonite ever found (obtained from Charlie Key). She also had superb specimens of Knappenwand epidote, German pyromorphite, Ilfeld manganite, Frizington barite, an enormous Bisbee azurite-malachite and other such classics. She rarely exhibited her specimens publicly, but at a small show in Illinois she once showed a case of miniatures that of stunning quality, including one of the finest Jeffrey mine grossulars. Julian preferred the smaller, less expensive but still pretty specimens, so maybe some of the miniatures were his.

Pauline Armstrong, a long-time survivor of breast cancer (double mastectomy), passed away on May 7, 1987, in Barrington, Illinois. She left the bulk of her extraordinarily fine mineral collection to her sons, who apparently still have it, as her best specimens are not known to have reappeared on the market.

Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1987, “Pauline Armstrong, foundry operator and yacht skipper.”
Chicago Sun-Times, May 9, 1987, “Pauline Seipp Armstrong, 72, noted sportswoman here.”
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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