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Spencer W. Clawson

Spencer Wheeler Clawson, 19th-century Bisbee collector, was born in Hector, Schuyler County, New York on May 2, 1848, the son of Rosanna Wheeler and Garret Clawson, a farmer. He lived there until 1867, when his family then moved to Seneca County, New York. He graduated from the East Genesee Conference Seminary, and later learned the trade of jeweler, working in that occupation at different places until taking a job with the Ithaca Clock Company for seven years. In 1874 he took a job with the Elgin Watch Company in Elgin, Illinois, then continued on west to California in 1875, where he worked as a master mechanic for two years.

In 1880 Clawson began his mining career when he moved to Tombstone, Arizona and became assistant foreman at the Contention mine. He married Lois Irene Brown, a California native (born in California on October 5, 1862) in Tombstone on August 14, 1881, and they had a son, Clarence, in 1884 (he died at the age of six). Clawson worked at the Contention mine until July 10, 1884, when he accepted a position as assistant foreman in the Bisbee copper mines, taking over as foreman in 1895. In that year he built a prominent home now known as the (purportedly haunted) Clawson House Inn atop Clawson Hill, adjacent to Castle Rock in Bisbee. His son, Spencer Jr., was born there in 1896.

Clawson remained in Bisbee as foreman at least until around 1902, when his wife and son visited California (perhaps to see her relatives). By 1910 the family had moved permanently to the Los Angeles area, bringing with them Clawson's extensive collection of Bisbee minerals gathered during his days there as foreman. Clawson continued to work as a mining engineer in California, and around 1913 or before he sold a portion of his collection ("the S.W. Clawson Collection of Bisbee Copper Ores") to Thomas Thorkildsen and J.W. Royer, who donated it in that year to the Los Angeles Chamber of Mines and Oil (now known as the Western States Petroleum Association); it was transferred to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in 1921, and remains there today.

Clawson died in Los Angeles on August 15, 1920. In 1940 his widow, Lois, sold the remainder of his collection to Pasadena mineral dealer John Grieger of the Warner & Grieger company. In December 1940 Grieger advertised it as the "Famous Clawson Collection of Bisbee minerals," mainly "superbly crystallized azurites" considered to be the "finest specimens ever available at Bisbee." Lois Clawson died three years later, on April 29, 1943. Their son, Spencer Jr., born May 8, 1896, became a machine tool salesman, married Angela Neal in 1922 and moved to Beverly Hills where they had one daughter, Angela Dolores Clawson, on March 18, 1926. He died in Los Angeles on May 29, 1962.

BANCROFT, H.H. (1896) History of Arizona.
KAMPF, A. (2007) Personal communication.
U.S. Federal Census, 1850, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930.
Arizona Marriage Index.
California Death Index.
California Birth Index.
Word War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.
"Catalina Brevities," Los Angeles Times for July 27, 1902, page 6.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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The Mineralogical Record - Spencer W. Clawson Thought to be a photo of the S.W. Clawson Collection of Bisbee copper ores, on exhibit at the Los Angeles Chamber of Mines and Oil office in Los Angeles in 1913-1921. Many of the specimens visible in the photo have been identified in the collection of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
The Mineralogical Record - Spencer W. Clawson Brass plaque preserved in the collection of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
The Mineralogical Record - Spencer W. Clawson December 1940 ad for Warner & Grieger announcing their acquisition of the Clawson collection.
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