Marvin Mangus

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Marvin Dale Mangus (1924–2009) was an American geologist and landscape painter.[1]

Early life[edit]

Marvin Mangus was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania. His grandfather Cyrus and his two grand-uncles were all civil war veterans and lived into their 80's [2]. His father, Alfred Ross Mangus (1889–1974), initially worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad in Altoona, but later started Mangus Express Company, a small trucking company based in Altoona. Marvin Mangus was the youngest of three siblings. His brother Alfred was hit by a car and killed [1920-1933]. His sister Izora lived from [1916-2003]

At Altoona High School, Mangus was interested at pursuing an art career, but as the Depression lingered on, he studied ceramic science in the Mineral Science Department at Pennsylvania State University. After the US military decided that there it had a shortage of geologists Mangus was asked by the Dean to switch his major to geology. He later completed his Masters of Science in Geology in 1946.

At Penn State, he was also a member of the men's gymnastics team, medaling in the 1945 AAU Gymnastics Championship in rope climbing.


Mangus was hired by the USGS Alaska Branch based in Washington DC in 1946. His typical work year consisted of field geology in the Brooks Range from after Memorial Day to before Labor Day, because collection of rock samples was best accomplished when the ground was free of snow. Mangus co-authored several USGS Publications detailing the team's findings in Alaska.

Starting in 1958, Mangus worked with the Atlantic Refining Company. His wife Jane, and sons Alfred and Donald, resided in Guatemala City in 1958-59, and moved to Calgary in 1960-61. In spring 1962 the family moved again, this time to Anchorage, Alaska, where Mangus and three other employees served as the Alaskan staff of Atlantic.

As a field geologist, he traveled to Guatemala, Bolivia, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories of Canada, before finally settling in Anchorage, Alaska in 1962. Mangus mapped the entire Arctic North Slope from the Brooks Range, starting at Cape Lisburne, over to the 141st meridian.

In 1968, Mangus was with a twelve-man ARCO team that discovered the giant Kavik natural gas field.[2] The Richfield Oil Company of California also owned the right to drill on "oil leases" for Prudhoe Bay Discovery Well. After a merger of Atlantic with Richfield, and the creation of ARCO, Mangus and his colleagues were able to convince the company leadership in Dallas, including CEO Robert Orville Anderson, to drill an exploratory well at Prudhoe Bay. Mangus, as an ARCO geologist, then staked the landmark drilling sites for the discovery and confirmation wells of the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field. Currently ARCO is a subsidiary of British Petroleum who is majority owner of Prudhoe Bay Oil Field and Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

Leaving ARCO after this big oil find, Mangus co-founded a private consultanting firm, Fackler, Calderwood, and Mangus (later Calderwood and Mangus, after Fackler took a state job). After the death of his partner, Keith Calderwood, Mangus continued his consulting work solo. Calderwood had served as President of the Petroleum Club of Anchorage,[3] and Mangus maintained his professional affiliations until his own death. His 50-year pin for AAPG membership was received at his home only a few days after his death.


In the late 1940s to 1958 Mangus began his art career with still life and landscape painting in Washington D.C., as a member of the Washington Landscape Club, later renamed the Washington Society of Landscape Painters, Inc.[4] He quickly improved his impressionistic painting techniques thanks to lessons and workshops from artists Eliot O'Hara, Roger Ritasse, and William F. Walter. Landscape painting combined his passionate interests in art, geology, history, and his love of the out-of-doors.

Mangus was a Plein Air painter, and whenever possible, he carried his painting supplies into the field to record what he saw and experienced. Mangus completed paintings of most places that he lived or visited, and worked in the media of oils, cassein, acrylics, and watercolor. Although he is best known for his Alaskan images, he often painted scenes from many other locales, especially in the East Coast/Pennsylvania areas. He also painted scenes recording the contributions by previous generations of Alaskan geologists. He sometimes gave painting demonstrations to Anchorage school children.

Mangus' artwork has been exhibited in numerous venues, including the Corcoran Gallery of Washington D.C., the Smithsonian Museum Area Show, the Arts Club of Washington, the Baltimore Watercolor Society, All-Alaska Juried shows, and the Centennial Traveling Art Exhibition. Several of his paintings are part of the permanent collection of the Anchorage Fine Arts Museum.


Since he was not an enthusiast of photo-offset prints, only three were issued during his lifetime. "Breakup, Matanuska Valley, Alaska," was made as a fund raiser for The United Methodist Church, and features a lake with ice melting in the spring. The second, titled "Point Lay, AlaskaP8", was made for PBS Anchorage, Alaska Channel 6 as a fund raiser, and depicts a salmon-drying rack. The third was a print of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier sailing into Cook Inlet, Alaska, created in the mid-nineties to commemorate a special 4 July weekend shore leave. These prints were given away to US Navy crew members and Anchorage VFW Post friends.

Field geology details[edit]

After World War Two, surplus amphibious M29 Weasel, collapsible boats, bush planes, and C-Rations were used by Mangus and his colleagues, Robert "Bob" L. Detterman, William P. Brosge, and others. Mangus liked to perform the cache operations himself.

Trips were planned in advance so as to use a river flowing downstream for transportation, and then the collapsible boats would be dropped by bush plane. Mangus would push out 55 gallon drums from inside the bush plane. These drums were then filled with C-Rations and resealed to protect their food contents from marauding bears.

The geologists lived in white canvas tents and would often go three months in the remote wilderness without a shower or radio. They would climb to a site, select rock samples, and carry them back to their boats or amphibious M29 Weasel. Records were kept on where samples were taken for the official USGS reports, and the samples were then shipped back to Washington.

In 1961, Mangus was in a helicopter that hit a tree in remote Canada, and fell about 40 to 50 feet. The occupants hiked for three days to the nearest native settlement. As a result of the crash, he had back surgery in Canada and the long-term effects of a fused spine bothered him for the remainder of his life.


  • 1993 GEOSC from The College of Earth And Mineral Sciences of The Pennsylvania State University Alumni Award
  • Arts in the Parks "Top 100" United States Park Service.



  • The Penn Stater [ The Pennsylvania State University Alumni Magazine] 1987 March / April Issue "From Oils to Oil: How Marvin Mangus found two Careers on the Last Frontier" pages 6 to 10 and cover photo story by Marjory J. Sente and photos by Marvin D. Mangus.
  • The Altoona Mirror, Saturday October 4, 1924 Three Brothers Fight for the Union.with photo Jacob A. Mangus (age 79)and L. B. Mangus (age 82).
  • The Altoona Mirror, Tuesday, July 24, 1923 Cyrus A. Mangus is 82 years old.
  • Anchorage Daily News, Sunday May 26, 2002 Alaskana - Page D-3 "Marvin Mangus - New Maps and Oil Paints" as told to Sharon Busnell
  • Anchorage Daily News, April 11, 2004 "Former Geologist recalls Alaska's Glory Days in Paintings" by Susan Morgan
  • "Harnessing a Giant: 40 years at Prudhoe Bay : Mangus laid groundwork for oil discovery ", published by Rose Ragsdale, Vol. 13, No. 46, Week of November 16, 2008, Petroleum News
  • Discovery At Prudhoe Bay, John M. Sweet, 2008, Washington: Hancock House. pp. 312 ISBN 978-0-88839-630-3.
  • We Alaskans, Stories of People who Helped build the Great Land:Volume II , pages 156 to 160 by Sharon Busnell ISBN 978-0-9721725-1-6
  • Gold Placers of the Historic Fortymile River Region, Alaska US Geologic Survey Bulletin 2125
  • Anchorage Daily News, "Rising Above The Everyday Landscape" JAY BLUCHER, Daily News reporter, Staff, June 17, 1990
  • Anchorage Daily News, Palette, Author:Staff, August 6, 1999 Publication: Anchorage Daily News (AK) Page: H15 Word count: 266
  • The Trans-Alaska Pipeline: 20 Years of Arctic Oil PBS Video KAKM of Anchorage, Alaska, Editor M. Letzing 1997, Video 28 minutes
  • 50th Statehood Anniversary of Alaska by NBC National Broadcasting Corporation, Channel 2, Anchorage, Alaska, Feb 2009, Video
  • Geology of the Killik-Etivluk Rivers Region, Alaska, Part 3, Areal Geology United States Geological Survey Professional Paper 303-F Robert M. Chapman, & Robert L. Detterman & Marvin D. Mangus
  • The Type Locality of Celestite Marvin D. Mangus Master of Science Thesis, The Pennsylvania State University 1946
  • Crude Dreams: A Personal History of Oil & Politics in Alaska - by Jack Roderick - 1997 - ?? - 446 pages
  • Geologic Framework of a Transect of the Central Brooks Range: Regional Relations and an Alternative to the Endicott Mountains Allochthon J. S. Kelley (2), W. P. Brosge (3) AAPG Bulletin Volume 79 (1995) doi:10.1306/8D2B21EB-171E-11D7-8645000102C1865D
  • Geology of the Eastern Brooks Range, British-Barn Mountains Region and Banks Island of Northeastern Arctic Alaska the Northern Yukon and Northwest Territories, Canada Marvin D Mangus
  • Regional interpretation of the geology of the Kongakut-Firth Rivers area Alaska, Marvin D. Mangus, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Geological Survey, 1953, Washington D.C.
  • Robert L. Detterman (1919–1990), AAPG Bulletin; February 1992; v. 76; no. 2; p. 286-287, Marvin D. Mangus
  • Paleozoic sequence in eastern Brooks Range WP Brosge, JT Dutro Jr, MD Mangus, HN Reiser - Alaska: AAPG Bulletin, 1962
  • Itkilyariak Formation: new Mississippian formation of Endicott Group CG Mull, MD Mangus - Arctic Slope of Alaska: AAPG Bulletin, 1972
  • Prudhoe Bay Took 'A Total Team' by John M. Sweet

External links[edit]