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Václav (Wenzel)  Frič
(1839-1916)

Václav (Wenzel) Frič was born in Prague in 1839, the son of a prominent lawyer, Josef Frič (1804-1876). As a youth he studied taxidermy before enrolling in the chemistry program at the Prague Technical University, where he also developed an interest in photography. In 1859-1860 he visited his brother in London for the first time, and the museum collections he saw there inspired him to begin thinking about founding his own natural history company.

Frič opened his natural history business in 1862, supplying mineral, botanical and animal specimens to private collectors, museums and teaching institutions worldwide. He immediately began exhibiting at major shows to publicise his business, and won a silver medal in 1863 for his "geognostic collection" at the Volksfest in Linz (Austria). He also exhibited at the 1867 Paris World's Fair (bronze medal), the 1872 Moscow Polytechnic Exhibition (silver medal), the 1873 Vienna World's Fair (honorary medal), the 1878 Paris World's Fair (bronze medal), the 1879 Australian International Exhibition in Sydney (medal), and the 1889 Paris World's Fair (gold medal), among others.

Frič married Anna Rottová, daughter of a hardware store owner, and together they had three sons and two daughters. His first shop was located at Wassergasse 736-II in Prague, where he operated until at least 1894, but one catalog from 1873 gives the address as Wassergasse 21. The address of another location at "Wladislavsgasse 21a in Prag" appeared first around 1878 and frequently thereafter. His shop became a local attraction, and was listed as "Frič's Museum of Natural History" in an 1885 tourist guidebook. By 1911 he himself was calling his business the "Natural History Institute in Prague" ("Naturhistorisches Institut in Prag"), describing his shop as a "trading natural history museum."

Frič's mineralogy catalog of ca.1905 contained numerous assembled collections. Two specimen cases designed to look like books contained minerals and rocks which, according to Frič, represented the minimum knowledge of mineralogy and geology that an educated person should have. Three larger mineralogical assemblages each consisted of assorted models, minerals and rock specimens. For museums, teaching institutions and wealthier private collectors, larger groups of minerals, rock specimens, crystal models, and gem imitations could be ordered in all kinds of combinations.

Václav Fric died June 10, 1916; his son Jaromír continued the business under his father's name until the shop finally closed in 1958; its remaining stock of specimens was donated to the National Museum in Prague. [The above information was all taken from Reiling and Spunarova (2005).]

Reference:
REILING, H., and SPUNAROVÁ, T. (2005) Václav Frič (1839–1916) and his influence on collecting natural history. Journal of the Hisory of Collections, 17, 23-43.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2014)
Mineralogical Record
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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The Mineralogical Record - Václav (Wenzel)   Frič Václav (Wenzel) Frič
(1839–1916)
The Mineralogical Record - Václav (Wenzel)   Frič Fric ad ca. 1907
The Mineralogical Record - Václav (Wenzel)   Frič Václav (Wenzel) Frič's shop at Wassergasse 21 in Prague (illustration from a catalog).
The Mineralogical Record - Václav (Wenzel)   Frič Václav (Wenzel) Frič's shop at Wassergasse 736-II in Prague (illustration from his catalog).
The Mineralogical Record - Václav (Wenzel)   Frič 42 x 81 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Václav (Wenzel)   Frič 42 x 57 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Václav (Wenzel)   Frič 41 x 60 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Václav (Wenzel)   Frič 40 x 61 mm
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