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Ernest Schernikow
(1860-1933)

Ernst (Ernest) August Wilhelm Schernikow was born in Dorotheen, Berlin Stadt, Brandenberg, Prussia on October 13, 1860, the son of Johanne "Anna" Wilhelmine Nathusius and Franz Carl Ludwig Schernikow, a hardware merchant. He and his family arrived in New York City in 1863, when he was 3 years old, to start a new life. He was educated in the New York public and private school systems, became a naturalized citizen in 1884, and attended college (possibly Oxford), where he eventually earned a PhD or MD. His son, Ernest Jr., was born in 1885. He was apparently very successful, and may have inherited some wealth, as he seems to have been financially independent.

The 1889 and 1890 Brooklyn Directories list him as involved in mining, living at 905 Lafayette Avenue. The Jersey City, New Jersey Directory of 1891 lists him as a "commission merchant" at 972 Summit Avenue.

Schernikow, an enthusiastic mineral collector, member of the New York Mineralogical Club and Life Member of the American Museum of Natural History, created a well-known and much admired collection while he was living in New York. In 1891 he reported finding several hundred "magnificent" twinned crystals of gemmy yellow titanite, lustrous and up to 2 inches in size, at the Tilly Foster mine in New York.

New York mineral dealer George L. English announced in the February 1893 issue of The Mineralogists' Monthly: "We have just purchased the celebrated mineral cabinet of Mr. Ernest Schernikow, and will place it on sale on Saturday, February 5, at noon. It contains the best specimens of Chondrodite, Sphene, Magnetite, Apatite, Serpentine pseudomorphs and Brucite ever found at the Tilly Foster mine; a fine series of Lake Superior Coppers; elegant crystals of Ceylon Sapphire, Zircon, and Spinel; unusually fine specimens of Beryl, Emerald, Tourmaline, Topaz, Proustite, Rutilated Quartz, Rutile, Azurite, Garnet, Epidote, Herkimer Quartz, Egremont Calcite, Silver, Gold, Opal, Wulfenite, Vanadinite, Cerussite, &c. The collection contains many specimens worth from $25.00 to $250.00 each."

Despite the sale of his collection (or at least part of it), Schernikow continued to collect minerals actively. In February 1896, an ad in The Mineral Collector announced that George L. English & Co. was being incorporated and reorganized, and was going public with a stock offering. The opening price was $100 per share for a total offering of 150 shares, payable in installments. English was president and general manager (and purchaser of "a large interest in the company"), Ernest Schernikow was made vice president, Albert C. Bates secretary and C.L. Hatch treasurer.

In 1897 Schernikow donated a suite of about 80 specimens from the pegmatite at Haddam Neck, Connecticut to the mineralogical museum of Oxford University. In 1900 he donated 45 rare volumes on mineralogy to the American Geographical Society in New York. The 700-mineral specimen collection of the New York Mineralogical Club contains numerous specimens collected by Schernikow and other noted collectors such as Kunz, Niven, Chamberlain, Gratacap, and Manchester. And at least some of his collection went to the American Museum of Natural History.

Schernikow was interested in many different kinds of collectibles, including stamps. When the Philadelphia Bank Note Company went bankrupt in the early 20th century, it had in its inventory many of the original dies for printing government revenue stamps. Schernikow, who was President of the Hamilton Bank Note Engraving and Printing Company, purchased the dies for $10,000 and issued hundreds of reprints or "essays" in 1903 (they are till very collectible today).

Schernikow also served as secretary of the New York and Honduras Rosario Mining Company and as treasurer and secretary of the Himalaya Mining Company, working pegmatite deposits in southern California shortly after the turn of the century. He supplied the first crystals of stibiotantalite (from Mesa Grande, California) to Samuel Penfield and William E. Ford, who published the first morphological description of the mineral in 1906. Schernikow's collection of Mesa Grande pegmatite minerals was considered the finest of its time; it was exhibited in 1904-1905 at the California State Mining Bureau in San Francisco.

Schernikow served for a number of years as Consul General for El Salvador and Honduras in New York. He was a delegate to the Pan-American Congress, and a commissioner for the Pan-American Exposition of 1915 in San Francisco. He traveled regularly to California, probably on behalf of the Himalaya Mining Company, before settling there permanently, and also traveled to England and France in 1908, 1909, 1910, 1922 and 1925. His first wife was Helen Gordon; his second wife, Myrtle P., who was 30 years his junior, (born in Monterey, California on March 17, 1890, died 1964) sometimes traveled with him. He died intestate on December 16, 1933, and probate was filed for his estate in San Francisco in that same year.

References:
New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957.
U.S. Federal Census, 1880 (New York), 1930 (San Francisco)
The Directory of Directors in the City of Boston and Vicinity (1906),
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2017)
Mineralogical Record
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The Mineralogical Record - Ernest Schernikow Ernest Schernikow, 1922
The Mineralogical Record - Ernest Schernikow 36 x 66 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Ernest Schernikow 36 x 66 mm
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