Paul and Hilde Seel Papers
Held at: Wagner Free Institute of Science [Contact Us]1700 W. Montgomery Ave., Philadelphia, PA, 19121
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Wagner Free Institute of Science. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Paul Seel (1904-1982) was born in 1904 in Breslau, Silesia, Germany. Although he was never a professional mineralogist, Seel was an avid and dedicated amateur mineral collector who would become associated with many of the field’s most notable people. By 1925 he had earned a degree in civil engineering, and by 1926 had left Germany to start a life in the United States.
In 1929, Seel started working with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, where he worked until 1964 as an expert on engineering specifications, inspection and testing procedures for suburban transportation systems, Metroliners, and jet turbine cars. In 1936, during a trip to Berlin for the Olympics, Seel married Hilde, whom he had met 15 years earlier in Germany. His honeymoon with Hilde would be the first of many mineralogical adventures, “seeking minerals, in every state of the United States, the full length of Canada twice, and in 24 of the 29 states of Mexico” (Desautels, 1986, 1275).
It was also in 1936 that the Pennsylvania Railroad Company transferred Seel to Philadelphia, a move that intensified his mineralogical career. Once there, he joined the prestigious Philadelphia Mineralogical Society, where he would meet Bill Van Horn, “an avid micromounter, and Dr. L.C. Wills, author of the first authoritative article on micromounting and a friend of early micromounters Rakestraw, Fiss, Keeley, Bement, and Jefferis, among others” (Hurlbut, 1997). Seel, in 1950, joined the Leidy Microscopical Society and served as president from 1957-1963 and from 1979-1981. He was elected trustee of the Wagner Free Institute of Science in 1964 and was elected vice president in 1969; he served in both positions until his death in 1982.
In his will, Seel left his extensive mineral collection to the Denver Museum of Natural History. His collection contained more than 17,000 specimens from 98 countries, and his diamond collection alone contained more than 5,000 crystals. Seel made many sketches and drawings of his crystals and was a popular speaker at mineral clubs all over the United States and Canada. Paul Seel died in 1982 and his wife, Hilde, died in 1987. In 1992, seelite, “a uranium mineral from the Talmessi mine in central Iran and Rabejac in Herault, France was accepted by the IMA as a new mineral. It was named for Paul and Hilde, ‘a husband-and-wife team of American mineralogists who left their mark on the affections of many of us’” (Bariand et al. quoted in Hurlbut, 1997).
Desautels, P.E. (1986). Memorial of Paul Seel 1904-1982. American Mineralogist, 71, 1275-1276.
Hurlbut, J.F. (1997). The Micromount Collection of Paul Seel. Rocks & Minerals, 72(1).
The Paul and Hilde Seel Papers collection contains documents that primarily reflect Paul Seel’s interest and career in mineralogy. There are several notebooks created by Paul Seel containing sketches and drawings of crystals, as well as programs, awards, photographs, and memorabilia from various mineralogy clubs and conventions. Other papers within the collection deal with personal matters, such as: the correspondence between the Seels and Harry Trudell; the original certificates of naturalization and citizenship for Hilde and Paul Seel; the Seel’s original certificate of marriage; and photographs of the Seel’s home that accompany Hilde Seel’s will.
This collection will be of particular interest to mineralogists who are interested in Paul Seel’s sketches, drawings, and notes of crystals and to those with an interest in mineralogy clubs and competitions. The Paul Seel scrapbook (Folder 19) contains photographs of Buzz Aldrin's appearance at the 21st Annual Convention of the Eastern Federation of Mineralogical & Lapidary Societies held in Lake Placid, N.Y., June 1971.
Folder 17 was originally part of accession 92-019; Folder 18, Observations on Diamond Crystals originally comprised accession 92-016; Folder 19, The Paul Seel scrapbook originally comprised accession 92-012; and Folders 20-36 were previously unaccessioned. All folders were combined with 90-025 in August 2010 to form a unified Paul and Hilde Seel collection.
- Wagner Free Institute of Science
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by William Rueter
- Finding Aid Date
November 16, 1961 Program from the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Dinner Meeting of the New York Mineralogical Club Inc. Held at The Faculty Club, Columbia University, New York City. Program appears to be signed by J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientific director of the Manhattan Project.
July 3, 4, and 5 1965 Program from the 15th Annual Convention of the Eastern Federation of Mineralogical and Lapidary Societies Gem and Mineral Show.
November 8, 1969 program from the Fiftieth Anniversary Banquet of the Mineralogical Society of America, Atlantic City, NJ. (2 copies)
November 8, 1969 program from the Mineralogical Society of America 50th Anniversary Celebration Jubilee Banquet (2 copies)
Of the 10 items of correspondence, all but 1 are between Edgar Wherry and Paul Seel and concern mineralology trips or the health of Edgar Wherry. One letter is from William C. Weigelt Jr., who wrote from Baghdad, Iraq regarding mineralology.
The letters are unsigned but appear to be written by Hilde Seel and addressed to Harry Trudell and Mr. Cornwall.
Included in these photographs are:
September 1962 photo Bill Knabe, Harold Poole, and Ben Birchall, being made Life Members of the Philadelphia Mineral Society. (2 copies)
September 1962 photo of Harry Trudell being made life member of the Philadelphia Mineral Society.
An undated photo with Paul Seel, Hilde Seel, Harry Trudell, and an unidentified boy.
A September 30, 1923 photo of 8 men aboard the the Toonerville Trolley. A 1987 note accompanying the photo from Hilde Seel identifies one man as Harry Trudell. (original photo and one larger reprint)
Three pieces of correspondence:
- Postcard invitation to the February 18, 1960 meeting of the Geological Society of New Jersey.
- Western Australia Report of the Geological Survey Branch for the Year 1957.
- March 15, 1960 questionairre from the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council for the seventh edition of Scientific and Technical Societies of the United States and Canada.
Also has accompanying photographs of the Seel house.
Paper given by Paul Seel on March 5, 1965 at the Twentieth Annual Convention of the Industrial Diamond Association of America at the Hollywood Beach Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. (6 copies)
Chiefly photographs and memorabilia compiled by Paul and Hilde Seel relating to the 21st Annual Convention of the Eastern Federation of Mineralogical & Lapidary Societies held in Lake Placid, N.Y., June 1971. Accompanying materials include convention programs, stamps, one album sheet, and a paper given by Paul Seel entitled "Observations on Diamond Crystals" at the 20th Annual Convention of the International Diamond Association of America, March 5, 1965.
Six 16mm Seel home movies; Four 8mm Seel home movies; 2 larger reels.
J.D.H. Donnay: The Symmetry of Crystals - Philadelphia Mineral Society
One original and one copy of paper entitled "The Theorem of the Three Moments." The author's name is cut-off, but the last name appears to be Hanson.
The subjects of the notebook are: Hexagonal Systems, Orthorhombic, Mono-Triclinic, and Twinning