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March-April 2017

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The Mitchell Crystal: A Maryland Mineral Enigma

Nearly five years ago, while conducting research for another article, I stumbled upon a story of a singular mineral discovery in my home state of Maryland. Previously unaware of the account, it almost became an obsession with me. Its recounting should amaze my fellow Maryland collectors and may open eyes to the untapped collecting potential of our state.

The narrative begins in the summer of 1860, when a young Philadelphia lawyer by the name of Edward Craig Mitchell (1836–1911) was walking along the Frederick-Baltimore Highway (now State Route 144) in Howard County, Maryland. Near the town of Ellicott City (in 1860 it was called Ellicott Mills), he began to notice quartz crystals on the surface of the ground near a small brook. As a young man, and up until a few years before his death on 8 December 1911 (Minnesota Historical Society Collections 1915), Mitchell had assembled a massive collection of Native American artifacts, unique historical objects, and, to a lesser degree, mineral specimens. He was always on the lookout for additions to his collection, and on that day these particular crystals caught his attention and raised his curiosity. He wanted to find their source.

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