Sasha Siemel was a prominent adventurer and hunter, and also a mineral collector. Following his death in 1970 his mineral collection was purchased from the Sasha Siemel Museum by mineral dealer Jerome Eisenberg, who advertised it for sale in the January 1972 issue of Rocks & Minerals.
Alexander Reinhold "Sasha" Siemel was born in Riga, Latvia, on January 25, 1890. He arrived in the United States in 1907 at the age of 17. After living in the states for only two years, he headed for Argentina where he was employed in a Buenos Aires printing shop. In 1914 Siemel traveled to the jungles of Brazil where he worked as a gunsmith and mechanic in the diamond mining camps of the Matto Grosso. There he met a native who taught him to become a Tigrero, one who kills jaguars armed only with a spear. In an article titled "Interviewing the Tiger-Man," Siemel stated: "I learned the art from a poor native who had nothing but a home-made spear where I had my high-powered rifle. But I do think I was a good pupil and will admit that it calls for experience and judgment."
In the July 1937 Ye Slyvan Archer, he wrote an article that stated, "It is only logical and natural that I should (prefer the bow to the rifle). The spear is a primitive weapon, so is the bow. While I would not want to say that hunting big cats with a rifle can not be plenty dangerous and exciting under all circumstances, particularly so in our Matto Grosso jungles, where vision is extremely limited, it seems to me that the bow complements the spear. If I now had any use for a shield besides, I should feel perfectly equipped."
With his new "title" of Tigrero, he found employment with the ranches of the Pantanal, hunting jaguars that were attacking livestock. In 1925, Sasha killed his first jaguar using a zagya, a seven-foot spear, making him the only white man to attain such a feat. This feat did not go unnoticed by the "civilized world" for long, and by 1931 a novel titled Green Hell was published by Julian Duguid. The book recounted the 1929 trip across the Pantanal that Duguid and two other adventurers from England had embarked on with Siemel as their guide. It is in this book that Sasha is given the name "Tiger Man," which is used as the title of Duguid's 1932 biography of Siemel. Encouraged by Julian Duguid, Sasha began to lecture at explorer clubs throughout the world.
In 1937, while lecturing in Philadelphia, Sasha met Edith Louise Brazy, a young photographer who later joined him in the Pantanal. Three years later, at the age of 47, Sasha married Edith and the two remained in the Pantanal and began raising a family. During this time, Sasha became an actor, appearing in the 1937, 15-episode, Frank Buck serial Jungle Menace, as Tiger Van Dorn. The serial was compiled into a feature film in 1946 and released under the title Jungle Terror.
Sasha, Edith and their three children, Alexandra, Dorothy and Sasha Jr. (Sashino), move to southeastern Pennsylvania after purchasing a farm there in 1947. "Bom Retiro," as they named it, became their permanent residence for the rest of Sasha's life. Here their second son, Carlie, was born in 1955, completing the Siemel family. From then on he led a quiet life, lecturing and continuing to lead expeditions to South America.
As an author, Sasha had been writing articles for various outdoor magazines including National Geographic. In 1949, Sasha and Edith co-wrote the book "Jungle Wife," an accounting of their family life in the jungle. He penned his autobiography, Tigrero, in 1953. It was to be made into a movie by director Samuel Fuller. Instead, Tigrero became the subject of 1994 documentary by Mika Kaurismäki. Tigrero: A Film That Was Never Made, that featured Fuller and Jim Jarmusch visiting the proposed Amazon locations of the film. In 1954, Siemel's second book, Jungle Fury, was published.
Sasha was interviewed by journalist Charles Collingwood for the Adventure series produced by the American Museum of Natural History and broadcast on the CBS television network in 1953. The family returned to Brazil briefly in 1959 when Sashino was 13 years old. His adventure is told in the 1965 book Sashino.
In 1963,The Sasha Siemel Museum and Store opened in Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania, in a century-old mill located on the Perkiomen Creek. The museum housed his collection of minerals, shells, coins, hunting trophies, works of art, curios, weapons, Indian utensils and many other items. The museum closed in 1969 after his last trip to the Pantanal, guiding a group of geologists. Sasha Siemel died in February 1970 at the age of 80. As mentioned, the museum contents were broken up and dispersed, the mineral collection going to New York Mineral dealer Jerome Eisenberg.
New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957.
Social Security Death Index.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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||Movie still from Jungle Menace (1937); Frank Buck on the left and Sasha Siemel on the right.|
||Jerome Eisenberg's ad in the January 1972 issue of Rocks & Minerals offering the Sasha Siemel mineral collection for sale.|