Saturday, February 13, 2010

Maryland's Good Old Days Recalled in Tucson

Dr. Joseph F. Schreiber, Jr. is one of but a few collectors still around who enjoyed the kind of pickings that were available in Maryland during the first half of the last century. Such collectors who became geologists were mostly lured to a myriad other locations around the country or the world. Many, regardless of vocation, have passed on. Dr. Schreiber and his wife Doris have been living for the past 50 years in Tucson. That is when he joined the Department of Geology faculty at the University of Arizona in 1959. He retired, more or less, in 1992.

The permanent move out west actually came about after thirteen years. After serving in the U.S. Navy for 35 months during World War II, he used the G.I. Bill to earn his B.A. (1948) and M. A.(1950) degrees in Geology from the Johns Hopkins University. Summer jobs with the U.S. Geological Survey in New Mexico and petroleum geology field studies in the Rockies and West Texas added to his academic experience. In 1951, he worked at the Chesapeake Bay Institute in a combined study of the waters and bottom sediments of the Bay. The expertise learned in the bay studies led to a Doctoral Program at the University of Utah where his research was on the sedimentary record of Great Salt Lake. "But all along," says Dr. Schreiber " I kept up an interest in mineral collecting." The time in Utah allowed for "classic" collecting opportunities in that state as well as Colorado.

Similarly attractive collecting opportunities came up when he served on the geology faculty at the Oklahoma State University in Stillwater from 1955-1959. The father of one of his students operated a small lead-zinc mine in the Tri-State district of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri. Whenever they struck a highly mineralized area, Dr. Schreiber was contacted so as to be on site to collect some of the beautifully crystallized minerals. Another bonus was helping to run the summer geology field camp located near Canon City, Colorado. Some weekends were spent with smaller groups of students collecting from some of the famous localities in central Colorado. What could have been better?

The permanent move "out west" came about when he, wife Doris, and two small daughters moved to Tucson. He was now in a rapidly growing soft rock (stratigraphy and sedimentology) program. The University of Arizona also had one of the best "ore deposit geology" programs in the U.S. Once again he was active in the summer geology field camp. What could have been even better?

Even so, after having experienced the best of so many great localities throughout the American West, Dr. Schreiber makes a point of referring to Maryland as "beautifully situated with igneous and sedimentary rocks and their metamorphosed equivalents, particularly where gneiss and metagabbros are present."

His interest in mineralogy and mineral collecting began in 1938 at the Natural History Society of Maryland as a member of the Junior Division. Charles "Charlie" Ostrander, who authored "Minerals of Maryland" in 1940 (still my personal Maryland Bible), was his mentor. Dr. Schreiber began collecting in the Baltimore area where he and other mineral collecting friends could travel on the Baltimore Transit street cars. Before the Woodberry Quarry dumps in the Jones Falls Valley gave way to progress, he recalls the collecting as having been "great!" From nearby, a street car ran north on Falls Road to points from which both the Bare Hills Copper mine dumps as well as the Bare Hills Chrome pits were but a short hike away. The vial of magnetite crystals from the former locality pictured in a vial at right are the largest I've ever seen from that locality. In the vicinity of the chrome pits, he recalls finding the best variety of minerals when combing the surrounding serpentine barrens, many of which remain accessible today.

Localities further north in Baltimore County were reached by car. A favorite was the Harry T. Campbell Quarry, now the Texas LaFarge Quarry, in Texas, MD. This is where he collected a specimen of wernerite, a mineral long considered to be an uncommon prize amongst Maryland collectors. It shows more attractively than any other Maryland wernerite I've had the privilege of seeing and is pictured at left.

The youthful Dr. Schreiber and his cronies were able to experience numerous still active quarries in a manner that collectors today could only dream about. If blasting were to happen on a Friday, the quarry was usually available to collectors on the weekends. Such a quarry was the long closed and inaccessible Gunpowder Quarry, which produced the almandine garnet pictured at right. The quarry workers would sometimes leave baskets of garnets that popped out of the gneiss left at their change shack. Dr. Schreiber also collected the allanite in gneiss (left) at the Gunpowder Quarry. Although allanite has been reported from various Maryland localities, this is the first piece I've seen and had an opportunity to photograph.

West of the Baltimore area in Carroll and Frederick Counties, Dr. Schreiber also got to visit many of the dumps and openings on private land where, mostly in the 1800's, copper and other metals were mined. The landowners became their friends and welcomed them. Many of these spots have since been built or paved over. Where possibilities for collecting remain, a much smaller percentage of landowners are as willing to so readily accommodate today.

The minerals pictured in this post are among the very few that Dr. Schreiber has kept since retiring. Most specimens were added years ago to the teaching collections and the University of Arizona Mineral Museum, which has stored them away. I would love to see and photograph some of them. However, immediately after the opening of a major new exhibit, with limited funding, and with the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show going on, this isn't the time to ask.

1 comment:

  1. I liked him a lot! I grew up with his daughter at Grace Episcopal Church in Tucson, and then years later in a geology class I was taking at the U of A, he was handling my TS's thesis on schist. Wish there were more professors like him, really good guy.