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Interview with Michael Dederer
by Museum of History & Industry

Michael Dederer (1905-1995) built the Seattle Fur Exchange into one of the foremost fur auctions in the country and an international presence in the industry.

Born in Canada, Dederer moved with his family to Montana in 1914. Working at a department store while still in high school, Dederer had developed an interest in the fur trade. Shortly after moving to Seattle in 1922, he joined the newly formed Seattle Fur Exchange. Starting out as a janitor, Dederer worked his way up the organizational ladder and was named treasurer and general manager in 1936, and president in 1939. Dederer retired as Fur Exchange president in 1975, but remained a director until 1986.

Dederer also devoted his energies to public service. He served as president of the Board of Regents of Washington State University and Pacific Lutheran University, and as president of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Community Chest and United Good Neighbor Fund (now United Way), YMCA, Rotary Club of Seattle, Seattle Foundation, Seattle Goodwill, and the Rainier Club. He also served on the boards of the Seattle Repertory Theatre, Pacific Science Center Foundation, Washington Children’s Home Society, Boy Scouts of America, and World Affairs Council. The Seattle-King County Association of Realtors named Michael Dederer First Citizen of 1960 for his civic service and leadership.

This interview is part of the Donald Schmechel Oral History Collection. Don Schmechel, who was a member of the Seattle Public Library Foundation board, began this project with Seattle Public Library in 1984, with the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) brought on board as a partner in early 1985. Schmechel himself worked to raise the funding for the project, and volunteered his time to manage the project, and to conduct interviews along with a crew of volunteers. Originally titled the Videotaping Historic Figures (VHF) Program, the project interviewed 91 people, and MOHAI holds the interviews for 32 of these individuals.The interviews conducted with these Seattle civic, business and cultural leaders in 1985 are valuable first-hand accounts that provide insight into developments taking place in the mid-twentieth century.

Digitization of this videotape material has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

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