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Albert H. Petereit
(1860-1917)

Albert H. Petereit was a prominent New York mineral and gem dealer. He was born in Tilsit, East Prussia (now the town of Sovetsk, in Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia) on June 26, 1860 and came to the U.S. in 1880, arriving in New York aboard the S.S. General Werder on October 11.

Petereit made his living at first as a general worker and machinist, and married a woman named Augusta in 1885; they never had children. He became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. on October 7, 1886. He was also granted over 25 patents in the 1890s and early 1900s, including improvements to the gas lamp and milling lathes, and was successful in synthesizing gem-quality sapphire and ruby utilizing his own proprietary process.

A 1910 article described how Petereit, then working as an engineer in New York, became interested in minerals:

"Upon returning home one evening from his office, he passed a vendor on a street corner of a busy thoroughfare who had some specimens on a small wooden stand. After enquiring as to the prices of these specimens he ended by purchasing the whole lot, but did not feel satisfied with these alone so purchased more on the evening following, in fact all that the vendor had."

Having been smitten with minerals at first sight, Petereit went on to study them carefully, to meet and confer with other collectors, and soon to conclude that high quality was paramount if a collector was ever to resell his specimens and hope to get most of his money back.

He must have been a well-respected member of the New York mineral collecting community. In February 1896 he was invited to join the Board of Directors of George L. English & Company, Inc., and he was a charter member of the Newark Mineralogical Society (established in 1915). His own mineral and gem business appears to have been already well-established and thriving when he began advertising in The Mineral Collector in July 1896, from his shop at 120 West 102nd Street in New York City. By April 1906, his shop location had changed to room 78 of the Market and Fulton Bank Building, 81 & 83 Fulton Street in New York City (where he continued to live until his death). Earlier labels carry the address 261 West 71st Street, and are all handwritten in the same hand, whereas the Fulton Street labels carry the handwriting of three different people (hired assistants?) as well as a typewriter. A third type of label, all handwritten but with no address, is probably the earliest of the three, perhaps from before he had a store of his own.

Petereit was proficient in several languages and conducted correspondence with buyers and sellers around the world, often in their own language. His stock was worldwide as well, and he seems to have received regular shipments from his contacts in the California pegmatite district, England, Russia, Norway, Greece, Hungary, Australia, Brazil, Madagascar, Sweden, East India, Switzerland, Japan, Colombia, and even the Chinese cinnabar mines at Wanshanchang. He carried inexpensive material and also did a substantial trade in expensive specimens--a 1907 ad offers crystallized gold specimens from the Bonanza mine, Trinity County, California for $500, $750 and $1250! He also dealt in gemstones, fossils, shells, corals and Indian relics, and frequently announced the acquisition of large mineral collections for resale, though he rarely mentioned the name of the former owner (one exception being the collection of the Rev. J. Selden Spencer of Tarrytown, New York).

One of Petereit's most famous specimens was the "Roebling Apatite," found by Pitt Pulsifer at the Pulsifer quarry in Maine around 1916, acquired by Petereit in 1917 and sold to the wife of Washington A. Roebling for $250, as a birthday present for her husband (Wilson, 1977). It is now in the Smithsonian collection. He also sold or traded important specimens to the Smithsonian, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History(Russell, 2008).

Petereit is known to have been in business in 1914, when his ad in The Naturalist's Directory announced a new 28-page mineral catalog and 12-page gem catalog, claiming (perhaps optimistically) that his stock of minerals and gems was "undoubtedly the largest in the world." The 1915 edition of the New York City Directory list him as a dealer in mineral specimens and gems; the 1916 edition lists him as a dealer in "diamonds and other precious stones"; and the 1917 edition gives only his address (81 Fulton R78). He died in New York on November 5, 1917, at the age of 57.

References:
BIGELOW, E. F. (1910) The mineral collector: How an inspiration became an actuality. The Guide to Nature, Sound Beach, Conn., vol. 3, no. 1, p. 40-44.
New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957.
New York Petitions for Natualization, 1886.
U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925.
New York City Directory, 1915, 1916, 1917.
U.S. Federal Census, 1910.
RUSSELL, D. E. (2008) Albert H. Petereit, New York City mineral dealer. Mindat.org.
WILSON, W.E. (1977) Famous mineral localities: the Pulsifer quarry. Mineralogical Record, 8, 73.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2017)
Mineralogical Record
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
Click on thumbnail picture to see larger image.
Number of labels found: 14 | Labels being viewed: 9 to 14

The Mineralogical Record - Albert H. Petereit 41 x 69 mm,
A handwritten label with the 71st Street address, probably ca. 1897-1906.
The Mineralogical Record - Albert H. Petereit Petereit's most famous specimen, the "Roebling Apatite," 4.3 cm, from the Pulsifer quarry, Maine; acquired by Washington A. Roebling in 1917. Photo Wendell E. Wilson.
The Mineralogical Record - Albert H. Petereit 40 x 67 mm,
A handwritten label with the Fulton Street address, probably ca. 1906-1909, and perhapd as late as 1914.
The Mineralogical Record - Albert H. Petereit 40 x 67 mm,
A handwritten label with the Fulton Street address, probably ca. 1906-1909, and perhapd as late as 1914.
The Mineralogical Record - Albert H. Petereit 41 x 71 mm,
A typewritten label with the Fulton Street address, probably ca. 1906-1909, and perhaps as late as 1914.
The Mineralogical Record - Albert H. Petereit 41 x 70 mm,
A typewritten label with the Fulton Street address, probably ca. 1906-1909, and perhaps as late as 1914.
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