Franz Dominic Grassi
11 May 1801 – 14 November 1880
Franz Dominic Grassi came from a central Italian merchant family. His grandfather, an émigré from Lucca, and his father, Leipzig-born Joseph Peter Grassi, traded in silk and commodities and conducted exchange and bill transactions.
In his youth, Franz Dominic Grassi travelled abroad while at the same time serving a commercial apprenticeship; he also spent an extended sojourn in London. In 1829, he became a citizen of Leipzig, and here founded a trading company for Russian products, indigo dye and tropical fruits. Its headquarters were first located in Reichsstraße and later moved to Hainstraße. After the death of his father in 1847, he shifted his business activities to speculative trading and bill transactions, and after his mother had died in 1854, he retired completely from active commercial life and focused on the management and maintenance of assets. From 1855 onwards, he lived with his widowed sister Pauline (b. 1804) in his residence in Weststraße 3.
Franz Dominic Grassi remained a bachelor all his life and in his testament left the city a fortune of 2.327 million marks – an unusually big sum of money considering the fact that he bequeathed a large part of his estate to distant relatives, godchildren and servants.
Franz Dominic Grassi is buried in the ‘Alter Johannisfriedhof’ (Old St John’s Cemetery) in Leipzig. The property bequeathed to the city was used for the promotion and realisation of numerous construction projects, parks and monuments, such as the New Gewandhaus (destroyed), the extension of the Municipal (Art) Museum at Augustusplatz (destroyed), the construction of the Mende Fountain, several areas in the municipal ‘Rosental’ park and, in particular, for the construction of the ‘Old Grassi Museum’ (now home to the Municipal Library). Inasmuch as the proceeds from the sale of this old museum went into the construction of the ‘New Grassi Museum’ at Johannisplatz, this latter fully deserves its name, even though it was only built in the 1920s.
Grassi was a passionate theatre-goer and horse lover and promoted the foundation of the Leipzig racing club. As a citizen, he was held in high esteem and considered a Leipzig original. Although a smart businessman with a frugal, yet not stingy way of living, he supported many Leipzig citizens in emergencies with loans and on-the-spot assistance. Because of his habit of chewing a toothpick, he was popularly known as ‘The Wood Sucker’.
Sources: Leipziger Beobachter 50 (1935) 2, p. 721 ff. Der Leipziger (1919), p. 542 et al. These materials are part of the library collections and documentation.