Continuing the entrepeneurship

Friedrich Wilhelm (Fritz) Cassirer (son of Isidor) Born in Berlin, Fritz Cassirer grew up with a strong interest in the world around him and a typically Cassirer strong entrepreneurial character. Werner Falk (son of Betty Cassirer) recounts that Fritz was never happy about the way in which his family had dealt with its money. In 1923 Max Cassirer decided that it was the moment to convert the family fortune of around 11 million Swiss francs, into German Reich marks hoping that the inflation would now reverse and believing it was the patriotic thing to do. Fritz's father, Isidor, followed this advice. As it turned out, it was very bad advice. The young Fritz protested but, but he was just a "stupid young man" and so his sensible concern was expressed to no avail. By 1925 the family fortune had dwindled to nothing. These events poisoned Fritz's relationship to Max for the rest of his life.

For Fritz this meant the undoing of the things that should have come to him since he had been trained by Isidor to take over his father's factory and had been sent to America to study other factories and related business practice.

Fritz's life after the factory had been sold was confronted thus by one crisis after another. He had lost the job for which he had been trained, and also lost the money that he otherwise could have expected when he was in his late 20's. His life was a sequence of attempts to reconstitute these things things and in his last years in Berlin, from 1920 after the war years, to 1933 when he emigrated to America, he took on a range of interesting jobs. He was for a few years the Managing Director of the German theater and also Producer, Reinhardt's, Business Manager. He went into the advertising business and had a contract with the Red Flag (Rote Farne) which was the Berlin Communist paper, to deal with all its commercial advertising. All commercial advertising in the Red Flag went through Fritz.

Fritz had however traveled widely through Europe, Russia and Siberia, and as already mentioned, visited America for the first time in 1911. He had developed a long-standing interest in precious stones and visited South America and Canada as well in pursuit of this interest. He worked with the Mining Academy in Freiberg, Germany,and later, the Museum of Natural History in London, and mineralogical departments of the museums in Prague and Paris, the Smithsonian Institute in the US, and then the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In America, after leaving, Fritz lived for the rest of his life in New York. He became a successful business man, basing his activities around his interests in precious jewels and art.


Fritz Cassirer in New York.

Hugo Cassirer (also a son of Louis) became a leading industrialist and entrepreneur. And this illustrates nicely the way the family worked to advance each other's careers.

Alfred Cassirer was a brother of Hugo, and thus also a son of Louis. He studied engineering and learnt a a way to cover cables with rubber in Vienna. Hugo studied chemistry in Berlin and gained his practical experiences in the cable factory of his uncle Otto Bondy (husband of Julie Cassirer) in Vienna. He furthered his knowledge of rubber production with applied studies in England.()

Hugo Cassirer

Alfred Cassirer

Having gained this knowledge the two brothers needed funds, so they approached their uncle Julius Cassirer. He was said to always have a few spare millions, and was happy to put up the funds, and became the major shareholder. With financial support also from their father Louis Cassirer in 1896 they formed the electrical cable works Dr. Cassirer & Co. AG, Kabelwerke, Berlin-Charlottenburg. Prior to the Second World War this factory was very successful as a supplier for the electrical industry of Berlin and other German locations achieving a strong reputation for the high quality of its products, and so it became very profitable. In 1928 - 1929 the architect Hans Poelzig built a landmark building for the cable works at Rauchstraße 23-33/ Maselakeweg 16-32.() Combining his wealth with the Cassirer family expertise in art, Hugo used his wealth to acquire a major art collection. In 1933 the family were forced to 'sell' the firm to Siemens.() To this day there is a Hugo Cassirer Street in Spandau, Berlin.

Shown below is a 1935 prospectus from Dr Cassirer's Cable Compnay.  In these early days of listening to the radio there was a great deal of interference from other electrical devices. The prospctus shows a shielded cable for antennas fixed on the roof .

Dr. Cassirer & Co. A.G. Cable Works prospectus, 1935
[Click on images to enlarge]

There is an interesting and suggestive indication of how Alfred may have combined his wealth, technical interests, and recreation. For a century, Bitterfeld, Germany (near Dessau) has been a famous launching place for hydrogen balloons and the site of balloon races. The record of the winners of two races in 1906 include an “A. Cassirer”:

04./05.08. 1906; Passengers - Professor Dr. Poeschel, A. Cassirer, Dr. Reichel, Launched from Bitterfeld, landed Reudzing b. Nowo Radomsk in Russia; Flight Duration 13.50.; Distance traveled 570.
06.06.1906; Passengers - Professor Dr. Poeschel Dr. Reichel, A. Cassirer, Launched from Bitterfeld, landed Spicherer Hoehen/St. Johann; Flight Duration 14:40; Distance traveled 530.

The two passengers are likely to have been: Professor Carl Ernst Poeschel who was the proprietor of Poeschel Verlag, a book publishing company which was publishing in 1905; and one of the founders of the Publishing house of brothers Reichel (Verlagsbuchhandlung Gebrüder Reichel) which was also publishing in 1905. Presumably these would have been well known to Paul and Bruno Cassirer, and thus also to Alfred Cassirer. In short the three passengers coincide both in relation to time, location and social circle.
All this is of course suggestive but not proof. So whether this “A. Cassirer” was Alfred Cassirer remains to be firmly established. But the site was certainly easily accessible to a Cassirer living in Berlin, and this pioneering sport available to a man of Alfred Cassirer’s wealth.

Bitterfeld remains a prime launching facility for balloons. Its logo is shown below.