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Joseph Delafield
(1790-1875)

Joseph Delafield was born in New York City on August 22, 1790, the son of Ann Hallet and John Delafield, one of the wealthiest men in New York. He received his early education at the private school of Rev. Mr. Smith, and from there was transferred to a school in Stamford, Connecticut. From Stamford he moved on to Prof. Davis' school in New Haven, and from there to Yale University at the young age of 14. He received his B.A. Degree in 1808 and began studying law in the New York City offices of Josiah Ogden Hoffman. Three years later he was hired to practice law in the office of the New York State Supreme Court.

Delafield received a military commission during the War of 1812, after which he was attached to the Commission for settling the northern boundary of the U.S. with Canada under the Treaty of Ghent, a position he held until 1828. Summers were spent along the northern border, and winters in Washington. "It was during these distant excursions that he laid the foundation for his collection of mineral curiosities which afterward became famous, both in this country and in Europe." (Obituary, 1875) At different times thereafter he served as President of the Lyceum of Natural History, and as Trustee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons. In 1833 Delafield married Julia Livingston, and together they had four children. He died on February 12, 1875.

Delafield specified in his will that his 2,500-specimen mineral collection, considered to be the finest in New York City, should go to the Lyceum of Natural History, on condition that the Lyceum "make suitable provision to make its contents safe for exhibition" a condition which the Lyceum failed to meet. The collection therefore passed to his sons, who donated it to New York University around 1890, stipulating that it be preserved separate and intact.

References:
ANON (1875) Obituary in the New York Times, February 14, 1875.
CANFIELD, F. A. (1923) The final disposition of some American collections of minerals. Privately printed.
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