The Oscar E. Monnig Meteorite Collection was donated to Texas Christian University (TCU) over a period of 8 years, from 1978 to 1986. Prior to its transfer, the entire collection was cataloged by Mr. Glenn Huss of the American Meteorite Laboratory, Denver, Colorado. It was subsequently curated by Dr. Arthur Ehlmann, an Emeritus Professor in the Geology Department at TCU. The current curator, Dr. Rhiannon Mayne, joined TCU in 2009. The collection now contains more than 1,700 different meteorites and is constantly growing.
When Oscar Monnig died in 1999, a considerable amount of funding was given to the Geology Department at TCU from his estate with the purpose of maintaining the collection. On Saturday, February 1, 2003, the Oscar Monnig Meteorite Gallery was opened for the public. With about five percent of the meteorites in the collection on display, this is a world class facility.
Oscar E. Monnig died on May 4, 1999 in Fort Worth, Texas, where he had lived since his birth in 1902. In 1925, he earned a law degree from the University of Texas, where his “only formal scientific training”, as he put it, was signing up for an astronomy course that was promptly cancelled for lack of enrollment. He worked for, and eventually headed, the dry goods business his family owned in Fort Worth until the sale of his company in the early 1980s. Although his vocation was business, his avocation was always meteoritics and astronomy. As a young man, he founded the Texas Observers astronomy club to promote interest in meteorites. To satisfy his curiosity about “rocks from space,” he traveled to the Field Museum, American Museum, and Smithsonian Institution to view and discuss meteorites. The trip left him somewhat discouraged, when the curators at these museums treated him “as a nobody” and did not even offer to show him a meteorite.
The early experience further fired Oscar’s lifelong passion for meteorites and his drive to gather his own collection. He began collecting meteorites in the early 1930s, amassing one of the most significant private collections of his day. Oscar traveled widely on family business and established a network of business associates, employees, customers, and perhaps most importantly, local newspaper editors. It was this network that would ultimately lead Oscar to many of his new recoveries. His main competition in meteorite collecting was Harvey Nininger, with whom he would often collaborate when they would both arrive at a locality simultaneously. Oscar retained voluminous correspondence providing not only an invaluable history of the collection, but also a glimpse into the early times of meteoritics. Letters from barely literate “dustbowl” farmers state how Oscar’s payment for a meteorite (at the standard rate of $1.00 per pound) was the largest check received on the farm that year.