Posts made in June, 2010

New York City

Start spreading the news…

Taken at the Top of the Rock on our 16th anniversary,
June 11, 2010

For our 16th wedding anniversary, I surprised Ross with a whirlwind vacation to New York City. Neither one of us had ever been there before, and we had a ball seeing all the sites. And I do mean, ALL the sites. We were only there for the weekend, but man, did we pack it in!

Being the born-again genealogist that I’ve become of late, it was fun to see Ellis Island and re-live the immigrant experience from my great grandparents’ perspective. But we did so much more… we stayed at the historic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue, visited Rockefeller Center and the “Top of the Rock,” took the NBC tour and saw where Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live are filmed, visited Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial Museum, saw Wall Street and Battery Park, rode the Staten Island Ferry, rode bicycles around Central Park, toured the United Nations building, ate a fabulous dinner in Little Italy, and topped it all off with a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Here’s a link to my pictures on Flickr. If you view them as a slideshow, make sure you go to “Options” and choose “Always show title and description,” so you can see the captions, and choose Slow for the speed, or you’ll go bonkers trying to read the captions before the next picture shows up.


Read More

Villa Am Meer, Chapter 9

Hermann Kohl and Norda, Inc. brought up on bootlegging charges

New here? Start with Chapter 1…

So… here we go.

Jo-La Cola, manufactured by the Orange Brewery

In the last chapter, we learned that by 1920, the year Prohibition took hold in America, Hermann and Hertha Kohl had moved from Manhattan to East Orange, New Jersey. For what? We can’t be sure, but an educated guess says that Hermann J. Kohl partnered with the Winter Brothers of the Orange Brewery during the early years or Prohibition to create “Jo-La Cola”, a carbonated soda drink marketed like champagne and sold in a champagne bottle. From there, he likely went on to create his own business, Norda, Inc., in nearby Boonton, New Jersey, where he created other flavorings and additives for the beverage industry.


In October of 1927, twelve men, including the then current owners of the Orange Brewery, were indicted on charges that alcohol was being illegally distilled and manufactured on a wholesale basis from the facility from at least January 1 of that year up until it was raided by Federal Agents on June 21st. The illegal product was being shipped in car load lots to destinations as far away as Kansas City in containers marked as “paint”, “oils”, and “boiler compound”. Molasses, so distilled into alcohol, was being shipped in railroad tank cars. (Source)

*End sidebar*

Three years later, on February 11, 1930, a New York Times article broke the news that 155 individuals from across the U.S., including several residents of New York City, had been indicted on federal “liquor conspiracy” charges. Among them was Dr. Hermann J. Kohl, head of Norda Essential Oil and Chemical Company. Other companies included in the indictment were C.H. Selick, Inc., a well-known manufacturer of perfumes and toilet waters, E.M. Laning, Inc., another flavor and fragrance company, Joubert Cie, Inc., a perfume factory, Allied Drug and Chemical Corporation, and Maiden Lane Drug Company.

One year later, on February 3, 1931, Hermann J. Kohl, President of Norda, Arthur J. Henrickson, Vice President, and Beatrice Epstein, Secretary, were all arrested in New York on indictments returned from Chicago charging them with being part of a national liquor ring. (Read the complete article.) All three were arraigned and posted bail.

In October of 1931, Hermann Kohl and Arthur Henrikson appealed their case to the U.S. District Court of Southern New York. Two orders were filed, one on October 13, 1931, and the other on October 22, 1931. Their appeal was heard in Nov-Dec of 1931 and the opinion made on January 4, 1932. The original order was upheld, meaning their appeal was denied, and they were still ordered to stand trial in Chicago on federal bootlegging charges.

I obtained all this information from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Northeast Region, in New York. I’ve ordered the complete brief of Kohl and Henrikson’s appeal trial, so I will probably learn more from that once I receive it.

I also contacted NARA Great Lakes Region in Chicago to see if I could determine the outcome of the federal court case, but they wrote back and told me that the case fills an entire legal-size archive box, which holds up to 1500 sheets of paper. They told me they don’t have the manpower to wade through that much paperwork, but I’m welcome to visit the NARA office and wade through it myself. Hmmm… road trip anyone?

And so, while I wait for my appellate brief from NARA New York, I’m still left wondering…

  • When did the Kohls “adopt” Elena? According to the 1930 U.S. Census, she was still living with her parents at age 13, so it had to be sometime after that. From 1930-1932, Herman Kohl was embroiled in legal battles relating to the federal rum-running case, so it seems a bad time for him to take on an adopted daughter. That being the case, she must have been at least 15-16 before she was taken on as a legal ward of the Kohls.
  • Was Herman Kohl ever convicted? If so, how long did he serve? On April 18, 1933, Hermann J. Kohl was listed as a passenger aboard the S.S. Europa traveling from Bremen, Germany to the U.S. He was 43 years old at the time, traveling with a 45 year old single woman by the name of Ellen Jacobsen from Southampton, Long Island. So, if he did serve any time, it wasn’t very long.
  • At what point did Hermann Kohl become an investor in Tropicana? Villa Am Meer was built in 1935. That same year, Hermann J. Kohl was earning one of the highest salaries in all of New York at $77,840 (Source: New York Times, 1/7/1937). According to Anthony Rossi’s biography, we know he was in Miami running the Terrace Restaurant until 1944, and didn’t even start his fruit shipping business until 1945. I have to assume somewhere in that timeframe of 1945 to 1949 (the year Tropicana was founded), Rossi began selling his orange juice by-product (pulp and peel) to Norda, Inc. for use in their flavor and fragrance business. I’m sure it was at this time Kohl decided to become a partner in Rossi’s enterprising orange juice business.

Next time, details from the Kohl and Henrickson court case…

Read Chapter 10…

Read More

Villa Am Meer, Chapter 8

Hermann J. Kohl and his road to riches

New here? Start with Chapter 1…

The S.S. Cincinatti

On September 8, 1910, Hermann Joseph Kohl landed on the shores of Ellis Island in New York Harbor. He left his hometown of Schwerte, Germany, boarded the S.S. Cincinnati, and set sail for the land of the free. According to the ship manifest, he was 21 years old. His occupation… druggist.


Schwerte is presently located in west central Germany, just northeast of Dusseldorf in the beautiful Rhineland region. According to Wikipedia, it belongs to the present day state of North Rhine-Westphalia (“western plain”), usually shortened to NRW, and is the westernmost, the most populous, and the economically most powerful state of Germany.

Schwerte Westphalia Prussia

Schwerte, Prussia in 1905

However, back in 1910, Schwerte, Westphalia belonged to the Kingdom of Prussia, which included all of northern Germany, western Russia, and Poland (see map at right). The kingdom was ruled by the Hohenzollern dynasty, and most notably, by Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck who unified the German states in 1870, forming the basis of the German Reich in 1871.

At age 21, every male who lived within the Prussian Empire was subject to “conscription,” or what we call “the draft.” They were required to serve three full years of active military duty, followed by another 4-5 in the reserve. Once their reserve duty was finished, they became a member of the “Landwehr” for another 2-5 years, similar to our National Guard, and could be called up for active duty during times of war.

*End Sidebar*

From his obituary, we know that Hermann Kohl received a Ph.D. degree in chemistry from Heidelberg University. Heidelberg was located in southwest Germany, outside the Prussian Empire. So, at age 21, Kohl would have been faced with the dilemma of returning to Prussia to serve his military duty, or to take his newly-aquired chemistry degree and head for America. It appears he chose the latter.

By the summer of 1914, World War I had begun in Europe, triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. Anti-German sentiment was on the rise in America, and many German immigrants were anxious to become naturalized citizens of the U.S., denouncing their loyalty to their former country.

The naturalization process took five years, and lucky for Kohl, he had filed his “first papers” soon after arriving in the U.S. — on July 31, 1911, at Ellis Island, NY.


The Naturalization Process (source:

The first responsibility for an immigrant wishing to become an official U.S. citizen was to complete a Declaration of Intention. These papers are sometimes called First Papers since they are the first forms to be completed in the naturalization process. Generally these papers were filled out fairly soon after an immigrant’s arrival in America. Due to some laws, there were times when certain groups of individuals were exempt from this step.

After the immigrant had completed these papers and met the residency requirement (which was usually five years), the individual was able to submit his Petition for Naturalization. Petitions are also known as Second or Final Papers because they are the second and final set of papers completed in the naturalization process.

*End Sidebar*

So, on April 26, 1916, Hermann Joseph Kohl renounced his allegiance to William II, Emperor of Germany, and became an official citizen of the United States of America.

Hermann Kohl's naturalization papers

From his “final papers,” we learn some valuable information about Hermann Kohl. First, we can see he was born August 7, 1889 in Westfalen (Westphalia), Germany. He was living at 400 West 148th Street, in present day Harlem, about a mile and a half north of the famous Apollo Theater. His occupation was “pharmacist,” and by this time, he was married to his wife, Hertha Kohl, who was born in Germany.

Kohl was now 26 years old, and though he may have escaped the draft in Prussia, it still caught up with him in America. On June 5, 1917, Hermann Joseph Kohl registered for the World War I draft. He was still living at 400 West 148th Street with his wife, Hertha, and now working as a “chemist.” On the draft card, we also learn that Kohl was tall, slender, had blonde hair, blue eyes, and was not going bald. He also had all his limbs, both eyes, and wasn’t otherwise disabled. A real catch.

Three years later, Hermann and Hertha show up on the 1920 U.S. Census living at 336 Halsted Street in East Orange, New Jersey. Clearly, they are not “rolling in it” quite yet. So why the move to East Orange? Hard to say. A quick look at Wikipedia says that hatmaking had been the essential industry in East Orange, with 21 companies employing 3,700 people in 1892. But by 1921, only five firms remained.

So, what else was in East Orange, New Jersey? Beer. The Orange Brewery was constructed in 1901 by the three Winter Brothers of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By the late 1890’s they were nearing capacity at their Pittsburgh facility, brewing 150,000 barrels a year. So, in 1899, the brothers sold their lucrative enterprise for over $4,500,000 to the Pittsburgh Brewing Company (PBC), packed up their profits and headed for East Orange, New Jersey.

Orange Brewery delivery wagon

In 1901, Michael and Wolfgang Winter built a brand new $350,000 building in East Orange and named it the Orange Brewery. The Orange Brewery ran a profitable business and had a good run until 1920, the year Prohibition hit the U.S. And while Prohibition may have been bad for the Winter brothers, it seems it was abundantly good for Mr. Hermann Kohl.

“During the ‘dry’ years in the 1920’s, the Winters for a while utilized the Orange Brewery for the production of soda water and syrup type drinks. They manufactured a champagne-like, fruit flavored, carbonated soft drink beverage known as Jo-La Cola. Also during this period they formed a corporation known as The Sugola Company of New Jersey, which was an enterprise involved with (through the brewing process) converting starches to glucose in order to produce a byproduct that served as a food additive with properties that were similar to sugar.”

And so it began… Hermann Kohl’s little flavoring and fragrance company called Norda, Inc. was founded in 1924 in Boonton, New Jersey. Eleven years later, in 1935, Kohl would be listed in the New York Times as earning one of the highest salaries in all of New York.

Oh, but wait, there’s so much more… and I haven’t even told you about my whirlwind trip to New York City last weekend!

Next time… a raid at Orange Brewery, and a messy little court case.

Read Chapter 9…

Read More

Villa Am Meer, Chapter 7

Anthony Rossi and the S.S. Tropicana

New here? Start with Chapter 1…

Sorry for the lapse in my blog posts lately. I had run into a brick wall as far as new information was concerned, and I didn’t want to bother any of the Benedict family so soon after Elena’s death, so I was a bit stuck. However, I still had plenty of questions, and with a little digging, I was able to find some answers.

1. In what year did Hermann Kohl come to be an investor in Tropicana? Did he know the company’s founder Anthony Rossi?

About a month ago, I had purchased Anthony T. Rossi’s biography from, hoping to find some mention of Hermann Kohl’s involvement in the company. The book was written by Rossi’s second wife, Sanna Barlow Rossi, in 1986, and I have to admit, it was a pretty interesting read.

Anthony T. Rossi is widely known as the founder of Tropicana. In 1921, at the age of 21, he left his hometown of Messina, Sicily and set out for New York City with 30 dollars in his pocket and a knapsack on his back. Before too long, he had a job working at his uncle’s machine shop, and within a year, had purchased a car that he used to start driving taxi cab. Not long after that, Anthony bought a Cabriolet and became a chauffeur for the nephew of a famous NYC lawyer, Elihu Root. Soon he was making $450/month, and began sending regular checks home to support his family in Sicily.

By the time Anthony was in his late 30s, he had started a grocery business, a restaurant, and married Florence Stark, the daughter of a Methodist minister. It was about this time he decided that New York was too cold and he wanted to move south. Perhaps he would try farming. They spent one year in Cape Charles, Virginia growing tomatoes, then decided to move further south to Bradenton, Florida. They purchased 80 acres on Cortez Road and started farming tomatoes.

Before long, Anthony saw another business opportunity arise when a cafeteria on 6th Avenue and 12th Street came up for sale – the Floridian. He bought the building and the business for $8,000 and convinced his brother Joe, a chef at a large hotel in Chicago, to come and cook for him. In the cafeteria’s first year, its net profit was $35,000.

With expansion in mind, Anthony convinced Florence to move to Miami and open a second restaurant in July of 1944. The Terrace Restaurant could seat 500 guests, but it was war time, and the tourists just weren’t coming in like he had anticipated. Soon, he was losing $1,000 a day. A devout Christian, Anthony was reluctant to sell alcohol in his restaurant, but in order to stay in the black, he agreed to start selling liquor at the tables, as long as there was no bar. He sold the Floridian in Bradenton for $35,000 in order to shore up the failing restaurant in Miami. But in one month, all the money was gone.

On December 28, 1944, only five months after starting the Terrace Restaurant, Anthony received a call from a realtor who had a client willing to buy the business – Lou Walters, father of television news personality, Barbara Walters. The deal was made, and Anthony Rossi was free to start again.

Anthony began his career in the orange business picking out Florida citrus from Miami supermarkets, packaging them, and shipping the gift boxes to retailers like Macy’s and Gimbel’s department stores in New York. He worked hard to pick the best quality fruit and sell it at the lowest possible price, and soon his business was thriving. Florence’s niece, Dorothy Brown, and her husband Bob joined the gift box business, and the orders continued to pour in. They named the company Fruit Industries, Inc.

But Anthony wasn’t satisfied. He realized if he returned to Bradenton, he could buy the fruit cheaper straight off the trees and make a higher profit on each gift box. So, Anthony and Florence returned to Bradenton while Dorothy and Bob stayed in Miami. They purchased a warehouse, and soon, two rail cars of fruit boxes were shipping out of Bradenton each day.

But, the dilemma… what to do with the smaller oranges that weren’t big enough or perfect enough for the gift boxes? The answer? Orange juice.

Word had it that the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City was employing 40 women a day to cut up the Florida citrus fruit for appetizers and salads, and squeeze the remainder into fresh orange juice. Anthony knew he would have a market for his jars of sliced citrus and fresh fruit juice if he could just figure out a way to ship it up to the great New York hotels without spoiling.

They began acquiring trucks and blew chipped ice into the trailers to keep the juice and fruit sections chilled on the one-and-a-half-day trip to New York. The trucks had to make regular stops to add more ice along the way, but it worked, and business boomed.

By 1950, Fruit Industries, Inc. had changed its name to Tropicana and had a standing order of 1,000 gallons of fruit juice per week, just for the Waldorf-Astoria alone. Even with the new refrigerated trucks, they couldn’t ship the juice fast enough. Anthony had to think of a way to get more juice to New York faster.

On April 12, 1951, Anthony’s beloved wife, Florence, died of a heart attack. Left alone, he threw himself into his work. He wracked his brain over the company’s transportation dilemma and finally decided that the only way to get the juice up to New England faster was to buy a ship. And so, he did.

After much nay-saying from his critics, Anthony Rossi watched the S. S. Tropicana pull into New York harbor on February 19, 1957. The ship left Tropicana’s new five million dollar packing plant at Port Canaveral, Florida, loaded with two million gallons of orange juice, chilled in six custom-welded, refrigerated, stainless steel tanks. They called it “The Golden Stream” as the juice left Florida, bound for New York City.

When cold weather ruined Tropicana’s orange crop in 1964, Anthony Rossi had to get creative once again. He refused to buy orange concentrate even though it was readily available from Brazil, and instead focused on how to supply his Florida plants with fresh oranges from Mexico. He began shipping oranges on giant freighters, but on the third cargo load, a state inspector noticed evidence of the Mexican fruit fly and shut down the operation. It was then Anthony proposed the world’s first floating orange juice factory.

The Mexican Pride was a fifty-foot-wide hulking barge that loaded fresh oranges by conveyor belt from wherever they could be found, then processed them and chilled up to 225,000 gallons of juice, all on board the floating factory. From there, juice was pumped from the mother ship to another barge that would take the juice up to Tropicana’s bottling plant where it was distributed to the hungry juice markets.

Better plans and production methods were always in the works, and soon the S. S. Tropicana and the Mexican Pride were replaced with more efficient methods of processing and transportation, namely refrigerated boxcars. This concept evolved into Tropicana’s famed “Great White Juice Train,” consisting of 150 insulated boxcars.

In 1969, Tropicana Products, Inc went public, and in 1978, Anthony Rossi sold Tropicana to Beatrice Foods. The company was later acquired by PepsiCo in 1998.

So, back to my original question, in what year did Hermann Kohl become an investor in Tropicana? And, did he know Anthony Rossi? The answer is, I don’t know. According to the Benedicts, Tropicana was a tiny local company prior to Hermann Kohl’s involvement. It grew to national prominence at his direction, and the whole concept of fresh juice distribution, logistical expertise, and the ability to finance it were all his.

That being the case, then why was Hermann Kohl’s name left out of Anthony Rossi’s biography? I don’t know, but I may have a guess…

Next time: More on Dr. Hermann J. Kohl and a theory on how he made his fortune…

Read Chapter 8…

Read More