Dr. Ben Hur Wilson

First President of the AFMS

A Humble Beginning

With the formation of organized groups such as the New York Mineralogical Club in 1886 and Philadelphia Mineralogical Society in 1892, interest in the earth sciences and lapidary arts took on a new meaning and importance.  Members of these pioneering organizations went on field trips, collected avidly, wrote extensively on their finds and interests and shared with one another a love of beauty and knowledge.

Eventually a desire to share experiences and knowledge brought many of these "individual" clubs together.  Groups in California joined together in 1935 to form the California Federation of Mineralogical Societies.  This was followed by the Northwest Federation in 1938; the Midwest Federation in 1940; and the Rocky Mountain in 1941.

As interest in the earth sciences and lapidary arts continued to grow and as more and more individuals learned about cutting precious and semi-precious stones or collecting minerals and fossils, it became obvious that a national overseeing group would benefit all.  Such interest was expressed as early as 1938 when Dr. H. C. Dake of Portland Oregon suggested a meeting between the Northwest Federation and California Federation.

The activities of World War II necessitated putting any further organizational efforts on hold and thus it was not until 1946 that activities were resumed again.   Correspondence between Dr. Ben Hur Wilson of Joliet, Illinois and Dr. Richard Pearl of Denver, Colorado focused on the idea of a National Federation as proposed by Dr. H. C. Dake in 1941.  Dr. Dake of Portland, Oregon was Editor of the "Mineralogist Magazine".  At the Northwest Federation Convention in Boise Idaho (1946) a suggestion was made to hold a combined convention.

Dr. Pearl eventually invited delegates from the four existing Federations to meet with him during the Rocky Mountain Federation Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The meeting was set for June 13, 1947 and was held a t the Newhouse Hotel.

Present at the auspicious organizational meeting were:

Midwest Federation

     Dr. Ben Hur Wilson

     Alger R. Syme

Rocky Mountain Federation

     Dr. Richard Pearl

     Chester R. Howard

Northwest Federation

     Lloyd Roberson

     Earl Van Deventer

California Federation

     Ernest Chapman

     Jack G. Streeter

Since it was the desire of those present a new organization, named the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies was formed.  Officers were elected and committees formed to write a Constitution and By-Laws.  Denver, Colorado was selected as the site for the first "national" convention which was held in June, 1948.   The first elected officers were:

President -

     Dr. Ben Hur Wilson

Vice President -

     Dr. Richard Pearl

Secretary -

     Chester R. Howard

Treasurer -

     Jack G. Streeter

The Denver show proved to be a success.  Excellent displays and an interesting array of lectures helped insure the future of the fledgling Federation.

California was chosen as the site for the 1949 convention which was held in conjunction with the "Forty-Niner Centennial" held in Sacramento.  With the success of this meeting, adoption of a Constitution and By-laws and a continued growing interest in the earth sciences and lapidary arts, the American Federation was on its way.

The Eastern Federation joined AFMS in 1950 (just after it was formed) and the South Central (formerly Texas Regional Federation and a part of the Rocky Mountain Federation) joined in 1954.  The last group to be admitted to AFMS was the Southeast Federation in 1993.

In the fifty years following the organization of AFMS, many important programs have been initiated.

Nearly 1,500 delegates and members were officially registered at the Denver Conclave held in June.  It is estimated that at least an additional 1,500 passed into the exhibit halls and meeting rooms without registering, which was optional, making a total attendance of some 3,000 in all.

This article was taken from:

A Brief History

of the

American Federation of Mineralogical Societies, Inc.

50 Years of Service

1947 - 1997

which was presented at the combined EFMLS/AFMS Convention and Show in Jackson, Mississippi October 1997.  It was hosted by the Mississippi Gem and Mineral Society and the Eastern Federation of Mineralogical & Lapidary Societies.

 Past Presidents

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About the image on this page

Dr. Ben Hur Wilson

The AFMS was formed by the first four regional federations: California, Northwest, Midwest, and Rocky Mountain. Dr. Wilson was elected as the first president of the AFMS in June, 1948. Read more about the AFMS history above in "A Humble Beginning" above.

Image Credit: AFMS