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H. Richard Dietrich, at 69; noted collector of Colonial arts

NEW YORK - H. Richard Dietrich Jr., a philanthropist and collector of early American decorative and fine arts who often made his treasures available for public viewing, died on Aug. 30 at his home in Chester Springs, Pa. He was 69.

The cause was melanoma, his son H. Richard Dietrich III said.

Mr. Dietrich was recognized for the quality and breadth of his collecting interests. He collected Colonial-era decorative and fine arts, including furniture, silver, ceramics, porcelain, historical documents, manuscripts, prints, and paintings.

He came to public notice in 1987 with the purchase of the famous Cadwalader Easy Chair, a rare example of 18th-century American furniture. The carved mahogany chair, with upholstery, had once been owned by the Revolutionary War hero John Cadwalader.

He collected both privately and for the Dietrich American Foundation, which he established in 1963 to collect and research historically important examples of early American decorative and fine arts and to lend them to museums. Works from the foundation's collection have been lent to more than 50 institutions, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the White House.

Henry Richard Dietrich was born in Philadelphia on May 12, 1938. He grew up in Villanova, where he developed a love of American history. In his early 20s, he began to collect, at first early-edition books and then fine and decorative arts.

He was awarded a bachelor of arts degree in 1960 from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., moving shortly after to New York, where he attended Columbia Business School. In 1965, he married Cordelia Frances Biddle, also from Pennsylvania; the marriage ended in divorce.

Besides his son Richard, Mr. Dietrich leaves another son, Christian B.; a daughter, Cordelia Dietrich Zanger; a granddaughter; and two brothers, Daniel and William.

He was for many years president of the Dietrich Corp., an early conglomerate whose holdings included Luden's, a cough drop and candy company, which the family sold to the Hershey Co. in 1986. He retired the same year and devoted himself more or less full time for the next two decades to philanthropy, conservation, and collecting high-quality objects for his foundation.

He was especially active with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, an association that spanned four decades. He was one of the founding members of the museum's American art advisory committee in 1969 and was elected to the board of trustees the next year.

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