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Ed McDole "Montana Mineral King".

In the 1950's and 60's the name Ed McDole became synonymous with superb (if not always colorful) minerals from the mining camps of the American West. He collected many of them himself and bought others from miners, doing business out of his hotel room in Butte, Montana, or the trunk of his trademark Lincoln. Collectors and curators who knew him still fondly remember his eccentric personality, his fabulous specimens, his tall tales, and the excitement inspired by his infectious love of minerals. As his tombstone states, he was truly "a legend in his own time."

Ed McDole was not a traditional type of man, and writing a traditional biography of him would be virtually impossible for a variety of reasons. Perhaps he can best be described through the memories of some people who knew him. Hal Miller of Boulder, Colorado wrote:

In the fall of 1955 Butte was an exciting city. The price of copper was high and miners were arriving daily from every mining camp in the west. Butte was known then as the capital of the "tramp miner." Many of the good crystal-producing mines were in production. The East Colusa and the Leonard, near Meaderville, were producing fantastic crystal groups of enargite, pyrite, covellite, digenite, and colusite. The Emma mine, in "down-town" Butte, was producing rhodochrosite specimens by the hundreds.

One overcast November day I received word from Ed McDole that he had something special to show me. I knew this had to be good or Ed would not have taken the trouble to call. Arriving in Butte shortly after shift change I hurried up the street, past the Emma mine, to the Old Lincoln Hotel where Ed resided. The whirring and clanging of the sheave wheels at the tops of the numerous gallows frames added to the excitement. At that time many operating shafts were in down-town Butte. Making my way up the dimly lighted staircase I arrived at Ed's room to be greeted by "Hello, Miller, you old bounder, how are you? If you can guess what I have here I'll buy your supper." Ed reached for a cigar box on top of a pile stacked near the door and cautiously opened it to reveal three specimens about 3 by 3 inches covered with euhedral crystals, somewhat less than 1/4 inch long, of a mineral which I did not recognize. I lost my chance for a free supper, but it was worth it. A pocket of digenite crystals had just been opened up and these were among the first to come out. Digenite crystals had never been common at Butte, as a matter of fact even the massive ore is rare. Years later, however, Ed visited me in Colorado and revealed the best of all the Butte digenites--a single crystal about 1 by 1/2 inch perched on a quartz matrix. I doubt that its equal exists anywhere in the world.

That same evening Ed showed me a few fine rhodochrosite crystals of a type not common in Butte. These were deep red transparent ?-inch rhombohedra with milky quartz rosettes. They could be confused with Colorado specimens, but at that time rhodochiosites were not coming out of Colorado. [Quoted from: Harold W. Miller (1971) Rhodochrosite crystal localities in the west. Mineralogical Record, 2, 105-110.]

Hal Miller recently added:

I recall Ed in a rented room at the Lincoln Hotel in Butte, lying on his bed, reading a text on mineralogy or chemistry; there was a basin in the room, where he would wash minerals. Ed bought specimens by the powder-box-full from miners, who were working then on seven shifts. Ed worked two shifts himself, one under his own name and another under an assumed name. He was a contract miner, paid by the tonnage of ore he delivered. And, like many miners, he naturally took time to collect specimens when the opportunity presented itself.

Who was this Ed McDole, tramp miner and mineral collector extraordinaire?

The first I knew of Ed McDole was when he showed up unannounced in front of our family home in Tucson, Arizona, driving a big black Lincoln. He had minerals to show my father, George Bideaux, and me, which we looked at standing by his car in front of the house. The specimens he showed us which made the biggest impression on me were two from the Blackbird mine, Lemhi Co., Idaho.

One was a large piece with a rounded matrix covered with green ludlamite crystals on which were a number of long, upstanding, purplish-green tapering vivianite crystals, beautiful to see, but much too large for our collection. Then he showed us a smaller piece, a hand-sized loose spray of large vivianite crystals, which would have fit our collection perfectly.

He apparently had heard we had Glove wulfenites (dating this meeting into the latter 1950's). I showed him some of our pieces available and I thought we were just about to make a deal, which I certainly was anxious to do. He walked around his car, I thought to show us something else from the other side; instead, he got in, and simply drove off, leaving father and me staring after him. To this day I don't know what happened there--later I heard second-hand "We were too hard to deal with" although no trade values had even been mentioned.

From Mike Evick (Calgary, Canada):

I first met Ed McDole while on a field trip in southeastein British Colombia. My companion and I phoned the chief geologist at the Bluebell mine, located at Riondel, British Colombia, and asked for permission to visit the property with the view to collect specimens on behalf of the Vancouver City Museum.

At that time, Frank Shannon was the chief geologist and, zs I represented a museum, we were certainly welcome to visit the property. Shannon suggested the quicker the better, as lie was entertaining an interesting collector at the mine who would be gone by the next day. We left almost immediately, and an hour and a half later, via ferry, we were at the mine situ.

That day in Shannon's office was my first contact with Ed McDole. His field car at that time was a fire-engine-red Lincoln Premier, which he took on roads more suitable for a jeep. Lincolns became his trademark, and from the Premier he graduated to black Continentals.

I must have made a good impression on Ed during our shot encounter at the Bluebell mine, as he took a number of specimen boxes out of the Lincoln and I was treated to some of the finest minerals I had ever seen. As he worked his way through these he removed a specimen with eight lustrous indigo-blue cubes on a hard matrix. He handed the specimen to me and waited for my comments. Although this was my first exposure to a matrix specimen of that species, I blurted out "This is a boleite!" Ed broke out in a grin and said that I was in a select group of a few people that were able to identify the mineral first time around."

At first contact I didn't pay much attention to his dress, which consisted of black shoes, black shiny pants and a silk shirt unbuttoned halfway down on his large stomach. Not once did I see Ed in any other dress than this, which was his preference and he stayed with it until he passed away in 1970. Another McDole trademark was that he usually could be seen smoking or sucking on a big cigar.

Ed always traveled with a car-trunk-full of custom-made redwood boxes that were variously compartmentalized and cotton-filled. These housed his finest specimens, which he showed and occasionally would sell or trade. Ed insisted oil being paid in cash and was known for carrying $100 bills. Although that isn't unusual now, in the 1950's it certainly was an attention-getter.

Over the ten years or so I knew him, Ed and I would get together in various U.S. or Canadian towns and swap yarns and minerals for a few days and then go our separate ways until our next rendezvous. These get-togethers were always set up with a phone call from Ed, which usually he would open with his standard greeting "Hello, you old bounder," and suggest I meet him halfway, usually in the city or town of his choice.

Ed was fairly free with information on where he self-collected and, as a matter of interest, I've listed a number of these: at the Crown Point mine, Lake Chelan, Washington (large molybdenite crystals in quartz); the Blackbird mine, Cobalt, Lemhi Co., Idaho (vivianite-ludlamite); the Beaver mine, Beaver Mountain, British Columbia (linarite); the Rock Candy mine, Kennedy Creek, British Columbia (fluorite-barite in large crystals and specimens); Majuba Hill, Pershing Co., Nevada (clinoclase-olivenite); [near Lost Trail Pass] Lemhi Co., Idaho (ferrimolybdite). In Arizona, at the Rowley mine, near Theba, Maricopa Co. (wulfenite-mimetite); the Apache mine, Gila Co. (vanadinite); the Red Cloud mine, La Paz Co. (wulfenite).

Dick Thomssen of Carson City, Nevada adds to this list places he personally collected with Ed: in the Pine Grove Hills, Lyon Co., Nevada (lace calcite); and in Utah, at Spor Mountain and Topaz Mountain, Thomas Range. Gene Schlepp (Western Minerals, Tucson, Arizona) supplied me several invoices verifying Ed's sale of specimens from some of these localities.

Mike Evick continues:

One of his most interesting field collecting experiences described to me was his first trip to the Grandview mine, deep in the Grand Canyon, Arizona, which was very successful as he came out with some fine brochantites and cyanotrichites. (This locality had been forgotten since the 1920's, until Ed rediscovered its specimen potential.) Ed said he learned an important lesson coming out of the Canyon. This was to cache water at various points on the way down and not carry your whole supply to the bottom and lug it all the way up along with the rocks.

Ed had a great love for black and gray minerals. I didn't realize that he couldn't distinguish colors but relied on his excellent knowledge of crystallography to identify species as best he could.

Dick Thomssen recalls:

Ed once bought, from west of Salt Lake, near Tooele, Utah, a batch of twinned cinnabar crystals, measuring up to 3/4 inch, which he couldn't have identified by color, but only through his knowledge of their crystallography.

John Patrick of El Sobrante, California recalls:

Once he came to the house and insisted that I come out and look at his new "black" Lincoln. I told him that the color was burgundy. He demanded to know what in hell burgundy was. When I told him that was a brownish-purple, he let loose quite a string of profanity. It seems he had seen what he thought was a black Lincoln in a car dealer's window in Reno, Nevada and told the salesman he wanted to buy the "black" Lincoln for cash. The salesman, no fool he, caught on immediately that Ed was color blind and Ed drove away with his new "black" Lincoln. He did get rid of that car about a year later and showed up with a truly black one.

Another time Ed showed me a specimen of yellow wulfenite, into which a Red Cloud mine crystal had been glued. I bought the specimen without pointing out the disparity to him. Later I removed the 3/4-inch bright red floater and it was added to my wife's thumbnail collection.

Once through Bideaux Minerals I had supplied to Ed an erythrite from Schneeberg, Germany. Somewhat surprisingly Ed turned back up and said some people in California had told him the crystals were not as red as they should be. I assured him that they were about as red as that mineral could be (this was long before the marvelous Bou Azzer, Morocco specimens) which statement he accepted.

But, curious, I asked him why he couldn't tell for himself? He then admitted to me he was red color blind. I probed more deeply, asking "How he did see such specimens?" He replied "As shades of gray." To this day I consider it remarkable that he could be so interested in specimen mineralogy without being able to see this very important and beautiful color. I would suppose he was green color blind as well; my ophthalmologist assures me the condition is entirely genetic, and the only color to be distinguished is blue, with all other colors seen as gray.

One day Ed showed up at the Bideaux household with a batch of remarkable Arizona scheelites. He had stopped to see George Burnham (Burminco, Monrovia, California) and had seen there a nice scheelite crystal George had just acquired. Getting the source's name and address, Ed immediately drove to Bisbee where he was able to acquire the balance of the lot. The Cohen tungsten mine in the Dos Cabezas Mountains, Cochise Co., opened during World War II, had been on standby for some time. The watchman did some work on his own in the vein, and uncovered what must have been a remarkable pocket of quartz crystals studded with large scheelites. These he had rudely cleaved off the matrix; he offered the entire lot to Loris Woolery in Bisbee, who was building his fine collection at that time. Loris bought the lot, and it was he who had Later sold the one crystal to Burminco.

As persuasive as Ed was, it isn't surprising that all but a couple of crystals that Loris wanted to keep (and did--they are now on display at the Arizona Department of Mineral Resources in Phoenix) ended up in Ed's hands. And fortunately for us, Ed's next stop was at our home in Tucson. As I was an impoverished college student, I picked out only two, a fist-sized crystal for our own collection, and another of about equal size for trade. Then I talked my father into buying the best one Ed had for sale, a handsome yellowish-brown crystal weighing half an ounce short of twelve pounds. Ed was certainly reasonable in his prices. Our keeper cost $6 and the smaller crystal for trade cost $5; it later went to Dr. Fred Pough in exchange for an original 1785 copy of Wulfen's book on wulfenite (worth today perhaps $7,500). The large crystal, costing $50, was advantageously traded to the Smithsonian, where it was on public display for many years and probably still resides, as perhaps the largest scheelite crystal so far found in the U.S.

Ed had interactions with other Arizona collectors and dealers also. Al and Bernie Haag (Tucson, Arizona) once told me that they had sold Ed a very fine and expensive legrandite specimen, but it was too big for the compartment in one of his boxes. He asked hem for a claw hammer and screwdriver, and, while they watched through the screen door, hearts in their mouths, he sat on their back concreete steps and successfully made the trim.

Gene Schlepp recalls that one year Ed had a room in the old Desert Inn at the time of the Tucson show. Ed had mined some extraordinary hubnerite crystals from the Adams mine, San Juan Co., Colorado. These needed to be cleaned of quartz using hydrofluoric acid, which Ed set out to do. Sometime later Al McGuinness pointed out to Ed that not only was the iron drain being attacked, but also the porcelain lining of the bathtub.

Ed in later years worked out of Ely, Nevada, where he kept the bulk of his specimen material, and finally in the Silverton-Ouray, Colorado area.

Mike Evick provided me with a copy of The Silverton Standand and The Miner for June 5, 1970 describing the circumstances of Ed's death and subsequent services. In that article he is referred to as Emorry Edward McDole (his relatives confirm that his real first name was Emory) and also as Edward Stephen McDole. Ed was born July 24, 1912, at Goodman, Wisconsin, and he passed away n the evening of May 21, 1970 in his hotel room in Silverton, olorado; he was 58 years old. He lies buried outside Silverton. Friends later paid for and erected a fine headstone.

His presumably excellent "personal collection," however, was nowhere to be found after his death. It was variously supposed to be in a bank vault in Butte, Montana or Ely, Nevada. Toward the end of his life Ed would drive to Durango, Colorado and rent a Jeep, which he would drive back into the mountains on collecting rips. Hal Miller knew many of Ed's favorite specimens, but he never saw them again after Ed died; it is Hal's opinion that Ed had these stashed in a forgotten mine tunnel, perhaps along with cigar boxes full of the hundred dollar bills which he was known to carry.

At the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in February of 1971, several collectors contributed to an Ed Mcdole memorial show-case, showing some of the finest specimens that had passed through Ed's hands during his long career. In 1972 Ed's friends John Patrick and Al McGuinness established the Ed McDole Memorial Trophy at the annual Tucson Show. They were also the judges, using as their sole criterion what Ed would have called the "best rocks in the show." Part of this tradition evolved from an evening in 1966 when John Patrick and his wife Masako had invited Ed for dinner, serving big thick steaks. Although Ed was not much of a drinker because of his diabetes, he did have a taste from a bottle of Lion Heart rum. It was later from the remains of this bottle that the winner of each year's McDole Trophy had to take a public drink on the "Old Bounder." McGuinness would then top off the bottle with more rum, to assure that "there will always be some of Ed's original rum in that bottle." This important trophy, widely cons idered to be the highest honor that a mineral collection could receive, continued to be awarded each year until the death of Al McGuinness in 1990, after which time it was retired. Following is a list of the recipients of the McDole Trophy.

1972 Ed Swoboda

1973 David Wilber

1974 Keith Proctor

1975 F. John Barlow

1976 Steve Smale

1977 Julius Zweibel

1978 F. John Barlow

1979 Keith Proctor

1980 David Eidahl

1981 Philip Scalisi

1982 James Bleess

1983 Kent England

1984 William Moller

1985 James Minette

1986 Keith Proctor

1987 Thomas McKee

1988 James Bleess

1989 Alexander Schauss

1990 Steve Neely


My thanks especially to Mike Evick and Hal Miller, also John Patrick, Gene Schlepp and Dick Thomssen. Wendell Wilson suggested this tribute, and early did extensive digging for facts and people that might be useful sources.
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Author:Bideaux, Richard A.
Publication:The Mineralogical Record
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Previous Article:Butte, Montana: Minerals, mines, and history.
Next Article:Tucson Mineralogical Symposium: Minerals of Africa. (Abstracts of the 23rd Annual).

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