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August P. Pohndorf
(1866-1939)

August Petro Pohndorf was born in Drochtersen, a suburb of Hamburg, Germany in August 1866, and died in Denver in March 1939. He came to America in 1880 and first lived in New York City and then Chicago, Illinois. He made a brief trip home to Germany in 1881, and by 1897 he had married a woman named Amelia and moved to Butte, Montana, where he worked as a miner, and began building a substantial mineral collection. When years later Pohndorf's widowed second wife, Alvina (who was by then running the family mineral business), was a dealer at the first national convention of the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies in 1948, she advertised that Pohndorf's had "specialized in rare gems and minerals for the last 50 years," thereby indicating that Pohndorf had begun collecting in 1898.

Amelia had sons by a previous marriage, including Arthur George (born 5 May 1879), who all adopted their step-father's surname. Aurthur was a miner at the Speculator mine in Butte and mineral collector like his step-father. August and Amelia had one son together, August Peter Jr., born in Butte on 22 June 1897.

August (Sr.) was still working as a miner in Butte in 1902, but longed for a better life. He sold his mineral collection in 1909 and moved to Denver that same year, leaving his family in Butte. Apparently using the money from the sale of his collection as a stake, August opened a small mineral shop (Arthur must have joined him because the shop was in Arthur's name at first) at 430 17th Street, and by 1918 had expanded to larger quarters at 400 17th Street in Denver. August took trips to Europe in 1920, 1921, 1922 and 1924, which may well have been mineral buying/trading trips, and also perhaps to visit his sister Henriette. Amelia, his first wife, died in 1915, and by 1924 August had remarried, to a woman named Alvina (b.1875); she traveled with him to Germany in that year. The business, under Arthur's name, appears in Denver commercial directories for 1911 and 1920, but the Federal Census for 1920 shows Arthur living with his wife and son in Globe, Arizona and working in the mines there as a "cobber." Perhaps he was really there collecting minerals, and this was the closest description he could give that made any sense to the census taker.

The Denver mineral business thrived and developed a high reputation for quality; in 1926 George and Ellen Scripps Booth purchased 277 fine mineral specimens from Pohndorf's which became the nucleus of the Cranbrook Institute of Science collection in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Pohndorf was also honorary curator for many years at the Colorado Museum of Natural History (now the Denver Museum of Nature and Science), where he donated many fine mineral specimens, and he was said (in his obituary) to have "owned one of the finest collections of minerals in the West." August P. Pohndorf, Sr. died in Denver in March of 1939, survived by his wife Alvina and by four grandchildren: Bernice (1926-1978)), George (1928-2003), Catherine and Robert (1929-1991). His son August Peter, Jr. died in 1938. Alvina continued the business for some time thereafter and probably sold off their fine personal mineral collection piecemeal. E. Mitchell Gunnell (q.v.) worked in the Pohndorfs' store from 1940-1944, before starting his own mineral business.

Arthur George Pohndorf, August's stepson, is not found in the 1930 census, and may have died by that time.

References:
U.S. Federal Censuses 1880-1930
New York Immigration Records
Ellis Island Immigration Records
Butte City Directory 1902
Denver City Directory 1910
Denver Commercial Directoty 1911
Denver Commercial Directory 1920
Montana Death Index 1907-1953
Montana Death Index 1954-2002
World War I Draft Registration cards, 1918
Denver Post, March 1, 1939, p.9
CANFIELD, F.H. (1923) Final Disposition of some American Collections of Minerals
JOHNSTONE, A.Y. (1979) Collections and displays: Cranbrook Institute of Science. Rocks & Minerals,54, 198-202.
PETERSEN, O.V. (1994) World Directory of Mineral Collections, p.261.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2017)
Mineralogical Record
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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The Mineralogical Record - August P. Pohndorf 45 x 72 mm
August P. Pohndorf's label, address 400 17th Street.
The Mineralogical Record - August P. Pohndorf 45 x 75 mm
August P. Pohndorf's label, address 400 17th Street.
The Mineralogical Record - August P. Pohndorf 37 x 72 mm
August P. Pohndorf's label, address 400 17th Street.
The Mineralogical Record - August P. Pohndorf 50 x 82 mm
August P. Pohndorf's label, address 400 17th Street.
The Mineralogical Record - August P. Pohndorf 38 x 70 mm
August P. Pohndorf's label, address 400 17th Street.
The Mineralogical Record - August P. Pohndorf 36 x 76
August P. Pohndorf's label, address 400 17th Street. On the back side is written: "Calaverite, A.M.N.H. #2125" and "#582 $30.00"
The Mineralogical Record - August P. Pohndorf 40 x 75 mm
Arthur G. Pohndorf's label, 1920's, from his mineral business at 420 17th Street, just down the street from his step-father August P. Pohndorf's well-known mineral business at 400 17th Street.
The Mineralogical Record - August P. Pohndorf Pohndorf's only ad ever to appear in Rocks & Minerals, in the February 1945 issue.
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