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A. E. Foote

Albert Edward Foote, one of America's most famous early mineral dealers, was born on February 4, 1846, in Hamilton, Madison County, New York, the son of Edward Warren Foote and Phoebe Steere. He graduated from Courtland Academy in Homer, New York, where he first became interested in mineralogy through the influence of Dr. Caleb Green, and began collecting minerals in 1862. He was a student of Prof. Walcott Gibbs at Cambridge and Prof. Hoffmann in Berlin. Foote obtained his medical degree in 1867 from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In 1870, after teaching for three years at Ann Arbor, he took a position as Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Mineralogy at Iowa State Agricultural College, was promoted to Full Professor in 1871, and married Augusta Matthews in January of 1872, in Knoxville, Iowa. In December of that year they had a son, Warren Mathews Foote, who was destined, 23 years later, to take over his father's business.

Foote had developed an intense interest in mineral collecting, and had collected minerals from the Michigan copper mines (1868), from Magnet Cove in Arkansas (in 1875), and from the Minnesota iron range, ostensibly for teaching purposes, but building up a much larger stock than necessary. He displayed his fine personal collection in New York in 1873, and at the St. Louis Exposition n 1875, where he was awarded a medal. In 1875 he moved to Philadelphia and set up practice there as a physician, mineralogist, and seller of medical and other scientific books. He placed a handsome exhibit of minerals in the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, and had to rent cheap quarters nearby to store his surplus specimens; visitors to the exhibition wanted to purchase specimens, so he took them to his temporary quarters and thus his mineral business was born. He was eventually elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and was a Life Member of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

In 1876, to help launch his new business, Foote issued a substantial catalog of minerals for sale from his Philadelphia address at 3725 Lancaster Avenue. Son Albert Jr. was born in Philadelphia in 1877, and daughter Genevie in 1879. As of 1880 Albert Sr. was still listing himself in the census records as a "physician," so perhaps he had continued to maintain a small medical practice there as well. In the late 1870's (probably 1877) he moved to a new address, 1223 Belmont Avenue. His famous mineral catalogs ran to 100 pages. In 1890 he moved again, to larger quarters at 4116 Elm Avenue, and in 1893 he moved yet again, to 1224-1226-1228 North 41st Street. He also published an illustrated 32-page monthly called The Naturalist's Leisure Hour (25 cents for 12 issues), containing much information on minerals; it began in 1877 and ran until A.E. Foote's death in 1895. Foote traveled the world regularly, sending back huge quantities of specimens to his headquarters in Philadelphia. He also continued to place lavish, award-winning exhibits at the major international fairs including the New Orleans Exposition of 1884-1886, the Louisville Exposition in 1886, the American Exposition in London in 1887, and the Paris Exposition in 1889.

A.E. Foote died of a chronic tuberculosis infection on October 10, 1895, at the young age of 49, having built one of the largest and most successful mineral dealerships in history, and boasting "the largest stock of minerals in the world." Clarence Bement (q.v.) was one of his pallbearers.

A. E. Foote's son, Warren, who had studied mineralogy at the University of Pennsylvania and at the Ecole des Mines in Paris, took over management of his father's business. In November 1896 Warren moved the company store to larger quarters at 1317 Arch Street, though this address appears never to have been used on labels. He mounted an attractive display of American minerals at the Paris Exposition in 1900, and set up sales quarters (which he managed personally) in that city through 1904. American labels from this period say "Philadelphia and Paris," whereas the labels sold with specimens from the Paris store give localities in French, and include the spelling "Philadelphie."

Warren changed the company name to the Foote Mineral Company in 1900, and continued to emphasize collector minerals. He had agents for the sale and purchase of minerals in Melbourne, Singapore, Yokohama and Buenos Aires, though the opening of his agency in Johannesburg was put on hold because of the Boer War. His ad in the March 1900 issue of The Mineral Collector stated: "The labor and capital devoted to our book department will in the future go to minerals, and hereafter only new standard works in mineralogy and geology will be sold. The [wholesale] sale of minerals to other dealers is discontinued, since new acquisitions are disposed of by our own stores and agencies."

This major expansion of the mineral business appears not to have gone well, perhaps because of Warren's desire to live in Paris while neglecting the home office in Philadelphia. The business his father had established, supplying mineral specimens to collectors, languished and declined under Warren's management. The Philadelphia office was moved to a new location at 107 North 19th Street in August 1906. Around 1907 the company's focus began shifting predominantly to supplying industrial minerals in bulk, and by 1908 the Foote Mineral Company had given up its full-page cover ads in The Mineral Collector. A final sale of mineral specimens was held in 1916, following which the remaining old specimen stock was packed in barrels and discarded. The Foote Mineral Company still exists today, though no longer under Foote family ownership.

CHAMBERLAIN, A. (1895) Editorial notes (obituary of A.E. Foote). The Mineral Collector, 2, 144.
ELLIOTT, C. (1991) Biographical Index to American Science. The seventeenth century to 1920. New York: Greenwood Press.
FOOTE, A.E. (1880) The Natualists Leisure Hour, 4 (9).
FOOTE, A.E. (Warren) (1897) Illustrated Catalogue and Price List of Minerals.
HEITNER, H. (1988) Dr. Foote and his minerals. Matrix, 1 (5), 70-73.
KRAUS, E.H. (1959) Albert E. Foote, the naturalist—a Michigan alumnus. Michigan Alumnus Quarterly Review, 64 (21), 341-347.
TOOTHAKER, C. R. (1951) The days of A.E. Foote. Rocks & Minerals, 26 (9-10), 460-463.
WALLACE, S. (1951) A Dictionary of North American Authors Deceased before 1950. Toronto: Ryerson Press.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
Biographical Archive, at]
Click on thumbnail picture to see larger image.
Number of labels found: 23 | Labels being viewed: 9 to 16

The Mineralogical Record - A. E. Foote 20 x 39 mm,
Small label of the type designed to be glued to a specimen. Note Belmont address and reference to Foote's Leisure Hours periodical for 1884, dating this label to 1884-1890.
The Mineralogical Record - A. E. Foote 17 x 29 mm,
Small label of the type designed to be glued to a specimen.
The Mineralogical Record - A. E. Foote 17 x 29 mm,
Small label of the type designed to be glued to a specimen.
The Mineralogical Record - A. E. Foote 42 x 71 mm,
Entirely preprinted label; no address but probably 1880-1895.
The Mineralogical Record - A. E. Foote 46 x 110 mm,
Entirely preprinted label; no address, but probabl5 1880-1895.
The Mineralogical Record - A. E. Foote 39 x 75 mm,
No address, but probably 1877-1890.
The Mineralogical Record - A. E. Foote 46 x 82 mm,
Entirely preprinted label; no address but probably 1880-1890.
The Mineralogical Record - A. E. Foote 51 x 85 mm,
41st Street address, ca. 1893-1895.
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