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Gilbert W. Withers
(1898-1981)

Gilbert William Withers, one of the South's first active mineral dealers and an enthusiastic promoter of the hobby, was born on June 7, 1898 in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of William (a bookkeeper) and Elizabeth Withers. In 1917 he married Lillie M. (1886-1998), and worked first as a traveling salesman for a car company, then later as a real estate salesmam. Lillie worked as an office clerk and cashier for the telephone company.

When Withers first developed an interest in mineral collecting is not known, but he began advertising in Rocks & Minerals in January 1939, as "Dixie Mineral Specimens," offering Georgia staurolites. In the following issues he offered North Carolina emeralds in matrix; rhodolite garnet in matrix; pink corundum in actinolite from North Carolina; "junior packages" of ten different "Dixie" minerals; and especially Graves Mountain rutile, lazulite and pyrophyllite (he had hired two miners to mine specimens commercially for him). By May of 1939 he was calling his business "Southeastern Mineral Specimens." By April 1940 he had quit his real estate job in order to open his own gem and mineral business, the South's first full time rock shop, in downtown Atlanta. He began advertising as "Withers Gem & Mining Corporation," and had a "Gem Museum and Lapidary Shop" at 228 Peachtree Arcade in Atlanta offering precious and semi-precious stones including ruby spinels from Mogok, Burma. He registered a trademark for "Withers Certified Genuine Gems," and offered "Gems, any size," and "Specimens, any size." In January 1941 he renamed his business yet again, as "Withers Genuine Gems of Atlanta," dealing in all varieties of precious and semi-precious gems and Southeastern minerals from a new location at 63 Broad Street in Atlanta. Withers also served as president of the Georgia Mineral Society in 1941, and as the first Georgia director of the Southeast Federation of Mineralogical Societies.

His ads ceased following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. During World War II his gem business converted to the cutting of quartz crystals for radios that used the secret frequencies required during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. This enterprise continued through the Korean War. In March 1946 he was ready to get back into the lapidary and mineral specimen business, as the "Gilbert W. Withers" company, at 853 Adair Avenue NE in Atlanta. In July 1946, deciding that his "mineral specimens should be seen to be appreciated," he gave up his mail-order retail mineral specimen and lapidary sales and converted to a strictly wholesale business. He later moved to a new address at 1405 West Paces Ferry Road. He retired from the company in 1963 at the age of 65.

A few years after his retirement, still full of energy and enthusiasm for minerals, Withers persuaded the executives of Fulton Federal Savings and Loan in Atlanta to sponsor him on a lecture circuit that would take him to schools, civic clubs, churches, and mineral societies. He soon convinced the bank to sponsor a museum in its lobby that would be maintained by the bank and open to the public at no charge. The mineral collection that he assembled became known as "The Gems and Minerals of the World Museum" with Withers as its curator. The museum opened in the lobby of Fulton Federal's main office in downtown Atlanta, and eventually moved to the bank's offices in Cartersville.

Gilbert Withers died in Atlanta on March 19, 1981. When the Weinman Mineral Museum opened in Cartersville in 1983, Fulton Federal agreed to let the museum exhibit the collection on long term loan. When Fulton Federal went out of business during the savings and loan crisis, the collection was purchased for the museum by John Dent(one of Cartersville's former mayors), and thereafter became officially known as "The John Dent Collection." Withers' personal mineral collection (separate from the one sponsored by the bank) was donated to the Geology Department at Emory University.

Reference:
www.weinmanmuseum.org
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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 - Gilbert W. Withers Gilbert W. Withers
The Mineralogical Record - Gilbert W. Withers Gilbert Withers' first ad, in the January 1939 issue of Rocks & Minerals, for "Dixie Mineral Specimens"
The Mineralogical Record - Gilbert W. Withers Gilbert Withers' ad in the May 1939 issue of Rocks & Minerals, for "Southeastern Mineral Specimens," announcing his commercial specimen mining operation at Graves Mountain.
The Mineralogical Record - Gilbert W. Withers 45 x 78 mm,
A label for the "Withers Gem & Mining Corporation" (1940)
The Mineralogical Record - Gilbert W. Withers Withers' 1941 registered trademark for "Withers Certified Genuine Gems"
The Mineralogical Record - Gilbert W. Withers 62 x 90 mm,
A label for "Withers Genuine Gems of Atlanta" (1941)
The Mineralogical Record - Gilbert W. Withers 54 x 82 mm,
A label for "Withers Genuine Gems of Atlanta" (1941)
The Mineralogical Record - Gilbert W. Withers 111 x 100 mm,
A gemstone label from "Withers Genuine Gems of Atlanta" (1941)
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