Adolph W. S. Dohrmann was born in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany on April 28, 1832, the son of Frederika Behred and Wilhelm (William) Dohrmann (1805-1886). He emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1850s, passing first through Scott County, Iowa where he married Lena Puck. They proceeding on to Stockton, California where he began working as a clerk in the grocery store of James P. McKenna, and soon took over the business. In 1864 he was joined in the grocery business by his younger brother, Charles W. Dohrmann (1846-1893), and sold out to him in 1868 in order to start a new business in San Francisco.
As of 1880 he was living in San Francisco with his second wife, Illinois-born Elizabeth (whom he had married in 1873), and her two children while managing Dohrmann & Company with his partner Henry Wangenheim. They also operated a feed and flour milling company called Washington Mills (Dohrmann listed his occupation on the 1880 census as "miller").
Dohrmann died on October 24, 1886; his family wasted no time in arranging to auction off his spectacular collection of 1,867 native gold, silver and other specimens in Philadelphia the following month. The collection included many fine specimens from the gold fields of California. The lots were grouped by species, e.g. native gold & silver, platinum, iridium, mercury, copper, iron, antimony, tellurium, sulfur, diamond, graphite, stibnite, argentite, galena, hessite, cinnabar, fluorite, cuprite, etc. Many of the specimens were purchased by Georges de la Bouglise (1842-1911), whose collection was sold at auction in Paris in 1911 by mineral dealer Alexandre Stuer; Albert C. Burrage of Boston acquired the entire collection and in 1948 bequeathed it on to the Harvard Mineralogical Museum.
CHAPMAN, S. H. & H. (1886) Catalogue of the Magnificent Collection of Minerals, Extremely Rich in Gold and Silver, of A. Dohrmann, Esq., of San Francisco, Cal. Davis & Harvey Gallery, Philadelphia. 56 p.
CANFIELD, F. A. (1923) The Disposition of some American Collections of Minerals. Privately printed.
San Francisco City Directory, 1879, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1883.
ANON (1886) [Obituary] San Francisco Daily Morning Call: 26 October 1886, p. 8, col. 3.
ANON. (1886) American Journal of Science: 3rd series, vol. 32, p. 487.
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||Cover of Dohrmann's 1886 auction catalog (printed in metallic gold ink)|