The last of Iran's gilded age
Asghar Mahdavi Dare-Amineh-Zarb
June 22, 2004
A few weeks ago we lost the elder of the “Haj-Amine-Zarb” clan.
This I call the last of the survivors of the gilded age of Iran.
Asghar Mahdavi Dare-Amineh-Zarb was 89 when he passed away peacefully
at his childhood home. Dr. Mahdavi was a retired professor of economics
at the Tehran University. He had received his Bachelors in economics
in Tehran and had traveled to France to get his Masters and PhD.
During his many decades of tenure at the University he donated
his entire salary to the restoration and upkeep of the University
library. Dr. Mahdavi was in love with books, so much so, that not
only his pay went to their upkeep, but he had Iran's largest
private collection of old manuscripts and handwritten books in
existence. Only the Tehran University had a collection comparable
to his. His entire life was spent on collecting, studying, translating
these rare historical objects.
The books in his personal library
numbered in the thousands, which by his virtue of the love of them
had willed to be donated to the Tehran University Library. Dr.
Mahdavi was also the author of several books. His prowess with
economic concepts was strong and it showed in his scriptures and
articles he had authored while he was still actively teaching at
At the beginning of this article I mentioned that Dr. Mahdavi
was the last of the survivors of Iran's gilded age. I say that
not to draw a parallel between the gilded age as we know it in
America, the last decades of the 19th century and the beginning
of the twentieth, although the time frame coincides with Iran's
coming of age, but more so to depict the progression of the Iranian
Society until its regression after the revolution.
During the same
time span, Iran was opening its doors to the technological advancements
inthe West. It was during this era, circa 1870s, that a late Haj
Mohammad Hassan Haj-Amine-Zarb, had traveled to Paris and brought
back with him the latest in the minting techniques.
One can say
after Cyrus the Great of the Acheamanian Dynasty, when Persia
was the first empire to embrace large scale production and distribution
of coins and legal tender, Iran had been left behind and had
the edge it had on this industry, hence why he got his title
from Nasser-Edin Shah.
Following Haj Hassan his son Haj Hossein Dare-Amineh-Zarb continued
in his father's footsteps and kept the business progressing.
He also added a first to the family's line of business, bringing
the first power generation equipment into Iran (this one from Russia),
hence making him the first to have introduced generated electricity
in the country.
The father and son were able to create an empire
and an associated wealth that was second to only the ruling family
and propelled them into the 1000 family who were controlling the
economic and political destiny of Iran. Needless to say the first
edifice to have been illuminated was none other than Mozafar-Edin
Shah's palace. The second elder also went on to also construct
the first railroad network in the province of Mazandaran.
Dr. Mahdavi and his brother Dr. Yahya Mahdavi were able to keep
the family tradition alive, not but by creating more wealth, rather
by philanthropic and educational endeavors. Their family mansion,
which was constructed in the 1860's and purchased by the
elder of the clan, has remained in his family, and was designated
by the Tehran City Council as a historical monument. It cannot
be demolished or sold to any other than the City. The mansion is
probably the last of the remaining homes, which was as grand as
the time it was constructed in. Complete with Birooni and Andarooni
segments, halls of mirrors, and elaborate modest ornamentation,
servants quarters and more.
Asghar was also a renowned scholar on matters of Islamic history.
He had scribed a book on the life and times of Mohammad; titled, “Seerateh
Rasoul Alah”. To those who knew him, his long and fruitful
life had been full of overtones with a direct and positive impact
on the society.
As I have mentioned in several of my articles, Iran is loosing
some of its great contributors without any hope of replacing
them with an equal in intellect and fervent enthusiasm. I can only
that the Diaspora can reproduce the replacements for us. In the
hopes that the thugs of the Islamic Republic will not plunder
the national heritage left to us by Asghar as they have done thousands
Dr. Mahdavi is survived by his son Behrooz, wife Shaheen and
two daughters, Mojdeh and Neda. >>> See 2001 photo
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