A short history of collecting, Part II: Meteorites & tektites

Last update: 23 June 2018

Meteorite collecting is relatively recent in the field of natural history collecting, with meteorites only recognized as extraterrestrial rocks by the turn of the 19th century. Tektites, which are a type of impactite, were still believed to have a lunar origin until the 1969 Apollo mission. A unique aspect of meteorite collecting is the crucial role of trading since a systematic collection would require a specimen of each named fall and find. Many examples are shown below with collection catalogues and correspondence between curators and/or private collectors. Most specimens displayed here are individually listed, with their weight and inventory number, in published collection catalogues. Stories of meteorite and tektite collecting in the field are also mentioned. Most of the main players in meteorite collecting from the 19th to the mid-20th century (private collectors, curators, institutions) are represented.

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Elbert King, NASA, library of meteorite collection catalogues, correspondence about Bingham collection, Allende meteorite photograph for trade

1. Cold finds in the Oscar E. Monnig meteorite collection: From the U.S. Great Plains to a CEO's vault, to the Texas Christian University

Meteorite specimens: catalogued in 1996
Correspondence: dated 1948-1974
Fort Worth, Texas, United States of America

Oriented Tulia (a) stone of 1.3kg (with regmaglypts on the posterior face) formerly from the Oscar E. Monnig collection later on housed at the Texas Christian University.

[1] Tulia (a) oriented meteorite (1,272 grams w. cut window, Monnig no. 12AG, TCU-Huss no. M12.3); accompanied by 2 collection catalogues (Ehlmann, 1996, curator's annotated copy; Ehlmann, 2008, no. 63/100, signed);
Provenance: O.E. Monnig / TCU
References: Ehlmann (1996:67); Mignan & Reed (2012:fig.3a)
[2] Lalande meteorite slice (36.2 grams, Nininger no. 464.111, Buddhue label, TCU-Huss no. M242.2); accompanied by Buddhue (1941) (inscribed offprint);
Provenance: H.H. Nininger / J.D. Buddhue / O.E. Monnig / TCU
References: Ehlmann (1996:37)
[3] Letter from O.E. Monnig to a library (dated 25 Feb. 1948, typed 1-page letter, signed, Meteoritical Society letterhead), accompanied by an issue of CSRM (1946);
Provenance: Unk. library
[4] Correspondence between O.E. Monnig and E.A. King of NASA (dated 1963 to 1974, typed 1-page letters, Monnig letterhead, some envelopes, incl. King's reply file copies) - Provides a unique account of Monnig's collecting process and his life as a businessman.
Provenance: E.A. King estate

Oscar Edward Monnig (1902-1999), lawyer by training and CEO of his family’s wholesale and retail business in Fort Worth, Texas, amassed an important meteorite collection, which was donated at the turn of the 1980s to the Texas Christian University (TCU) and catalogued by G. Huss of the AML (so-called TCU-Huss nos.; Mignan & Reed, 2012). Although the majority of his collection was gathered directly from farms or ranches [1], Monnig also bought a number of meteorites from dealers, as well as the John Davis Buddhue (1910-1971) collection in 1974 [2], always keeping all labels (e.g., M57.13 Pultusk). Member of the Meteoritical Society [3], Monnig shared his life between his business and his meteorite adventures [4].

John Saul, MIT 1965 expedition, Ivory Coast tektite strewnfield, manuscript field notes, ivoirite catalogue, George Baker, ivoirites

2. The Norton County achondrite, between Lincoln LaPaz's personal collection & his Institute of Meteoritics, University of New Mexico

Meteorite specimens: first catalogued in 1965
Documents (newspapers, notes): dated 1948-1949
From Kansas to New Mexico, United States of America

Prof. LaPaz with the Norton County Furnas stone, pictured in the UNM student newspaper Lobo (1948); a source of great tension with H.H. Nininger (see Marvin, 1993).

[1] (i) Norton County meteorite (1.8 grams half stone); (ii) Short note by LaPaz, regarding a Norton County specimen and the rarity of crusted fragments (handwirrten, dated 4 July 1949); (iii) Cabinet photograph of LaPaz (photographic heavy stock paper, Holiday House, New York, in LaPaz and LaPaz, 1961); (iv) ; Newspaper clippings describing the Norton County meteorite fall and recovery (dated 1948; some handwritten notes by LaPaz);
Provenance: L. LaPaz estate
[2] (i) Series of 20 Norton County meteorite fragments (56.2 grams, a few with crust, consecutive inventory nos. N.2670-N.2689 w. blank UNM labels); (ii) Endcut (50.4 grams; no. N.23.130,1 w. label).
Provenance: UNM
References: (i) LaPaz (1965:48); Scott et al. (1990:45); (ii) Scott et al. (1990:41); Cressy (2016:141)

Lincoln LaPaz (1897-1985) was the director of the Institute of Meteoritics of the University of New Mexico (UNM), which he founded in 1944. Only four years later fell in Norton County, Kansas, the largest achondrite ever found. LaPaz was the principal investigator of this historic fall [1] and "everything" that was recovered was either donated to or sold to the UNM [2] (LaPaz, 1948 - a few specimens were also obtained via exchange [2b]). The main mass of one ton remains the centre piece of the meteorite display at the UNM. It is worthwhile to note that H.H. Nininger also claimed the rights to the stone. LaPaz outbid Nininger and the so-called Furnas stone driven to the UNM (left picture: "Home at last: Dr. Lincoln LaPaz, sparkplug of the UNM searching party, looks on with affection as the now-famous meteorite arrives safely on the UNM campus."). When Nininger asked UNM for specimens, LaPaz sent him a form for loan, which contained a clause that forbade dealers to apply. LaPaz felt that Meteoritics should be raised from the realm of dealers, hobbyists, and amateur collectors and established as an academic discipline (Marvin, 1993).

3. Harvey H. Nininger's Canyon Diablo irons: From the Meteor Crater to the American Meteorite Museum, to the Arizona State University

Canyon Diablo specimen: first catalogued in 1950
Books: biography association copy; signed catalogue
Arizona, United States of America

The Nininger collection catalogue (Nininger and Nininger, 1950) signed by the Niningers, with catalogued 37-gram Canyon Diablo "odd-shaped" individual.

[1] Nininger, H.H. (1972), Find a falling star, Paul Eriksson, Inc., New York, 254 pp. (association copy inscribed in 1972 to H.G. Fales' wife; with 1976 postcard letter to H.G. Fales); accompanied by 3 American Meteorite Museum postcards;
Provenance: H.G Fales estate
[2] Canyon Diablo meteorite from the H.H. Nininger Collection, later held by the Arizona State University (37 grams, Nininger no. 34.648); accompanied by 2 collection catalogues: Nininger and Nininger (1950) (signed by both authors); Nininger (1933) (inscribed by the author);
Provenance: H.H. Nininger / Arizona State University (deaccessioned to R. Garcia, 2012)
References: Nininger & Nininger (1950:39); Karr et al. (1970:153); Lewis & Moore (1976:180); Lewis et al. (1985:44)

[3] Suite of Meteor Crater spheroids collected by H.H. Nininger in the mid-20th century, (i) 3 grams of calibrated size sold via the AML to the Bern Natural History Museum (3 grams in vial, w. AML label); (ii) numerous spheroids made into decorative space art in a so-called Nininger Star; (iii) spheroids glued on American Meteorite Museum leaflet.
Provenance: (i) AML / Bern NHM (deaccessioned to P. Marmet); (ii) G. Notkin (TBC)

Harvey H. Nininger (1887-1986) was the first person ever to make a living out of finding, collecting, trading, selling, studying, and exhibiting meteorites [1]. With his wife Addie, they established The Nininger Laboratory in 1930, renamed the American Meteorite Laboratory (AML) in 1937. In 1946, Nininger leased a building next to Meteor Crater to create the American Meteorite Museum (AMM), the first ever museum dedicated to meteorites. In 1953, the collection was transfered to Sedona. In 1958, 21% of the collection was sold to the British Museum, and in 1960, the Arizona State University (ASU) purchased the remaining of the Nininger Collection [2], which led to the end of the AMM. The AML's name and work was carried on by Nininger's daughter and her husband Glenn Huss. Among Nininger's contributions, his discovery of spheroids proved the vaporisation of the Canyon Diablo main mass at impact [3].

Eugene Cornelius meteorite collection, first Wellman (c) stone, label 1950, W.H. Carmichael, Adair

4. The H.O. Beyer Collection of Philippinites, from the discoverer & main investigator of the Philippinite strewn field

Tektite specimen: dated 1940; catalogued in 1962
Collection catalogue: inscribed in 1966
Manila, Philippines

H. Otley Beyer and his collection of tektites and archaeological artifacts, presented in issues of Philippines International magazine from 1962 and 1965.

[1] Bikolite found in Coco Grove, Bikol by D. van Eek, donated to H. O. Beyer in 1940 (141 grams, deeply-grooved spheroid);
Provenance: D. van Eek / H.O. Beyer / W.B. Beyer (entire coll. sold to D. Luong)
References: Beyer (1962:164)
[2] Beyer, H.O. (1962), Philippine Tektites, A Contribution to the Study of the Tektite Problem in General, in the light of both, Past and Recent Discoveries, Univ. Philippines Publ. In Nat. Hist., Quezon City and Manila, Volume 1, Parts I and II, 290 pp., 43 pls., inscribed "Manila | September 20, 1966 | To Don S. Muni | compliments of the Beyer Family - | William B. Beyer";
Provenance: H.O. Beyer (presented by his son William) / D.S. Muni
[3] Two issues of the Philippines International Magazine: (a) Sevilla, A. T. (1962), Presenting: H. Otley Beyer (vol. 6, no. 10, pp. 13-15); (b) Sevilla, A. T. (1965), H. Otley Beyer: Dean of Philippine Anthropology (vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 2-4, 39; penned "Copy for Mr. Henry Beyer II");
Provenance: H.O. Beyer estate (sold by his son William)

Born in America, Henry Otley Beyer (1883-1966) spent most of his adult life in the Philippines. While best known for his work on anthropology (considered the dean of Philippine anthropology), Beyer was also an avid investigator and collector of tektites [1]. His life-long work on Philippinites is compiled in a large two-part monograph entitled "Philippine Tektites", which includes most of his past papers [2]. Beyer was described as an assiduous scholar and encyclopedist as well as a hard beaten scientific field worker and collector. Before WWII, his collection was kept in several houses. Lootings and fires destroyed parts of the collection. As of 1965, the Beyer collection was housed at the Museum and Institute of Archeology & Ethnology, Manila. The National Library of Australia purchased in 1972 papers from the Beyer estate (incl. correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.). This is Beyer who first reported tektites found in the Philippines in 1926, at an archeological site in Rizal Province on Luzon Island [3].

High price of meteorites, Merrill, George English from Ward's Natural Science Establishment, Cumberland falls meteorite, Smithsonian signed collection catalogue

5. George Kunz's Forest City meteorite purchased by the American Museum of Natural History in 1922

Meteorite specimen: first catalogued in 1935
Photographs: dated 1923-1949
New York City, United States of Americia

Forest City Individual of 75.6 grams (with polished window) formerly from the G.F. Kunz collection and purchased by the American Museum of Natural History in 1922.

[1] (i) Photograph of the Forest City main mass on display in the Foyer Collection (dated 1923, photographic paper, AMNH ©, pictured in Hovey, 1907); (ii) Photograph of the meteorite display at the Hayden Planetarium with the Willamette meteorite at the centre and the Forest City main mass in background (dated 1949, photographic paper, AMNH ©).
Provenance: AMNH
[2] Forest City meteorite with cut window (75.6 grams, Kunz no. 67xxiii TBC, AMNH no. 2424 and unknown no. 11);
Provenance: G.F. Kunz / AMNH
References: Reeds (1937:560); Mason (1964:14)

Following the Bement collection acquisition in 1900, which catapulted the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) into the forefront of meteorite collections, other major acquisitions were made. Curator Edmond Otis Hovey (1862-1924) described in 1907 the largest specimens then part of the collection and displayed in the Foyer (Hovey, 1907), including meteorites of the 1890 Forest City fall [1] and the great Willamette iron. George Frederick Kunz (1856-1932), instrumental in the purchase of the Bement mineral collection for the AMNH by J.P. Morgan, was the main investigator of the Forest City meteorite fall and more specimens from his collection were purchased by the AMNH around 1920 [2]. In 1935 the Hayden Planetarium opened, and the entire collection was transferred there (Ebel, 2006).

de Mauroy meteorite collection, Catalogue de la Collection de Météorites de l'Observatoire du Vatican, Specola Astronomica Vaticana, Ausson (or Montréjeau) meteorite, meteorite trading, labels, antique glass vial

6. Warren M. Foote's specimen suites from the Holbrook shower with examples taken from the American Museum of Natural History

Meteorite specimens: first catalogued in 1935
Photograph: 1912 (TBC)
From Philadelpha to New York City, USA

Oriented Holbrook stone deaccessioned from the American Museum of Natural History, catalogued in Reeds (1937) (in background).

[1] (i) Foote Mineral Company (1912), Meteorites, Part I. Prices of individual specimens, Part II. The Foote Collection, with synopsis of the Rose-Tschermak-Brezina classification; (ii) Reconstitution in studio of the Holbrook meteorite strewnfield downscaled to 2.4 m by 1 m (photographic heavy stock paper, inscriptions "\14CC" and "HOLBROOK | 1/10 Diam.");
Provenance: W. Foote TBC
[2] Oriented Holbrook pea (8.1 grams, nos. 586, 1248); (ii) Suite of 15 Holbrook peas (various nos.); (iii) 4 Holbrook peas (AMNH nos. 1456, 1460, 3281 and 3332, with respective weights 7.8, 3.2, 1.0 and 1.0 grams; with Bonhams auction card).
Provenance: (i,ii) AMNH; (iii) AMNH / Bonhams
References: (i) Reeds (1937:525); (ii) Reeds (1937); Cressy (2016:96); (iii) Reeds (1937); Bonhams (2007:13)

Warren Mathews Foote (1872-1934), son of mineral dealer Albert E. Foote, took over management of his father's business in 1895 and changed its name to the Foote Mineral Company, Philadelphia, in 1900. In meteorite dealing, he's mostly remembered as being the main supplier of the many thousands of Holbrook stones that fell in 1912 (Foote, 1912). Holbrook stones were central to his collection and sales stock, as attested by his 1912 catalogue (Foote Mineral Co., 1912) [1]. With so many specimens, Foote sas able to do some aggressive marketing, offering specimens in series of hundreds, representative of the strewn field size distribution (such displays were already promoted by museums in the 19th century with other large falls). The American Museum of Natural History acquired a total of 2129 specimens from 1/10 gram to 6650 grams in 1912 [2]. Chester A. Reeds (1882-1968), hired by the AMNH the same year, initially to sort out the Bailey collection, succeeded to Edmond Otis Hovey (1862-1924) as curator. All the AMNH Holbrook specimens carry a unique identifier dating back to c. 1930 (Reeds, 1937). Some rare specimens carry an earlier red number, believed to have been affixed by Hovey (often erroneously called "Foote number").

Ward-Coonley meteorite collection, Pultusk stones listed in Ward catalogues, inventory painted numbers, label copy from Field Natural History Museum

7. The making of the Field Museum: Purchase of Forest City meteorites from H.A. Ward & G.F. Kunz, exhibited at the World’s Columbian Exposition

Meteorite specimens: first catalogued in 1895,
dated to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893
Chicago, Illinois

Forest City stone purchased by the Field Museum from G.F. Kunz and exhibited at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. In background: Farrington (1895).

[1] Forest City stone (53 grams, FNHM no. 340, FNHM label copy)
Provenance: G.F. Kunz / World’s Columbian Exposition / FNHM
References: Farrington (1895:58); Farrington (1916:261)

[2] Oriented Forest City stone (10 grams, FNHM no. 341, AML H283.6, UNM C101.3 with empty label)
Provenance: H.A. Ward / World’s Columbian Exposition / FNHM / AML / UNM
References: Farrington (1895:58); Farrington (1916:261); Scott et al. (1990:24); Mignan (2016:fig.5)

[3] (i) Ward, H.A. (1892), 'The Ward Collection of Meteorites and Specimens for Sale' (incl. 1896 sales list booklet, annotated); (ii) Letter from Ward to Emil Cohen about meteorite trading (dated 1895, WNSE letterhead, in German; incl. 1895 Greifswalder collection catalogue by Cohen).

The Field Museum of Natural History, one of the largest in the world, originates from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and the artifacts displayed at the fair. It was merchant Marshall Field who funded the establishment of a museum to host all the objects. The museum's name was changed from Columbian Museum of Chicago to Field Museum of Natural History in his honor. As of 1895, the meteorite collection was already one of the most important in the world, with nearly all of the specimens obtained by purchase from Ward's Natural Science Establishment and G.F. Kunz (Farrington, 1895). This is here exemplified by two Forest City stones [1-2]. The first one, from Kunz, was exhibited in Hall 62, Case 3A [3] while the second, from a smaller lot of Forest City stones from Ward, was made available for exchange. H.A. Ward built three meteorite collections, of which two ended at the Field Museum, the first one sold via the 1893 fair and the second one sold after his death (see Pultusk set). The publication date of 'The Ward Collection of Meteorites and Specimens for Sale' (Ward, 1892) would suggest that it formed the basis of the material displayed at the 1893 fair. However we learn from a letter that Ward was still actively trading in 1895 by advertising the same catalogue [4].

8. An Ochansk fragment purchased by curator C. Klein from dealer C.F. Pech & described in the 1906 Berlin Universty collection catalogue

Meteorite specimen: first catalogued in 1889,
with the complete orange catalogue series of C. Klein
Berlin, Imperial Germany

Fragment of the Ochansk meteorite sold by dealer C.F. Pech to curator C. Klein for the meteorite collection of the Berlin University. In background: Klein (1906).

[1] Ochansk meteorite fragment (53 grams, C.F. Pech label w. reference to Prof. Klein, HUB no. 1442 w. 2 labels); accompanied by the complete orange catalogue series (Klein, 1889; 1903; 1904a; b; 1906).
Provenance: C.F. Pech / C. Klein (HUB) / Deaccessioned to H.P. Obodda (before 1996)
References: Klein (1889:11; 1903:9; 1904:11; 1906:11,91)

The Berlin Museum für Naturkunde was officially inaugurated in 1889, as a part of the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, known since 1949 as the Humboldt-University of Berlin (HUB). Carl Klein (1842-1907) became curator there in 1887, the same year of the Ochansk meteorite fall. Feeling a deep commitment to the heritage of E.F.F. Chladni (1756-1827), the father of meteoritics who willed his collection to HUB, and to the work of his predecessor Gustav Rose (1798-1873), who developed a systematic meteorite classification, Klein enlarged the collection by purchasing and exchanging, bringing back the Berlin collection to third in rank after Vienna and London (with the help of some generous financial support by the Prussian state - e.g., Greshake, 2006). For instance, Klein purchased the present Ochansk [1a] fragment from Berlin dealer Carl Friedrich Pech (1831-1899?) [1b]. Klein documented his acquisitions very carefully in a series of publications (Klein, 1889; 1903; 1904a; b; 1906) [1c]. Not only is this specimen listed in his catalogues, Klein also described it in 1906 [1d]:

"In einem zweiten Stück erkennt man die Olivine direct im Gesteinsgewebe, daneben natürlich auch die Chondren" (In a second piece one can see the olivine directly in the rock matrix, next to, of course, the chondrules).

We also learn from a study of all catalogues that this specimen was the first Ochansk fragment obtained by Berlin University. A second, larger fragment of 390 grams, followed in 1904.

Krasnojarsk meteorite, antique Berlin Unviersity label, porcelain plate from Babes-Boloyai university collection, labels, inventory numbers, sketch of meteorite

9. The fate of the Alfianello meteorite: Documentation of its destruction & what remains of a fragment salvaged by Prof. Luigi Bombicci

Meteorite specimen: first catalogued in 1885
Correspondence, signed catalogue: dated 1883-1888
Lombardy region, Italy

Alfianello cut fragment deaccessioned from the Babeş-Bolyai university, Cluj-Napoca, and originally obtained from L. Bombicci of the University of Bologna (57 grams).

[1] Correspondence between D. Rabajoli and G. Gallia (several letters and drafts dated 1883, handwritten, in Italian) regarding the fall, destruction, and sale of the Alfianello meteorite;
Provenance: Gallia estate
[2] Alfianello cut fragment and slice (57.2 & 9 grams, fragment with early weight "142", id. I.69, UBB label and 2006 trade document); incl. Bombicci, L. (1888), Le collezioni di mineralogia nella R. Universita di Bologna, Anno 1888. Gamberini e Parmeggiani, Bologna, 78 pp. (inscribed and signed by L. Bombicci to G. Tacconi).
Provenance: L. Bombicci / UBB
References: Koch (1885:7); Bedelean et al. (1979:13)

On the afternoon of 16 February 1883, a meteorite fell near Alfianello. The priest of the village, D. Rabajoli, gave the earliest documented account of the fall [1]. We learn from the priest that "they heard a detonation, as a large mine, which lasted a second, then a noise as of wheeling wagons on rails, at the outbreak of fall the windows shook, there was a scare in the village..." He then described the stone as "one piece although cleft in two parts; the bottom was convex like a cauldron, had the shape of a truncated cone". The meteorite was dismembered at the hands of a man who "for unfair fate, came by with an iron pole, and together with other villagers, dug and pulled the stone breaking it, and was taken away in various parts by the curious and uninitiated" with a 13.5 kg fragment preserved by the Ferrari Family, other minor pieces being taken by others and sold as object of speculation. The priest also referred to a eyewitness who did "not venture to touch it so quickly for fear of an outbreak", and to the publication of false news on the Don Quixote of Bologna by Prof. Rizzatti (e.g the priest would have "perceived the divine palm print!"), and asks Gallia to publish a denial as required by law. Luigi Bombicci (1833-1903), renowned Professor of Mineralogy at the University of Bologna, also came to the site and took some samples (The Stevens Point Journal, 1883) [2].

Weston meteorite, C.U. Shepard, Yale, Amherst collection

10. Bubuowly Indigo Factory meteorite, India, presented to the British Museum & displayed in the 'Introduction to the Study of Meteorites' case

Meteorite specimen: first catalogued in 1883,
with some of the blue catalogues
London, British Empire

Supuhee meteorite of 46 grams formerly from the British Museum and originally found at the Bubuowly Indigo Factory, India. In background: Graham et al. (1985).

[1] Supuhee meteorite with cut window, from the Bubuowly Indigo Factory (46 grams with early British Museum oval sticker, no. 41050), accompanied with (i) BM (1904), The History of the Collections contained in...; (ii) from the blue catalogue series: Prior, 1923; Prior & Hey, 1953 (ex. WNSE, "Cat 4/24/64 Accession #261"); Graham et al., 1985 (inscribed by R. Hutchison, 1995).
Provenance: Secretary of State for India or Mary M. Brooke (?) / BM
References: BM (1883:142); Fletcher (1894:79; 1896:79; 1904:90); Prior (1923:172); Prior & Hey (1953:362); Hey (1966); Graham et al. (1985:338)

The status of the British Museum (BM) meteorite collection, as one of the largest in the world, can be attributed to the passion shown by early keepers Nevil Story-Maskelyne (1823-1911), Lazarus Fletcher (1854-1921) and George Prior (1862-1936) (Russell & Grady, 2006). Maskelyne compiled 11 "Catalogues of the Collection of Meteorites Exhibited in the Mineral Department..." (Maskelyne, 1861-1877) with purpose to attract requests for exchanges. Another successful approach was to ask the BM trustees to incite officials to instruct administrators in Britain's colonies to keep an eye for meteorites. This was particularly successful in India between 1859 and 1870 (Burke, 1986:189). The Supuhee meteorite is such an example, presented to the BM in 1865. The present Bubuowly Indigo Factory specimen [1] reached the BM at the latest in 1867 (BM, 1904) [2] and was displayed behind the pane of glass no. W in the Pavilion at the end of the Mineral Gallery, South Kensington (BM, 1883). Fletcher, also a skilled trader, was by then the new Keeper and published the first guide to the collection (Fletcher, 1881). In his catalogues, this specimen is listed as being part of the 'Introduction to the Study of Meteorites' case, no. 4h (e.g., Fletcher, 1894) [3]. In 1923, Prior, the next Keeper, published the first global Catalogue of Meteorites ("with special reference to those represented in...") where we find for the first time specimen no. 41050 [4]. The next curators continued the blue catalogue tradition (Prior & Hey, 1953; Hey, 1966; Graham et al., 1985).

Hessle meteorite, labels from  Museum of the University, Copenhagen, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, Baron Nils Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld, curator and Arctic explorer

11. The Imperial Royal Mineralogical Court Cabinet of Vienna: From Wilhelm von Haidinger to Gustav Tschermak

Meteorwrong specimen: Documented in 1863
Documents (notes, draft letter, ...): Earliest dated 1863
Vienna, Austria

Haidinger's 19th century research sample of the Rokitzan meteorwrong. This specimen is accompanied by an original manuscript with cutting instructions.

[1] (i) Rokitzan meteorwrong part slice (weight TBD, w. W. von Haidinger cutting instruction note & sketch, signed and dated 1863); (ii) Buchner, O. (1863), Die Meteoriten in Sammlungen, ihre Geschichte, mineralogische und chemische Beschaffenheit. Leipzig: Verlag W.Engelmann, 202 pp.; (iii) Omnibus of 15 meteorite monographs by Haidinger (1859-1869, ex. libris American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers)
Provenance (specimen): K. Wiesenfeld / F.A. Nickerl / H.J. Zeidler, Strahov Monastery / W. von Haidinger
References: Haidinger (1864:pl.1)

[2] (i) G. Tschermak document archive (draft letter to Prof. Daubrée, list of meteorites with museum/dealer names); (ii) NHMW catalogues by Tschermak (1869; 1872), annotated; (iii) Rose, G. (1864), Beschreibung und Eintheilung der Meteoriten auf Grund der Sammlung im mineralogischen Museum zu Berlin. Abh. Kgl. Akad. Wiss. Berlin, pp. 23-161 (in which the Tschermak documents were found);
Provenance: H. Winbeck estate

The meteorite collection of the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien (NHMW), which began in the mid 18th century, is the oldest in the world. Owing to the efforts of the successive curators, the meteorite collection also became in the course of the 19th century the largest. In the period 1851-1876, the collection was part of the Imperial Royal Mineralogical Court Cabinet, directed by Moritz Hörnes (1815-1868). Under his tenure, the collection grew quickly, in part due to the activities of Wilhelm von Haidinger (1795-1871) [1]. The role both played is best described in the earliest global meteorite collection catalogue (Buchner, 1863), dedicated to "The researchers of great merit, Herrn Wilhelm Haidinger and Herrn Moritz Hörnes, the restless catalysers of the meteorite collection of the K.K. Mineral Cabinet in Vienna". After the death of Hörnes in 1868, Gustav Tschermak (1836-1927) became the new custodian (Brandstätter, 2006). He continued the museum trading activities and also improved on G. Rose's meteorite classification [2].