A definition of a “Renaissance man” if there ever was one, native Hoosier Earl Townsend Jr. was an attorney, pioneering broadcaster, philanthropist, collector, and historian. In addition to being Gerald Ford’s roommate at the University of Michigan and announcing the first televised broadcast of the Indianapolis 500, Townsend was also inducted into the Council of Sagamores of the Wabash and the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. An artifact collector from 1920 onwards, Townsend’s passion ultimately resulted one of the largest and most significant collections of prehistoric North American stone artifacts, with particular interest in birdstones, flints, and bannerstones.
Birdstones were Townsend’s primary object of interest, collection, and study; so much so, he published the preeminent reference book on the subject, Birdstones of the North American Indian, in 1959. His personal collection of birdstones exceeded 600. The Townsend Collection 2 will feature “The Smithsonian Bird,” a prehistoric porphyry granite birdstone that is considered the finest so far discovered. This birdstone acquired its name while being held by the Smithsonian National Museum in Washington, D.C., from whom Townsend acquired the piece in the 1950s.