ANNAPOLIS - If Delegate James Hubbard, D-Prince George's, gets his
way, a stone will join the Baltimore oriole and the black-eyed Susan as a
symbol of The Free State.
Hubbard is sponsoring a bill declaring the Patuxent River agate - a
semi-precious colorful pebble - as the Maryland state gem. If his
legislation passes, then Maryland will become the 28th state to have a
But Hubbard may be rolling a stone up a steep hill trying to win
During the 1997 General Assembly, Sen. Paula Hollinger, D- Baltimore
County, almost had enough votes to make golden topaz the state gem. After
breezing through the Senate, 28-8, the bill proceeded to the House of
Delegates where it failed by one vote.
Delegate Dana Dembrow, D-Montgomery, was the spoiler.
"It's fair to say that I killed it on the House floor," Dembrow said.
"It was I who got up and explained why I didn't like it."
To Dembrow, who successfully introduced legislation to name the blue
crab the state crustacean, having a non-native stone like the topaz
become a state symbol was ridiculous.
He's not sure how he feels about the Patuxent River agate. "I'm not
going to pre-judge the bill," he said. "The Patuxent River agate is at
least indigenous to Maryland."
Hubbard is optimistic about his stone. "I think it qualifies from a
lot of standpoints," he said. He was convinced of the worthiness of the
state by a constituent, Courtland Lee, a geologist, who came up with the
idea when he began cutting the stones.
The bill defines the pea-to-peach-sized stones as an "exceptionally
beautiful gem, suitable for a wide variety of uses as well as geological
specimens." The stones are bright, sometimes red or swirled red,
typically found in riverbeds and gravel pits along the Patuxent,
according to Lee.
Lee's got an interesting theory about the stones - that they once
filled the gizzards of dinosaurs 110 million years ago.
Naming them the state gem "would call attention to the heretofore
unknown natural resources in the state of Maryland."
Copyright © 2001 University of Maryland College of Journalism.