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Bennett CerfBennett Cerf
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Interview #1
Interviewee: Bennett Cerf
Interviewer: Mary R. Hawkins
New York City
Sept. 20, 1967


Mr. Cerf, you were born in New York--you're a born New Yorker--in 1898. Would you like to say anything about that?


I think I'm rather an unusual specimen in that all four of my grandparents and both my parents, as well as myself, were all born right on the island of Manhattan. My father's family is Alsatian in extraction, and my mother's family is German. My mother's family were named Wise. Now, the background of the family is shrouded in some mystery. I've never bothered investigating very much my antecedents, except that I do know that my father's father, Marcel Cerf, was a jeweler, and my mother's father was in the tobacco business.

The Cerf family was always loaded with charm but not much money. The Wise family didn't have nearly as much charm but a lot more money. My grandfather, Nathan Wise, built up in New York a very big tobacco company called the Metropolitan Tobacco Company. At one time a young man came to him and suggested a partnership that my conservative grandfather didn't think was very good. The man's name was Duke, and he became the great tobacco magnate. My grandfather thought he was a wild young fellow, which indeed he was. But at that, my grand-father when he died had amassed a million dollars for himself. In those days that was a great deal of money.

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