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Adolf Frank Collection

Identifier: AR 7176/MF 722

Scope and Content Note

The bulk of the material in this collection deals with the latter part of Adolf Frank's career, when he was active as a chemical consultant. The single largest part of the collection is material pertaining to the Cyanid Gesellschaft (Series II), including minutes of the Board of Director's meetings, yearly financial statements and an extensive correspondence of Frank with and about the corporation and its foreign subsidiaries. The material contains much information on finances, laboratory as well as engineering practices, and other aspects of the early twentieth-century chemical industry, especially on early attempts at the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen (Series III). There is also business related material concerning other companies, mainly the Vereinigte Chemische Werke (Series IX).

There is also considerable material on the Charlottenburg Municipal Gas Works (Series V). The matters discussed rang from personnel policy, the purchase of new equipment, and problems of environmental protection. A large portion of Frank's consulting work dealt with waste products and their governmental regulations, especially in his contracts with the cellulose industry (Series IV).

The collection holds also interesting material on the relationship between science, government and industry. During World War I, Frank was involved in a scheme to expropriate Belgium's phosphate-ore fields for use in producing fertilizer according to a process that he had invented himself (Series VI). There is also correspondence (Series VIII) and press clippings (Series XI) on the case of professor Paul Wagner, an agricultural chemist, who was accused of taking money from the potash syndicate and falsifying experimental results in their favor to boost fertilizer sales.

The correspondence of Adolf Frank's son Albert includes information on the chemical industry after World War I (Series IX). There are two interesting memoranda on the French chemical industry and the conditions of doing business in France during the late 1920s. There is also correspondence with I.G. Farben on the possibility of joint projects between that company and the Bayerische Stickstoff-Werke.

The collection also houses material on the practice of chemical research and its industrial application with a number of laboratory notebooks, covering the period from the 1870s until the first decades of the twentieth century (Series X); patent files of chemical processes (Series VII); and plans for industrial facilities (Series XII). There are also numerous clippings on the chemical industry; on political events during World War I; and on the immediate postwar era (Series XI). In addition, the collection holds several of Adolf and Albert Frank's birth and university certificates (Series XII). A selection of published and unpublished manuscripts ( Series I and XI) by Adolf Frank and personal papers by Adolf and Albert Frank (Series I) round out the collection.


  • 1857-1964


Language of Materials

The collection is in German, English, Italian, and French.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Readers may access the collection by visiting the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History. We recommend reserving the collection in advance; please visit the LBI Online Catalog and click on the "Request" button.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Biographical Note

Adolf Frank (1834-1916) was one of the leading chemists in nineteenth-century Germany. Born in 1834 in Kloette, he began his career as an apothecary's apprentice and received his license in 1857; afterwards he studied chemistry at the University of Berlin. He then obtained a position as a chemist with a beet-sugar refinery and used the results of his work there as a basis for his dissertation, which was accepted at the University of Goettingen in 1872.

In the late 1860s, Frank played a leading role in the development of Strassfurt potash deposits and their application as an agricultural fertilizer. He remained interested in the problems of German agriculture, especially its chemical aspects, for the rest of his life. After working for some years as a chemist with Charlottenburg Glaswerke, Frank resigned in 1885 to go into business for himself as an independent chemical consultant. His expertise covered many fields, with a focus on the cellulose industry in Germany and abroad.

Together with his co-worker Nicodem Caro, Frank invented a process for the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen in 1895. This process, related to modern cyanamid manufacture, attracted interest in industrial circles, and with the backing of Deutsche Bank, Siemens & Halske, and Deutsche Gold und Silber Scheideanstalt the Cyanid Gesellschaft was founded in 1899 to exploit the process. At first the company was not commercially successful. It was only during and after World War I that the process was sufficiently refined to become profitable.

For many years Frank was on the Board of Directors of the Charlottenburg Municipal Gas Works and of the Vereinigte Chemische Werke. He received many awards, including an honorary professorship and the title of Geheimer Regierungsrat. Although eighty years old at the outbreak of World War I, he threw himself into war work, and this occupied most of his attention until his death in 1916.

Frank's son Albert (1872-1965) was also a chemist. He directed a pilot plant for the Cyanid Gesellschaft and did consulting work. In the early 1920s he became director of the Bayrische Stickstoff Werke. Albert Frank retained this position until his emigration to the USA in 1938. In America, Frank obtained a post with American Cyanamid for whom he had previously acted as German consultant. Albert Frank died in New York City in 1965.


4 Linear Feet (+ 5 tube boxes + 2 OS boxes)


This collection contains material on Adolf and Albert Frank. Most of it is connected to Adolf Frank's career as a chemist and entrepreneur. The bulk of the material is business papers of various kinds, mostly minutes of meetings and correspondence. Notebooks and patent files can also be found. Prominent is material which shows Adolf Frank's role in the German wartime industry of World War I. Although most material is connected to Adolf Frank, information about Albert Frank is also included. Both are represented in personal papers that appear in the collection.


Collection is available on fourteen reels of microfilm:

  1. Reel 1: 1/1-1/5
  2. Reel 2: 1/16-1/21
  3. Reel 3: 1/22-1/26
  4. Reel 4: 2/1-2/16
  5. Reel 5: 2/17-2/24
  6. Reel 6: 2/25-2/30
  7. Reel 7: 2/31-3/4
  8. Reel 8: 3/5-3/14
  9. Reel 9: 3/15-3/21
  10. Reel 10: 3/22-3/29
  11. Reel 11: 3/29-4/3
  12. Reel 12: 4/3-4/9
  13. Reel 13: 4/10-4/12
  14. Reel 14: 4/13-OS9/F10
Guide to the Papers of Adolf Frank (1834-1916) 1857-1964 AR 7176/MF 772
Processed by Michael Aldinger
© 2007
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from AdolfFrank.xml

Revision Statements

  • November 14, 2011 : Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States