Posts made in June 29th, 2010

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…

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