Manufacturer Notes: Wittemann Brothers


In 1869, he arrived in New York eager to make his fortune in the new world. From all evidence he seemed to have settled in lower Manhattan at the time a residential area; the address was 15 Laight Street just off Canal St.


How or why he turned to photography as a business is unknown, but in the 1870's he toured the entire East and middle West snapping in detail thousands of pictures as he went along. The Civil War had focused the nation's attention on its own vastness and local color and Adolf successfully exploited this new American desire to see the distant and unusual pictures. In every Victorian parlor, the stereoscope was a standard fixture for entertainment and pleasure and the hunger of the public for newer and better views paid him good dividends. The craving for new views kept young Adolf on the move and he ranged into Minnesota and even Canada occasionally and into the Southwest to snap Indian tribes and frontier towns. The work must have been grueling on many occasions. The cameras were large and heavy and since the celluloid film had not been invented all the pictures had to be made on glass negatives, which were heavy and fragile.


Adolf's patience and energy were beginning to pay off. In 1876 he founded "THE WITTEMANN BROS." along with his brothers Jacob and Rudolf who had followed him to America. The firm had its headquarters at 188-190 Williams Street, New York City. With his accumulated stock of pictures, he now began to turn out post-cards and albums. These sold quickly and easily and were the foundation of his growing fortune.

Quarreling and varying interests now produced a business reorganization. Adolf's two brothers, Jacob and Rudolph, showed little or no interest or talent for photography, having meanwhile become interested in the brewing line. In 1887, therefore, the WITTEMANN BROS. became the company of Rudolph and Jacob, and Adolf withdrew to found his own organization that has survived to the present as the ALBERTYPE COMPANY. For a time, he used the Wittemann Bros. building on Williams St. as his headquarters. In 1893, he published from 67-69 Spring St., and in 1895 from Beekman Place and then he bought a building at 250 Adams St., Brooklyn at which the business remained........................



Now that August was a married man, he needed a greater income. The Wittemann brothers, Jacob and Rudolph, his uncles on his mother's side, had a bottling and brewing business in New York since 1876 and it was only natural that the Roesch boys as they grew up should turn to these uncles for a business start. Jacob Wittemann wrote a letter of introduction to a brewing firm, but it was couched in such unenthusiastic terms that he tore it up in anger. Through his persuasive powers and youthful enthusiasm, he succeeded in selling for the Wittemann Bros., a carbonation unit, at the time a new brewing process, to a wealthy and important brewer in Brooklyn. August's other uncle, Rudolph the main man in the firm was impressed by this and he took him into the business. They made an agreement: for 6 months he was to get $20 a week; if in that 6 month's time, he was to become a successful salesman, he would be advanced to the regular salesman salary. During his probation period, he sold very successfully and brought the Wittemann firm considerable business, but when he asked for a raise as agreed, he was refused. A quarrel resulted and August left the firm in disgust. So 1901 passed.

The auto and the motor truck had not yet displaced the old horse and wagon in the streets of New York. All heavy hauling was done by the horses and these big animals consumed quite a bit of food in consequence. It occurred to the young August that this might be a good line to get into. He approached one the Schmidt family who was in the feed business and do a job selling in New York and New Jersey, and his weekly wages approached $75 a week, a princely sum in 1902. The one drawback was the type of person with whom he had to deal. They were all ignorant, coarse, uneducated men, at home only in stables, and August felt ashamed to associate with these people after his good education. After a few months, he pulled out of the business.


By a coincidence he returned to Wittemann Bros. brewery. Old Aunt Barbara Kreitmer died in the summer of July 1902 and the whole family, of course, assembled at the funeral. Here he met Rudolph and Jacob Wittemann for the first time since the quarrel. Uncle Jacob knew all about the disagreement and tried to reconcile Rudolph and August, but more important, he induced August to work for the Wittemann firm again on very favorable terms. This time he was to get $40 a week plus 12% commission on sales. Uncle Jacob's stomach trouble, which was to plague him for years, was just starting at this time and he left for Europe, leaving the business in young August's and his brother Rudolph's hands.


During 1903, August again threw himself into the brewing and bottling business with vigor and sales boomed. At the end of the year when the accounting was due, Rudolph claimed that Jacob had told him nothing regarding the agreement of August's salary and insisted that he would have to write to Europe for confirmation. Tempers flared once again, but they finally compromised on $35 a week. This arrangement continued until 1907.


In the meantime, August's family was increasing. Lucille arrived on May 6, 1902, and Alfred on June 13, 1903, both while they were still living on Lafayette Avenue. The constant traveling involved in selling the Wittemann products gave August very little chance of enjoying home life. Philomena was left alone frequently and he finally decided to quit selling and start a business of his own. He gave Rudolph a year's notice, intending to quit in September 1907.
In the Spring of 1907, a brewer friend in Birmingham, Alabama asked him to see his wealthy uncle in New Orleans to discuss a business proposition. August agreed and traveled south. This banker, Friedman, was a highly cultivated, well-connected Jew and offered to capitalize August in the brewery business in New Orleans. The franchise would cover the whole south and money would be no object. He invited Philomena down during the Mardi-Gras time to make a favorable impression on her and they discussed the tempting opportunity at length. Philomena then left and returned in July to sample the summer weather. New Orleans in those days was dirty, and still plagued by tropical diseases; open sewers ran through the streets, bugs crawled everywhere, and fever scourged the city every summer. When the two experienced the summer heat and smell of the city, they knew what their answer would have to be.


This was a crisis. He had no job and felt he could not return to Rudolph Wittemann after leaving him. All during his salesmanship career in 1903-1907, he had been successful except in one spot, Philadelphia. The intense localism of the city powerfully prejudiced the businessmen against outsiders, especially the pushy New Yorkers, and they traded therefore amongst themselves. August decided now was a good time to crack this resistance; it could only be done be becoming a 'native.'


They moved to 4138 Leidy Avenue, West Philadelphia in 1908. On the basis of his sales record, August secured the agencies of the big bottling and brewing firms and began business in a $30 office. Slowly the business grew, his circle of acquaintances widened, and he began to prosper. After some years, he was able to dominate the brewery business in eastern Pennsylvania.


With the newly acquired cash he bought a house in the suburb of Jenkintown in the Spring of 1913. Edgar was born in Philadelphia in February 23, 1910, and very much later Philomena, on September 15, 1917. The business went on quietly down to 1920 when the Federal Prohibition Act in 1920 killed brewing completely. This was a major disaster in American business. August refused to do business with bootleggers. An entire industry had been killed by the stroke of a pen; all that was left now was the bottling of soft drinks. August continued his contacts until 1930 with the larger breweries -- some turned to soft drinks and 'near' beer.



Here he was probably sent to school, though no record of this fact remains. His big brother, Adolf, decided to emigrate to the US and arrived in New York sometime between October 1870, and March 1871, bringing him along. He was only thirteen at the time. Adolf founded his own business firm, the WITTEMANN BROTHERS, in 1876 and took Jacob in with him. Adolf's prime interest was photography, but Jacob became interested in mechanical bottling and brewing. Rudolph was just turning twenty, and Jacob took him into the business; located at 188-190 Williams Street, New York. He was still too young to contribute anything original to the firm, and Jacob with his mechanical ability and numerous patents, contributed chiefly to the success of the business in the 1880's and 90's.

During the 1890's the prosperity of the firm, Wittemann Brothers, reached its peak. The brothers, Rudolph and Jacob, made fortunes for themselves in the business. Besides selling highly profitable brewing machinery, they lithographed liquor labels, and processed strand for the hoods on wine bottles. The firm employed a large force of salesmen, who combed the eastern half of the country for business, and dozens of mechanics and installation men. In 1901 and from 1903-1907, their nephew August R. Roesch worked for them and learned the secrets of his life's work.


In 1903 Jacob had begun to lose his health and left the business more and more in the hands of Rudolph, who managed it ably. Rudolph's personality in business was quite different from what it was at home.

At home he was kindly, generous, and to guests even courtly. At the office he was less pleasant. He was often unscrupulous in his business deals, reneged on his word if he found it expedient, quarreled repeatedly with his brother, Jacob, and treated his employees with contempt and sometimes with violence. During arguments, he was known to knock his men down, taking advantage of their dependence on him. Yet, when he wanted to be, he could be charming, persuasive and very winning, and this accounted for his business success.


Rudolph's remarkable physical resemblance to Teddy Roosevelt, a coincidence accentuated by his pince-nez glasses gave him a certain prestige, during the years that Roosevelt was at his peak of political popularity. In addition his lordly majestic manner, confidence and the feel of innate refinement, profoundly impressed other people and made them feel that here was an aristocrat of importance and distinction. In a sense Rudolph provided a front for the firm, while Jacob provided the mechanical knowledge.


From about 1910 onward, the disagreement between Rudolph and Jacob reached such a pitch as to affect the conduct of the company; it seemed to Jacob that he was entitled to a greater share of the earnings of Wittemann Brothers, than what Rudolph was sending to him.


Rudolph seems to have sensed that Jacob's constant traveling about from one place to another to regain his health was keeping him away too much from work and prevented him from making a proper contribution to the firm. Rudolph also pleaded decreased revenues. The quarreling became more and more stormy and at length Jacob pulled out altogether, and determined to live on the income of his stocks in the business.


The income of the firm really did decline during the World War I years and the prohibition amendment killed the brewing business all together. Rudolph had to fall back on bottling soft drinks. He moved the company and his family out of New York and settled in Buffalo.


By this time he was in his sixties. Clärchen married a Dr. Schreiner in Buffalo and they had one son. Helen married a Mr. Lubke in January 1920, and had one son. Lubke had worked in a rubber company, before he married Helen. Rudolph felt the weight of his years by this time and requested August Roesch who had worked for him twenty years before to take over his business. August could not get along with Mr. Lubke, Helen's husband, and refused. The son-in-law then took over complete control of the Wittemann firm from Rudolph.


Rudolph's increasing years did not prevent him from traveling extensively almost every year. He toured Europe in 1927 and South America in 1929 to get foreign business for his Buffalo firm.



Wittmann Bros. v. Forman Bottling Company, Recorded January 27, 1915. Ruling June 8, 1917.

The New York Supplement With Key-Numbered Annotations Volume 165 (New York State Reporter, Vol. 199) (St. Paul, West Publishing Co., 1917)

LACOMBE, Circuit Judge. The suit was begun in 1903 to restrain defendants from selling and offering for sale labels for ginger ale bottles which so closely resembled complainant's well-known labels as to be likely to deceive purchasers of ginger ale. It was contended by defendants that a label similar to complainant's had been used by domestic ginger ale manufacturers before the introduction of defendant's. 
  Testimony was taken and complainant so fully established the priority of its label that defendants abandoned their defense, and consented to the entry of a final decree which enjoined them from designing, manufacturing, selling, or offering for sale "any label or labels so closely resembling the label of complainant as to be likely to deceive purchasers of ginger ale, or any label containing the characteristic and distinguishing features of complainant's label and particularly the labels, a specimen of which is attached to the decree." 
  The label now complained of has some points of difference from the one which defendants were selling when this injunction was issued, although upon inspection and comparison with complainant's it presents so close a resemblance that one unfamiliar with the conditions of the trade and uninformed by proof might very well reach the conclusion that it is "likely to deceive purchasers of ginger ale" and so within the prohibition of the injunction. But it will not be necessary now to decide any questions raised as to similarity or dissimilarity of these labels, for the reason that the defendant who is now before the court has a sufficient defense to this particular motion. Rudolph A. Wittemann is the only defendant who has been served with the order to show cause; Jacob F. Wittemann being at present in Europe. 
  As has been stated, the suit was brought against two partners doing business under a firm name. Since the final decree was entered and injunction issued and served, this partnership was dissolved (July, 1908), and at the same time the corporation of Wittemann Bros, was formed, and all the business assets and liabilities of the partnership were assigned to the corporation. While the partnership continued, Rudolph A. Wittemann was the active manager of the business, but, when the corporation was formed, he was, as he swears, "stripped of all authority and of all participation in the active management of the business." He has had nothing to do with the manufacturing or the selling end of the business, and, until the papers on this motion were served upon him, he did not know that the label now complained of had been made by the company. There are only three stockholders of the company and articles of incorporation require that there shall be three directors. Therefore, he has been, and now is, a director, but out of the 1,000 shares of stock, which have been issued, he holds only 200. He has only attended two meetings of the board of directors since the organization of the company was completed. 
  Under these circumstances, he cannot be held to have violated this injunction merely because the corporation has made and sold labels which may fall within its prohibition. 
  The motion is denied. 

The Federal Reporter Volume 180 (St Paul, West Publishing Co., 1910)

45 Murray Street, NEW YORK, 
For the Wine and Liquor Trade. 
LABELS, large stock and made to order. 
CAPS, fine imported. 
TIN FOIL, ) Ready -cut for Wines and 
GOLD FOIL, Champagnes. 
BOTTLES, imported, Hocks, Clarets, Brandies,
Tokay, Amber-and Golden-Whiskies, etc. 
STRAW COVERS, all sizes and shapes. 
CORKS, imported hand-cut. 
Tissue Paper, Filtering Paper, and Filtering Bag's. 
Russian Isinglass, Sulfur Sheets, Spanish Clay, etc. 
Capping and Corking Machines. 
Wooden Faucets, Rubber Hose, etc., etc. 

Bush & Son & Meissner; Illustrated Descriptive catalogue of American Grape Vines-A Grape Growers' Manual (St. Louis, R. P. Studley & Co., 1883)

No. 1,569.— Bottling, Washing, Corking Machines, etc., etc. (F.). There are several firms in New York City where you will be able to obtain all needed information about the various kinds of bottling, etc. , machines, their capacity, price, etc. The principal ones are Budde & Westermann, 50 Vesey street, and Wittemann Brothers, 192 Fulton street. The same correspondent asks whether there is a publication giving information about handling bottles, washing, filling, labeling, etc., in quantities such as a large establishment would use. In reply we have to say that we know of no book on the the subject.

Castle, FrederickA., American Druggist AN ILLUSTRATED MONTHLY JOURNAL Vol. XIV (New York, WILLIAM WOOD & COMPANY, 1885)


202. Wittemann Bros., New York. Bottler's machinery and supplies. 27-O-35, 421

Handy, Moses P., The Official Directory of the World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago, W. B. Gonkey Company, 1893)


Packing of imported bottles, corks, capsules, straw covers, etc., in cases for 
export not a manufacture, and no drawback can be allowed thereon.


GENTLEMEN: In reply to your letter of the 17th instant, the Department has to inform you that the packing of imported bottles, corks, capsules, straw covers, etc., into cases for export does not constitute a manufacture within the contemplation of section 22 of the act of August 28, 1894, to which you refer, and, consequently, that no drawback of the duties paid on the imported articles can be allowed on their being exported in such packages. 

Respectfully, yours, W. E. CURTIS,
(3024 h.) Acting Secretary. 
Messrs. WITTEMANN BROS., New York, N. Y. 

Carlisle, John G.; Synopsis of the Decisions of the Treasury Departments and Board of U. S. General Appraisers For the Year Ending December 31, 1896 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1897)

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