Collection of Earl Townsend, Jr.

Collection of Earl Townsend, Jr.

The singularly most significant collection of North American Prehistoric Art and Artifacts ever assembled.

Earl Townsend, Jr., who died in 2007, was a passionate collector and historian of Native American artifacts. His storied collection of prehistoric stone Indian artifacts remains one of the largest and best collections ever assembled. Hubert C. Wachtel, author of Who’s Who in Indian Relics, called Townsend’s collection “one of the finest in the United States.”

Townsend was a highly-regarded Indianapolis attorney, philanthropist, patron of the arts, collector, author and historian. He was a pioneer in the early days of broadcasting as the original televised voice of the Indy 500. A graduate of DePauw University, he received his degree in Law from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he was roommates with late President Gerald Ford. Townsend received many well deserved accolades over the course of his lifetime, including being named to the Council of Sagamores of the Wabash in 1960, and inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1981.

Townsend started collecting artifacts in 1920. Over the decades, he actively sought out the finest examples of North American prehistoric artifacts, placing a special emphasis on birdstones. He is featured in Wachtel’s Who’s Who in Indian Relics No. 1, No. 5, No. 6, No. 7, and No. 9, as well as numerous archaeological publications. As an author and historian, he is widely recognized as the preeminent authority on Native American birdstones. At one time, Townsend had over 600 birdstones in his collection.

His landmark book, Birdstones of the North American Indian, originally published in 1959, remains the premier reference book for birdstone study among collectors.

Eager to share his passion with fellow collectors, Townsend was a founding member of The Genuine Indian Relics Society and the first president of the Indiana Archaeological Society.

While birdstones were his particular passion, Townsend also counted outstanding examples of flints and bannerstones among his treasures. Among those is the large quartz butterfly bannerstone, listed in Watchel’s Who’s Who in Indian Relics No. 1, as the world’s finest bannerstone. Townsend purchased the piece from well-known Ohio artifact collector A.T. Wehrle, who had acquired it from the F. P. Hill collection in the 1930s. It was Hill who christened this prized quartz Sunset Glory. Other highlights of Townsend’s collection include three of the most exceptional porphyry granite birdstones ever collected. The mystery of their purpose and the process that was used to create them, along with their beauty and rarity, adds to their mystique. And, of course, there are dozens of dovetail points and drills, barbed and fluted axes, slate and quartz bannerstones in hourglass and bottle forms and flint blades of exceptional size.

-Courtesy of Antique Helper, Inc.

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