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Fred W. Cassirer

Friedrich Wilhelm "Fritz" Cassirer was born in Berlin, Germany on September 15, 1888, the son of the wealthy timber magnate and paper-manufacturer Isidor Cassirer and Elsie Sommerguth. He began mineral collecting at the age of eight, while vacationing with his family in the Harz Mountains, and attended school in Berlin, where he admired the mineral collection in the Naturkunde Museum. In 1904 (at the age of 16) he visited the Freiberg Mining Academy and began taking collecting trips underground, with the help of the miners. Eventually he expanded his collecting into the Transylvanian mines as well. In 1905, during his traditional Wanderjahre, he went to Paris and lived with friends, then on to London, improving his proficiency in French and English along the way. Back in Berlin he studied mathematics and chemistry at the Technical University, then joined his father's paper manufacturing business. On every business trip throughout Europe he took time to visit museums and collect in the local mines. In 1911 he made a business trip to the United States to study paper production technology, and in traveling across the country he met and befriended the well-known miner and mineral dealer Boodle Lane (q.v.) in Oklahoma. On a trip to England he agreed to acquire specimens on behalf of the British Museum, and was particularly successful in Transylvania, Bohemia, Greece, and even in Russia (having once been manager of a paper plant in Russian-administered Poland, the Wloclaweker Sulfit-Cellulose-Fabrik plant).

His family was forced to sell the Poland paper plant after the first World War (Germans were then forbidden from owning property in Poland), netting the family 11 million Swiss francs. Unfortunately this fortune was then converted to German deutschmarks by Cassirer's father in 1923, and as a result of this spectacularly bad decision was reduced within two years to virtually nothing by subsequent inflation. Cassirer was left jobless and more or less destitute. During his last years in Berlin he took a number of odd jobs to make ends meet. He was for a few years the Managing Director of the German Theatre and was also the Business Manager for the theater's Producer. He then went into the advertising business and had a contract with the Rote Farne ("Red Flag"), which was the Berlin Communist paper, to deal with all of its commercial advertising.

Cassirer had built quite a substantial mineral collection during his business travels. But this collection, and several in succession that he built after it, were lost in the political upheavals of the time, which threatened in particular anyone of Jewish ancestry. Again and again he was forced to move, abandoning his collection. When Hitler came to power, Cassirer and his young son Klaus had to leave Germany overnight, after receiving a secret warning from the Berlin Police Commissioner. He relocated to Prague in 1933, where he was able to buy the portion of the famous mineral collection of Hans Karabacek (q.v.) that had not been purchased by the Harvard Mineralogical Museum. He also became a freelance mineral buyer for the Narodni Museum, expanded his sales to museums throughout Europe, and acquired a second wife in 1936 (his first wife, who was his second cousin Eva Charlotte Cassirer, had died of influenza in 1921 at the age of 20, when their son Klaus was only 4 months old). Cassirer's first ad appeared in Rocks & Minerals in March of 1936, offering "Exchange of Minerals from Central Europe, chiefly Czechoslovakia-Bohemia, for beginners, and especially crystallized specimens for advanced collectors. Write to F.W. Cassirer, Prague 12 Radhostska 1, Czechoslovakia." The ads ceased after January 1937.

Unfortunately Cassirer was forced to leaved Prague when German troops marched in. Just ahead of the invading Germans once more, he moved to Paris, France to live with his sister in 1937 (retaining only a single specimen from his previous collection, an Adunchilon aquamarine on matrix); a letter to Boodle Lane, however, brought a shipment of two tons of fine Tri-State specimens which Cassirer immediately sold to the Parisian dealer Dr. Boubeť.

In 1939 Cassirer was imprisoned in Paris as a "foreign enemy," but his release was secured by Prof. Orcel, Curator of Mineralogy at the Natural History Museum. Cassirer was then able to join his family in the south of France, and in 1941 they escaped to New York. Once in New York, Cassirer met up with his old friend and mineral customer Martin Ehrmann, perhaps New York's foremost mineral dealer, and through contacts he developed a business importing quartz crystals from Brazil to sell to RCA for wartime use in walky-talkies. After the war he made a career of dealing in precious jewels and art until his retirement. Cassirer remained in America for the rest of his life, and died in New York on February 15, 1979.

CASSIRER, F.W. (1979) Memoirs of a mineral collector. Mineralogical Record, 10, 223-229, 307-314, 11, 17-21.
FALK, J. (2006) Cassirer and Cohen family genealogy website,
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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The Mineralogical Record - Fred W. Cassirer Fred Cassirer
The Mineralogical Record - Fred W. Cassirer 44 x 61 mm,
Prague address (1933-1937)
The Mineralogical Record - Fred W. Cassirer 47 x 60 mm,
Prague address (1933-1937)
The Mineralogical Record - Fred W. Cassirer 44 x 60 mm,
Prague address (1933-1937)
The Mineralogical Record - Fred W. Cassirer 46 x 57 mm,
New York address (1941-1979)
The Mineralogical Record - Fred W. Cassirer 50 x 64 mm,
New York address (1941-1979); Claude Cassirer is Fred's son Klaus.
The Mineralogical Record - Fred W. Cassirer 50 x 63 mm,
New York address (1941-1979); Claude Cassirer is Fred's son Klaus.
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