George Gibbs (Father)

George Gibbs (January 7, 1776 – August 6, 1833). An American mineralogist and mineral collector. The mineral gibbsite is named after him.

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GEORGE GIBBS (III.). Eldest son and fourth child of George (II.) and Mary Channing, was born in Newport, R. I., in 1776. He was educated at Yale College and married Laura Wolcott (born 1794), daughter of Oliver Wolcott, Jr., of Litchfield, Conn., and Elizabeth Stoughton. Laura was but fifteen years of age at the time of her marriage. Extended reference to this remarkable woman will be found beginning on page 21. For an account of the Wolcott connection through my grandmother, see “The Wolcott Family.”


George Gibbs in his early life was sent to China as a supercargo in one of the ships of Gibbs and Channing, as his father intended that his son should succeed him in his business. However, a life of cultivated leisure attracted the young man strongly and upon returning from China he went to Europe, where he spent some years in study. While in France he had the opportunity of meeting many important and interesting people of the Directoire, among whom may be mentioned Mme. Recamier. He returned with a very fine collection of minerals, derived from the purchase of two noted European cabinets. The whole comprised over 10,000 specimens, making it, at the time the largest collection in America. With additions he made later it now amounts to 2 0 , 0 0 0 specimens. Col. Gibbs, as he was known, deposited his collection at Yale College. Through his friend, Professor Benjamin Silliman, that Institution purchased it, in 182 5, for $20,000. He continued throughout his Ii£etime to add to the collection and to engage in geological work to develop new mineral localities. Colonel Gibbs was the first to geologize systematically in the White Mountains. In 1816 Dr. Bigelow and his party found and followed the path cut through the thickets by Gibbs some years earlier.


On his marriage to Laura Wolcott in 1810, he purchased from the Delafield family a large estate, comprising about 40 acres, and a fine Colonial house, named “Sunswick,” on Long Island near what was then called Hallett’s Cove, and is now known as Astoria. The place was about opposite the northern end of Blackwell’s Island (Welfare Island now). It is difficult today to picture this locality as a desirable residence district, but 125 years ago it was in fact a beautiful shore and a favorite spot for the fine country places of New York families, easily reached by ferry or by sailing boats from the Battery, where the City was then clustered.1. Here Colonel Gibbs devoted himself with great ardor and success to horticulture, and especially to the introduction and testing of new varieties of fruit. Meantime he kept up his scientific studies, accumulated a noble library, and exercised abounding hospitality. For many years he offered prizes at Yale for superior attainment in mineralogy and for services rendered to science by use£ul discoveries and observation, and first suggested to Professor Silliman the publication of the well-known “American Journal of Science.” Two of his sons as will be seen, inherited his scientific tastes.


Col. Gibbs’s various activities and interests should be further mentioned.

He was elected Vice-President of the New York Lyceum of Natural History in 1822 and contributed many articles to the American Mineralogical Journal and to the American Journal of Science. He received the degree of M.A. from Brown University in 1800, and from Yale in 1808.

He was appointed Aide-de-Camp by the Governor of Rhode Island in 1804. His Societies were:

  • Member of the Royal Institution (England), 1807.
  • American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, l 81o.
  • American Antiquarian Society, 1813.American Academy of
  • Arts and Sciences, l 8 l 3. American Academy of Fine Arts,
  • 1816. Mineralogical Society of Dresden, Germany, 1816.
  • Newport Marine Society, 1819.
  • Agricultural Society of Florence, Italy, 1821. Imperial
  • Agricultural Society of Vienna, 1824. New York
  • Horticultural Society, 1824. Linnean Society of Paris, 1826.
  • Massachusetts Horticultural Society, 1830.

His great interest in art induced a strong friendship with Gilbert Stuart; the acquaintance was made while Stuart was painting the portrait of Gibbs’s father. When George Gibbs (III.) died in I 833, his widow, for the sake of improving educational facilities for her children sold “Sunswick” and moved to New York City.