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John Graves

John Graves was born in Langdale, Westmorland, England on March 12, 1842. He worked as a miner in the west Cumbrian iron mines, and was so inspired by the beauty of the plentiful specimen-quality minerals there that he began dealing in them around 1873 (continuing to work as a miner at least through 1881). Based in Frizington, he was in close proximity to many rich specimen-producing mines that yielded superb examples of barite, hematite and calcite. He may have retired as a miner because of the decline in the price of iron which put many miners out of work in the early 1880's. Graves was the principal buyer of the wonderful calcite crystals and twins first found in Egremont in 1888. He supplied fine mineral specimens to the British Museum, and to Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He also wholesaled large numbers of mineral specimens to other mineral dealers, especially George L. English (q.v.), Ward's Natural Science Establishment (q.v.), and British dealer Anthony Furnace of Keswick. English regularly advertised West Cumbrian specimens in The Mineral Collector beginning in 1894, and Graves himself took out a full page ad for "The beautiful, rare and choice minerals of England" in 1895. Some of the finest known British calcite and barite specimens passed through his hands. Graves may have been the unnamed Frizington dealer described by Pennypacker (1897) as having "his house lined and stuffed with calcites from garret to cellar a keen pursuer of specimens accumulating them against the days when the mines are abandoned and localities cease to be."

By 1898 Graves health had deteriorated and he decided to offer his stock for sale in bulk, including his personal collection of twinned Cumbrian calcites, but had no takers. His health must then have improved, for he continued dealing in minerals for over 20 years thereafter, finally selling most of his remaining stock to Ward's in 1920. He died December 3, 1928 and was buried in St Paul's churchyard, Frizington.

John Graves' son Frederick W. Graves carried on the business after his death. In 1942 or 1943 Gregory, Bottley & Co. bought the remains of the Graves collection, amounting to several hundred fine specimens, from the family. Graves commonly used plain (unprinted) paper labels for his specimens, but also used printed labels from time to time--only two styles of his printed labels are known.

COOPER, M.P. (2007) Robbing the Sparry Garniture: A 200-Year History of British Mineral Dealers. Mineralogical Record, Tucson, 358 p.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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The Mineralogical Record - John Graves 47 x 75 mm
The Mineralogical Record - John Graves 45 x 74 mm
The Mineralogical Record - John Graves 55 x 58 mm,
A handwritten, signed and dated Graves label
The Mineralogical Record - John Graves John Graves' ad in The Mineral Collector, January 1895.
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