The Museum of Family History

The Photographic Studios of Eastern Europe


(Mother of Melanie)
Budapest, Hungary
cir 1884

Baroness Caroline
Melanie Weiner Groedel

left: cir 1893
above: cir 1891

Koller studio imprint
on back of Melanie's photo,
above right.

Read more about the
Koller studio below.

Baron Hermann Groedel

Photograph taken at
the Koller studio.

The Groedel family tree is fairly well documented from 1782 through the mid 1900s. Born in Friedberg, Hessen, Germany in 1856 to Zadyk Groedel and Fanny Ahl, Hermann and his two younger brothers, Bernhard and Albert, built an empire their father is said to have founded called the Transylvanian Forest Industry Co. (also known as the Transylvanian Forestcraft shareholder group), exporting lumber throughout the world. It is said that at the time they were the largest exporters of lumber in the world.

The Groedel family had immigrated to Transylvania from Germany in the middle 1870s and acquired citizenship in 1890. Considered “nouveau-riche,” they owned large tracts of property throughout the greater portion of Central Europe, including Romania, Hungary, Poland and other countries. One story about how the business started is that in 1879 there was a flood in Szeged, and Zadik sold the timber for the reconstruction work. Another story mentions that the lumber business began back in Germany.

The following are locations where they owned land and the quantities:

  • Skole was their business headquarters and had 36000 hectares,
  • Poland; Bogdán: 2500 hectare,
  • Czechoslovakia; the colony of Gyulfalva with the woodlands Zágon: 8000 hectare and Kalabucs: 2000 hectare,
  • Transylvania; Musa Mare, Miklaos and Balescu (all together 6000 hectare),
  • District of Buzeu, Romania (size unknown)
  • Master of Wetlina (5000 hectare), joint owner of Wygoda-Weldzirz (all together 33000 hectare)
  • Maramarossziget. (size unknown)

At one time, they owned the property that included the town of Wetlina, Poland (1914-1926). It is believed that they also built or expanded a narrow-gauge railroad that is still in operation as a tourist attraction. The business headquarters was in Skole, Poland (now Ukraine, see photo below.)

In 1903 and 1904, the family built and registered a shipping line in the UK to transport the material worldwide. They had four ships built, three of them having been named after each of the brother's wives, Melanie, Margit and Gizella. Although all four steamers were built and registered in the UK, and its headquarters officially stated to be in London, the Groedel Brothers Steamship Company Ltd., was really a Hungarian concern. This caused some interesting political angst, as during World War I, the British Admiralty had "requisitioned" the Groedel Brothers’ fleet from 1914 - 1916 and paid the going rate into a public trust. Once it was discovered that the ships were enemy owned, the British government auctioned off the fleet. It's not clear whether the Groedel family ever received any of the proceeds.

Hermann married Caroline Melanie Weiner in Budapest's Doheny Temple in 1885 by Rabbi Samuel Kohn. Melanie was the daughter of Nina Hertzfeld and Adolph Weiner who owned a successful tailoring business in Budapest, and was noted as a tailor to the king.

The Groedels were Jewish but over time, Hermann, Melanie and the children, converted to a variety of Christian faiths. It appears however that Hermann’s brothers and their children continued to practice Judaism.

In 1903, the three Groedel families were bestowed with the title of Baron von Gulyafalva by King Franz Josef and in 1905 upgraded to Baron von Gulyafalva und Bogdan. 

Paula, the eldest daughter of Hermann and Melanie, married into the Lonyay family whose members consisted of the former prime minister, Menyhert.

Hermann, Melanie, and two of their children, Arthur and Paula, visited the US in 1910 to socialize, visit relatives that had moved to the US, and to learn how the American lumber industry worked.

After they returned to Hungary, Hermann's eldest son, Arthur, became a diplomat. On March 8, 1914 Emperor Franz Joseph appointed Baron Arthur his honorary consul in the Vancouver, British Columbia consulate. Baron Groedel, the only Austro-Hungarian honorary consul in Vancouver, handed over caretakership of the office on July 4, 1914 to his cousin Egon Ulrich and left for Europe. On August 12, 1914 Great Britain declared war on Austria-Hungary. Baron Arthur Groedel, a lieutenant in an I. & R. artillery regiment, was killed in action in July 1917 near Troy in Turkey.

Baron Hermann died in 1930 and much of the land was sold off in 1944. However, Baron Albert Groedel's sons, Victor and Hans, and their wives, Anna Dolezal and Marie-Christine Von Callenberg respectively, appear to have had their personal holding confiscated by the Nazis, as well as their lives. After the war, the majority of the family moved to Vienna where they lived out their lives. Only a few remained in Budapest.



The studio information above (from back of the photo of the Barnoness) is written in both Magyar and  German. In Magyar the address is Harmingzad 4 in Budapest. In German, the inscription reads "Prof. K. Keller, Kais. Konigl. Hof Photograph, Dreissigstrasse 4, im eigenen (in own) house." There is also mention of  a gold medal won in Paris in 1878.

The atelier Koller was one of the most prestigious portrait-studio of the time. Károly Koller was originally a drawing master. He studied in Vienna and started his carreer in Transylvania. He moved to Budapest in 1874, and one year later opened his own photographic studio in Budapest, in the Harmincad street (in the downtown area). He died in 1889, but it didn't mean the decline of the studio, because his assistants Román Forché and István Gálffy continued the business as the "Successors of Professor Koller". The studio was visited by the highest aristocracy and by members of the royal family. It was an elegant and highly-appreciated atelier



Skole, Ukraine


Maramarossighet, Romania
(then Hungary)


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