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Albert C. Burrage

Albert Cameron Burrage was born in Ashburnham, Massachusetts on November 21, 1859, the son of Aurelia Chamberlin and George S. Burrage, descendants of old New England families. When Albert was three, the family moved west; he was educated in California, and after some schooling in Europe he entered Harvard College in 1879, graduating summa cum laude in 1883 with an A.B. degree. He married Alice Hathaway Haskell in 1885, and together they had four children.

Burrage's two hobbies were horticulture and mineralogy. His fame in the mineral world rests on his 1911 purchased at a Paris auction of the gold collection of George de la Bouglise, a famous French mining engineer. This impressive collection of gold specimens included native golds from the 1886 Philadelphia sale of the Adolph Dohrmann gold and silver collection. When a meeting was held at Harvard in 1919 to establish the Mineralogical Society of America, the participants were invited out to Burrage's home to view his mineral collection. He retained the collection for the rest of his life, finally bequeathing it to the Harvard Mineralogical Museum where it arrived in 1948, 17 years after his death (apparently his family was reluctant to let it go).

Following a year at Harvard Law School Burrage was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1884 and was named counsel for the Brookline Gas Light Company in 1892. He later served as president of the South Boston, Boston, Dorchester and Roxbury, Gas Light companies as well as the Bay State Gas Company. When cities began switching to electricity for lighting he turned his interest in 1898 to large-scale copper mining. He established the Amalgamated Copper Company and helped found the Chile Exploration Company and the Chile Copper Company. Within two years he had taken on major roles in both Amalgamated Copper and Standard Oil, and was widely regarded as one of the preeminent men of his era. He remained a director of Amalgamated Copper until it was broken up by President Theodore Roosevelt's trust-busters.

Burrage's philanthropy included the donation of funds to build the Burrage Hospital for Crippled Children in Boston. Boston was the location of his main office and residence, an imposing mansion built using the finest materials: rare mahogany, European marble, intricately designed mosaic tiles and beautiful stained glass windows. The exterior is decorated with elaborate stonework depicting 30 cherubs and 50 gargoyles, griffins, chimeras and dragons, as well as eagle, lion and human heads. In 1901 he had a huge 28-room estate built in Redlands, California, which he occupied for only two months a year, mainly for the purpose of holding polo games with friends and elaborate parties in the glass-covered swimming pool, which could be covered by a wooden floor for dancing.

In 1916 Burrage founded the Atlantic Dyestuff Company in Boston, but it went bankrupt in 1925 and was reorganized as the Portsmouth Dye and Chemical Company, which in turn had failed by 1930.

Burrage was prominent horticulturalist in Boston and was well known for his orchids. He served as president of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and was elected the first president of the American Orchid Society in 1921. He published a book, Burrage on Vegetables, and was awarded the Lindley Medal by the Royal Horticultural Society.

In 1921 Burrage purchased a Georgian mansion in Manchester-by-the-Sea, a seaside community on Boston's North Shore. Built in 1880, it was given the name "Seahome," and was used mainly as a summer retreat. Burrage died there on June 28, 1931. His estate was found to be $1.8 million in the red, which his widow paid out of her own money in order to settle his debts.

CONKLIN, L. H. (1992) Anatomy of a mineral sale: The Dohrmann collection. Mineralogical Record, 23, p. 7-13.
BAPTISTA, R. J. (2006) Albert C. Burrage Biography. Posted on the website.
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