Zagajski Mieczysław

Mieczysław Zagajski - Personal data
Date of birth: 1885
Place of birth: Kielce
Date of death: 19th February 1967
Place of death:
Occupation: industrialist, philanthropist, art collector, patron of artists
Related towns: Kielce, Warsaw

Mieczysław Zagajski (Michael Zagayski from 1946) – (1885, Kielce – 19 February1967 Palm Beach, Florida) – industrialist, philanthropist, art collector, patron of artists.

Mieczysław (Majlich) Zagajski was born in 1885 in Kielce. He was the son of Hirsz (Herszel) Zagajski - a well-known industrialist, founder of the "Wietrznia" calcium factory, and philanthropist. In 1885, the Kielce quarries and limestone factory were bought by Abraham Zagajski, Mieczysław's grandfather. At the beginning of the 20th century, thanks to the installation of modern Hoffman furnaces, the production of lime powders was doubled; at the same time, the Zagajski family expanded their ownership of quarries.

Mieczysław Zagajski began his career as the Wietrznia company representative in Warsaw. He was responsible for the export of lime to European countries and the United States. The Mieczysław Zagajski Trading House, which he founded, with its seat in Warsaw and branches in Białystok, Cieszyn, Kielce and Pinsk, was offering materials used in the construction industry.

At the end of the 1920s, he founded Towarzystwo Handlowo-Przemysłowe M. Zagajski S.A (M. Zagajski Commercial and Industrial Society JSC), with its seat in Warsaw[1.1]. The company was developing dynamically, it opened branches in Gdynia and Katowice, and published professional publications (Co to jest cement glinowy? [What is calcium aluminate cement?]Sposób użycia cementu glinowego [How to use calcium aluminate cement] etc.). Until the end of the decade, many Polish and foreign enterprises producing building materials were represented by Zagajski. The society cooperated with the Coking Plants Association in Katowice and German companies involved in road construction („Continentale” Straasen-Teerungs-Gesellschaft m. b. H., among others). One of the results of this cooperation was the establishment of the "Smołodróg" Tar Road Construction Society, which performed road works in the Silesian Province.

In 1929, the M. Zagajski Commercial and Industrial Society JSC founded the “Drago” JSC, involved in fuel mixtures trade and running filling stations (the network of "Drago" stations). Initially, the enterprise faced difficult conditions for development. These included high tariffs on imported vehicles, competitive rail ticket prices, officials’ distrust towards car owners (cars being considered luxury goods during the crisis years), high car maintenance costs and concurrent significant decrease in road construction outlays. However, at the end of the 1930s, the state policy concerning road infrastructure and motorization changed, thanks to which Zagajski's investments could develop and bring profits. The brand's positive reputation was also resulting from free advisory services for drivers interested in the company's offer. The advisory services office was located at 11/13 Szucha Avenue in Warsaw.

Despite the improvement in the automotive industry at the end of the 1930s, the "Drago" and the M. Zagajski Commercial and Industrial Society invested in another economic activity, ensuring a stable source of income. In the years 1937–1938, both companies built a tenement house in Warsaw at the corner of Niepodległości Avenue and Ligocka Street. Its designer was Lucjan Korngold, a Warsaw architect who combines functionalism with elements of modernism. The building has survived to this day and is used for residential purposes.

Thanks to numerous successful undertakings, Zagajski has accumulated a huge fortune. According to Jadwiga Maurer who knew the Zagajski family before the war, he even had a private plane. He lived in a sumptuous villa in the Warsaw district of Upper Mokotów (17 Malczewskiego Street), he was also a prominent art collector. In 1939, Zagajski's art collection with over 7,000 Judaica - including paintings by artists such as Maurycy Gottlieb and Isaac Levitan - was plundered by the Germans.

At the outbreak of World War II Zagajski was in Geneva, wherefrom he emigrated to America. As Michael Zagayski - a citizen of the United States, he continued collecting Judaica (his collection included the unique pinkas of Warsaw’s Praga district) and maintained contacts with Polish artists. The book Róża Wiatrów (Rose of Winds) by Kazimierz Wierzyński dedicated to Zagajski (1942), can serve as a testimony of his relations with writers in exile.

In the 1960s, the earnings from the sale of some of his paintings he assigned to the development of higher education in Israel. He died in Palm Beach, Florida on February 19, 1967, and was buried in New York. Numerous objects from Zagajski's collection are in the collections of institutions and private art collectors all over the world.

Anna Styczyńska-Marciniak

The project was co-financed by the Leopold Kronenberg Citi Handlowy Foundation.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Archiwum Państwowe Oddział w Gdyni, Sąd Grodzki w Gdyni (State Archives, Gdynia Branch, Municipal Court in Gdynia, ref. no. 93/149/0/-/689, Towarzystwo Handlowo-Przemysłowe, Mieczysław Zagajski, s-ka akcyjna w Warszawie Oddział w Gdyni (Commercial and Industrial Society, Mieczysław Zagajski, Joint-Stock Company in Warsaw, Gdynia Branch), 1934 –1939;
  • Archiwum Państwowe w Katowicach, Dyrekcja Okręgowa Kolei Państwowych w Katowicach (State Archives in Katowice, Regional Management of State Railways in Katowice), ref. no. 12/42/0/-/1/8, Bocznica Towarzystwa Handlowo-Przemysłowego Firmy M. Zagajski (Siding of the Commercial and Industrial Society of M. Zagajski Enterprise) at the Kratowice Railway Station), 1928–1932;
  • Archiwum Państwowe w Kielcach, Akta stanu cywilnego okręgu bożniczego w Kielcach (State Archives in Kielce, Vital Records of the Synagogue District in Kilelce) ref. no. 21/422/0/-/49, akt (certificate) 36; Archiwum Państwowe w Kielcach, Sąd Okręgowy w Kielcach (State Archives in Kielce, District Court in Kielce), ref. no. 21/146/0/-/3944, The case of Mieczysław vel Majlich Zagajski [Warsaw] concerning rectification of the marital status certificate), 1934;
  • Maurer J., Wspomnienia Jadwigi Maurer. Sprzed Zagłady, Przy dworze Zagajskich [online] http://jankarski.org.pl/wspomnienia-jadwigi-maurer/ [Accessed: 3 July 2020].
  • Michael Zagayski, collector of judaica, dead in Florida, aged 74, Jewish Telegraphic Agency [online:] 20 February 1967,  https://www.jta.org/1967/02/20/archive/michael-zagayski-collector-of-judaica-dead-in-florida-aged-74[Accessed: 3 July 2020].
  • Pająk J. Z., Szczepański J., Początki przemysłu kieleckiego, „Studia Muzealno-Historyczne”, 2013, no. 5, p. 24.
  • Property from the Collection of Michael and Doris Zagayski, Sold to Benefit the Weizmann Institute of Science, and Property of Family Members, Gifted by the Zagayskis: Auction, Thursday, June 29, 1995 at 10:15 AM and 2 PM, New York 1995.
  • Tanewski P., Wokół SGH. Domy, ludzie, zdarzenia, Warsaw 2012.
  • Włodarczyk G., Smok – historia (spółek) Mieczysława Zagajskiego, „Rocznik Historii Papierów Wartościowych” (Yearbook of Securities History) 2013, vol. 1, pp. 65–66.

  

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] The first seat of the Society was at 25 Sienna Street, where was the seat of the Zagajski Trading House. Later, the seat was moved to 3 Żórawią Street. See: Handlowa księga adresowa Polski i Gdańska 1923, Dział III, Gdansk – Warsaw 1923, p. 6 [online:] http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgibin/ampage?collId=gdc3&fileName=scd0001_20020613002popage.db&recNum=830 [Accessed: 3 July 2020]; Spis Abonentów Warszawskiej Sieci Telefonów Polskiej Akcyjnej Spółki Telefonicznej 1935–1936, Warsaw 1935, p. 312 [online:] http://mbc.cyfrowemazowsze.pl/dlibra/docmetadata?id=9883 [Accessed: 3 July 2020.
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