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H. Allen  Mitchell
(1912-2013)

H. (Henry) Allen Mitchell was born October 4, 1912 in Harlowton, Montana, the son of Rosa Virginia Reebe and John Allen Mitchell. After moving to California in 1917, the family lived in Oxnard. Allen graduated with a PhD from the University of Southern California in 1935 and married Wilma Ethel Bose in 1937. Together they had three children: John, Stephen and Elizabeth. He worked as a chemical engineer for Shell Oil Company for 30 years, first in California and then in New York, and was an avid micromounter on the side. His position with Shell allowed him to travel far and wide on business, and when possible he arranged to travel to mineralogically interesting places for some field collecting. He was responsible for some technological advances in copper processing during World War II which gave him helpful contacts in the mining industry in the southwestern U.S.

The "technological advances" involved an innovative idea for the sharing of sulfuric acid between oil refiners and copper refiners. During World War II, sulfuric acid was a strategic material, so anything that would make it go farther was appreciated. Sulfuric acid was used in an early stage of petroleum processing and was then routinely dumped in waste pits. Meanwhile, copper refiners were manufacturing their own sulfuric acid to use in ore processing. Allan suggested that the waste acid from oil refining might be suitable for copper processing. A test was arranged between Shell and Phelps Dodge, and it worked; the copper processor was able to obtain all the acid it needed from the oil industry and shut down its own expensive acid production operation, which involved mining pyrite and burning it to produce sulfur dioxide. Allan had a framed certificate of appreciation from the War Production Board, signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, on his wall. That contribution to the copper industry was what opened collecting doors for him in Arizona.

Another door-opener was his practice of researching mines where he wanted to collect and assembling micromineral reference sets of minerals found there. He would then call on the mine geologist when he arrived and offer the set as a gift. The sets were usually enthusiastically received and paved the way for many productive collecting forays.

In 1972, after retiring from Shell and working as a consultant for several years in the petrochemical industry, Allen fulfilled a retirement dream by opening a gem and mineral store, Microminerals International, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. He advertised in the Mineralogical Record from 1976 to 1980, and used a drawing of a chambersite penetration twin in his collection (from the Venice Salt Dome in Louisiana) as his logo. He and Wilma later relocated to Iowa City in 1984. During their retirement, they were active in Gideons and enjoyed outdoor activities of camping and fishing and traveling to visit family. After Wilma's death in 2009, Allan moved to Williamsburg, Virginia and then to Auburn, Maine.

Allen was always very generous about sharing knowledge and material and was an excellent host. He also sold and/or donated large amounts of mineral material to the micromount study group of the Earth Science Club of Northern Illinois (ESCONI), in west-suburban Chicagoland. In 1994 he decided that he had done all he could do with minerals and sold his 10,000-specimen micromount collection while he could still enjoy putting it into the hands of other collectors.

As a micromounter, he didn't use personalized specimen labels for his own collection. He had a miniature printing press with tiny type with which he made adhesive labels for his micromount boxes. That was useful since he liked to mount several examples from a given occurrence when he could.

He died in Auburn, Maine on November 22, 2013, at the age of 101.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2017)
Mineralogical Record
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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The Mineralogical Record - H. Allen  Mitchell H. Allen Mitchell
The Mineralogical Record - H. Allen  Mitchell 43 x 67 mm
The Mineralogical Record - H. Allen  Mitchell 43 x 68 mm
The Mineralogical Record - H. Allen  Mitchell Ad in the Mineralogical Record from 1976 to 1980
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