Alvin Edwin Schortmann and Raymond Edwin Schortmann were born in Easthampton, Massachusetts in 1902 and in 1908, respectively. They were sons of Edwin Schortmann (born 1875) and his German-born wife Emma. Edwin's parents (Alvin and Raymond's grandparents) had immigrated from Germany in 1870; Edwin worked as a professional interior decorator and painter, and had his own shop in Easthampton. Alvin and Raymond worked for him as painters.
Raymond and Alvin had been interested in minerals since childhood, and one day decided to build their own diamond slab saw. For help they went to Dr. Benjamin Shaub, a mineralogist at nearby Smith College in Northampton. In the course of their conversations Shaub happened to mention that fine dendritic uraninite could be collected on the dumps of the Ruggles mine in New Hampshire. Intrigued, the Schortmann brothers then went out to the locality and collected a substantial supply of the material. They began to collect more intensively at other localities, and soon were buying wholesale quantities of minerals from other countries. Raymond's first ad, appearing in the September 1936 issue of Rocks & Minerals, offered "Corundum crystals from Transvaal, South Africa, and selected perfect pyrite cube crystals, free and in matrix of prochlorite." He gave his address as 309 Main Street. In the very next issue the company name of "Schortmann's Minerals" appeared instead, and the address of 6 McKinley Avenue (Alvin's garage; later ads give the address as 6-10 McKinley Avenue, 10 apparently referring to his house). The response to their first ads must have been very good, because the brothers soon obtained more stock to sell. In the December 1936 issue they were offering "Selected minerals. Pyrite cube xls and magnetite octahedron xls in prochlorite, xld datolite, prehnite, rhodonite suitable for cutting, autunite highly fluorescent under argon lamp, corundum xls etc."
In 1937 the brothers developed a valuable relationship with Arthur Montgomery at Lafayette College. Montgomery's field-collecting partner, Edwin Over, had been sending back to him shipments of extraordinary epidote from Prince of Wales Island, Alaska to sell, and the brothers were excited to see it. In the following years Over proved to be one of the most successful field collectors in history, making great discoveries at the Red Cloud, Mammoth, Bisbee and Hilltop mines in Arizona, Mount Antero in Colorado, and Fairfield, Utah, among other localities. Montgomery often sold the Schortmanns wholesale lots to resell, and when Montgomery decided to retire from the mineral business in May 1941, he turned their entire remaining stock over to the Schortmann brothers.
The 1940's and 1950's saw their business expand significantly, and their periodic exhibitions and sales in New York were heavily attended by all of the major collectors of their day. In 1953 they purchased (with Montgomery's help) a large and extremely fine European collection sight-unseen, and later bought a number of other significant collections as well. They assisted the Harvard Mineralogical Museum in the transportation of the famous Burrage collection of native gold, and obtained some of it from the museum. They were the agents for the sale of the collection of the Brooklyn Children's Museum, and the William Ball Franklin collection (with its 1-inch zincite crystal).
For seven years during the 1950's, Ray served as curator of the mineral collection at Amherst College, and held the rank of Instructor on the Amherst faculty. On the basis of his extensive knowledge of minerals, he was asked to teach mineralogy courses at Amherst but declined, and had to leave his curatorial position when he developed heart trouble.
Alvin's garage was turned into a small but well-appointed mineral shop, with exhibit shelves, flat cases and drawers. They handled specimens for every budget, from study material to exquisite cabinet specimens, always meticulously and accurately labeled.
Around 1962 the Schortmanns made the acquaintance of an enthusiastic young collector named Ron Bentley (q.v.), who lived about an hour away and became a regular visitor to their shop. Raymond died that same year, and Alvin and his wife Marjorie continued the business. Bentley spent weekends and summer days working with Alvin in the shop, sorting, pricing and arranging specimens. When Alvin and his wife went on vacation, Bentley tended the shop and was paid in specimens. In 1971 Alvin and Marjorie sold the business to Bentley and retired; all of the stock, cabinets and equipment were shipped to Bentley's home in Connecticut and reopened as Bentley's Minerals. Alvin died August 22, 1976, and Marjorie followed two years later.
Bentley's Minerals continued to operate until 1980, at which time Ron sold out to Robert Metzger of Alpha Gems and Minerals in Fairfield, Connecticut. Bob purchased the business with a promise to Ron that when he eventually sold it himself the sale would be under the same conditions under which Ron had bought it from the Schortmann's, i.e. that it could be bought on time payments with no interest charged. In 1986 Metzger sold his business (under the same conditions) to Howard and Janet Van Iderstine of Shelton, Connecticut, who, in 1987, opened as Cardinal Minerals. They are still in business today.
BENTLEY, R.E. (1978) The historical record. Mineralogical Record, 9,107-109.
MONTGOMERY, A. (1963) Memorial to Ray Schortmann. Rocks & Minerals, 38 (5-6), 238-240.
YEDLIN, L.N. (1971) Yedlin on micromounting. Mineralogical Record, 2, 101.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2017)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
|Click on thumbnail picture to see larger image.|
Number of labels found: 9 | Labels being viewed: 1 to 8
||Raymond E. Schortmann|
||Schortmann's mineral shop (in Alvin Schortmann's converted garage) in 1940|
||54 x 93 mm,|
An early Schortmann's label, dated on the back "Feb. 27, 1940"
||54 x 90 mm,|
A very early Schortmann's label, stamped "December 14, 1936" on the back (shortly after their first ads appeared), and dated "1933" on the front, probably referring to the date the specimen was collected.
||36 x 73 mm,|
A label for one of the Ed Over Red Cloud wulfenites, collected in 1938.
||36 x 63 mm|
||37 x 73 mm,|
The back side of a Schortmann's label, indicating that it is for a specimen that was exhibited at the Schortmann's December 1941 exhibit and sale at the Shelton Hotel in New York (it was sold the following weekend). In 1947 they switched to the Hotel Lexington.
||34 x 67 mm,|
According to Bentley, the labels began carrying the 10 McKinley address (instead of 6 McKinley) in 1960.