Established by Hartwig Kantorowicz, his liquor factory of the same name was located in Posen, Germany. Throughout much of the 1800’s and early 1900’s it was operated by three different generations of the Kantorowicz family. Once the largest and most important liquor factory in Germany, one history of the company summarized their turn of the century operation like this:
Around 1900, the Hartwig Kantorowicz liqueur factory was known world-wide and about as famous as Mercedes Benz or Coca Cola are today. In addition to liqueurs, fruit juices and jams were now also produced and sold on a large scale. It had its own line of cognac and whiskey with at least 50 different products, and German and international wines were also sold in large quantities. The company probably had around 1,000 different products in their portfolio.
The above quote was found on the web site of a liquor company called Alrich. They produce liquors from historical original recipes and their website includes the history of former liquor factories, one of which is Hartwig Kantorowiz. As a preface to the following post, quotes not specifically cited otherwise were found on the English translation of the Alrich website. https://www.alrich.eu
Born in 1806, Hartwig was the son of Joachim Bernard Kantorowicz who was the owner of a brewery and distillery in Posen that dated back to 1782. At a young age, Hartwig went into business for himself.
In a small house at Alter Market No. 10, the then 17 year old Hartwig Kantorowitcz modestly opened a retail distillation shop and initially offered a small selection of popular drinks at the time.
Advertisements published years later generally recognized 1823 as the year Hartwig founded the business.
Over the next quarter century the growth of the business ultimately led him to construct a new distillery in Posen at Wronkerstrasse No. 6
When a few years later, his business had experienced very good growth despite a variety of competition (there were 30 other distillery shops in Poznan around 1825) he moved it to the house at Wronkerstrasse No. 4 north of the town hall. A few years later the business expanded again and in 1843 it was relocated to Wronkerstrasse No. 6…A two-story building was erected in the yard of the property, where, among other things, a large new copper distillation plant could be put into operation…Around 1850 the total value of the company was estimated at around 75,000 thalers (the annual wage of a worker was around 200 thalers).
The following depicts the street front of the building at Wronkerstrasse No. 6 with their sign clearly visible above the entrance.
A biography of Hartwig Kantorowicz’s grandson entitled “Ernst Kantorowicz, A Life” written by Robert E. Lerner and published in 2017, described two of Hartwig’s mid 1800’s concoctions.
A document of 1862 referred to two of Hartwig Kantorowicz’s products: Kummelliqueur” and “Goldwassercreme.” The first, otherwise known as “Allasch,” was made primarily from caraway seeds, the second from an essence based on a mixture of herbs such as anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and peppermint (and always plenty of sugar).
It was also sometime in the 1860’s that Hartwig added the famous “Litthauer Bitters” to his menu.
In 1864, Hartwig hired the assistant Josef Loewenthal, who was trained as a journeyman distiller. He developed, probably on behalf of his employer , the very famous herbal bitter Litthauer Meganbitter, which he later marketed himself in Berlin and Cleveland.
After Hartwig’s death in 1871, management of the business passed on to three of his sons, Max (1843-1904), Edmund (1846-1904), and Joseph (1848-1919).
Under the management of the sons, the Hartwig Kantorowicz liqueur factory was constantly expanded. In the years 1871 and 1882 further buildings were erected, in which there was daily hustle and bustle. Building parts of different ages and sizes stood on the property, which in addition to the production areas, also housed an office wing, huge storage cellars, a carpentry shop and export rooms.
In 1895 the company added a retail shop and tasting room in Posen at Berliner Strasse 5, a view of which is presented below.
As early as 1874 the company had opened a Berlin branch and soon after was operating factories, warehouses and tasting rooms there as well.
By the 1880’s Hartwig Kantorowicz was exporting their liquors all over the world.
The company even delivered in the middle of the African bush. Letters from chiefs with liquor orders arrived, who also asked for other items to be sent, such as mouthwash, chocolate, clothespins, but also firearms – these were all sent at the same time. The goods were then paid for with mahogany blocks, palm kernels or palm oil. Since the Kantorowicz company had no use for it, a branch was opened at the port in Hamburg in order to “exchange” these things there for money.
Its clear that Hartwig Kantorowicz products were also making their way to America well before the turn of the century. According to the Lerner biography:
Sometime in the 1880’s he (Max) traveled to the United States to arrange for the regular exporting to Posen of fruit juices, which made for a more varied range of liqueurs. On the same trip he arranged for the regular purchase of California wines, which were extremely cheap, in order to introduce the sale of wines as a sideline to the Kantorowicz business. So far as is known, Max was the first to introduce California wines to Europe.
It would make sense that at the same time he was arranging for the importing of California’s fruit juice and wine to Posen, he was also arranging for the export of Hartwig Kantorowicz liquors to the United States. A supposition that’s bolstered by the fact that the earliest U.S. newspaper advertisements for Hartwig Kantorowicz that I can find appeared in several 1883 editions of California’s “San Francisco Chronicle.” The following was published in the May 24, 1883 edition.
Throughout the 1890’s, the company apparently increased their focus on the United States. This is supported by their advertisement that appeared in an 1897 German publication entitled the “Directory of German Export Co.’s.” that bragged:
Specialties known in nearly all transatlantic countries.
The ad went on to include a menu of their specialty products that was printed in both German (on the left) and English (on the right).
In the United States, up through 1898 they apparently did business with local sales agents who typically marketed Hartwig Kantorowicz liquors under the generic term, “Cordials.” as evidenced by the following advertisement found in several 1896 editions of the “Buffalo (N.Y.) Commercial.”
Another advertisement, this one in the August 15, 1893 edition of the “Pharmaceutical Era” attached names to some of their cordials; Absinth, Blackberry, Creme de Minthe, Coca Liqueur Curacao, Kuemmel, Maraschino, Etc.
Advertisements for Litthauer Bitters continued to appear as well, with one January 24, 1894 ad in Washington D.C.’s “Evening Star” touting”
These world famous stomach bitters are unequalled for curing indigestion, flatulency, hysteria, colics, agues, colds, “La Grippe,” abdominal disorders, etc.
Around the turn of the century Hartwig Kantorowicz established a presence in New York City where the company was listed in the directories as liquor importers with an address of 32 Water Street. Likely a wholesale branch, the endeavor was short lived with the company only listed from roughly 1900 to 1903. No longer listed in the 1903/1904 directory, they apparently returned to the use of U.S. agents.
When Max and Edmund both passed away in 1904, Joseph Kantorowitcz, along with Max’s son Franz, became co-managers of the firm. Several years later continued growth demanded the construction of a new, modern factory.
Over the years, production continued to increase, so that the premises at Wronkerstrasse 6 gradually became too small.
The architect Martin Sonnabend was commissioned to build a new factory complex. The family bought a large piece of land on Sudstrasse opposite the slaughterhouse and cattle yard. After several years of construction, the company was able to move its headquarters to the more than 1,000 square meter production and administration building in 1908. The entire facility had a full basement and was built in reinforced concrete. It comprised four five-story factory buildings, several production and storage halls, all of which were connected to each other.
A pictorial representation of the complex, which also included housing for the workers is shown below.
Two years later when Joseph retired in 1910, the business was incorporated under the name “Hartwig Kantorowicz Actien-Gesellschaft.” Franz was named as director and a man named Hans Schuchard as managing director.
During World War I the business survived when providing supplies to the army compensated for the loss of foreign trade. After the war Franz, now living in Berlin, sold the business.
On the evening of November 5, 1920 he came from Berlin and sold the company for a total price of 20 million Reichsmarks, including 5 million Reichsmarks for the real estate alone, to the Unternehmerbank Posen. The contract…also included the handing over of the liqueur recipes, that had been closely guarded until then.
After the sale to the Unternehmerbank the company in Posen continued to exist under the name Hartwig Kantorowicz Folger AG from December 9, 1920.
They continued to produce liqueurs, other spirits, fruit juices and jams in Posen throughout much of the 1930’s. In fact, it appears that after Prohibition some of their product continued to make it’s way to the United States. An advertisement for their Vodka and Mountain Ash Brandy can be found in several 1936 editions of a Polish newspaper published in Omaha, Nebraska called “Gwiazda Zackodu.”
Ultimately in 1939 the Posen business was placed under German administration and during World War II their output went exclusively to the army.
After the war it operated as a stock company under the name “Obstdestillierie und Wodkafabrik Hartwig Kantorowicz SA” until September 18, 1951 at which time:
the entire alcohol production and thus also the Kantorowicz company was nationalized and placed under the central administration of the fruit and vegetable industry.
Meanwhile in Germany Franz Kantorowicz and Hans Schuchard continued to operate the former company’s German facilities.
After the sale of the parent company in Posen, the Hartwig Kantorowicz liqueur factory in Berlin remained a stock corporation and was temporarily located at Greifswalder Strasse 224 in 1919. The tasting rooms and the office continued to operate at their old locations.
Originally quite successful, in the early 1920’s they established a new German office and factory and:
In 1921 Kantorowicz had inventories worth 5.3 million Reichsmarks and a net profit of 3.2 million Reichsmarks.
That all changed with an economic crisis that began in 1925 and ultimately ended the Kantorowicz family’s long time association with the business.
It is highly probable that the sales and profits of Hartwig Kantorowicz AG had fallen so much between 1925 and 1927 that the company ran into difficulties and could only be saved by merging with the famous Berlin liqueur factory CAF Kahlbaum, which was also ailing. As part of the merger, the Kantorowicz family sold all their shares in the company…
The bottle I found is mouth blown, olive green in color and contains somewhere between a quart and a fifth. In addition to the company information embossed on the base, a unique trademark is embossed on the bottle’s shoulder. A trademark application included in U.S. patent records (No, 17889) described it as:
The representation of two triangles arranged to form a six-pointed star and a fish produced upon said star.
The U.S. trade mark application was filed on March 3, 1890 but the record indicates it had been in use since October 9, 1880, further suggesting that Hartwig Kantorowicz products began any significant appearance in the United States sometime in the early 1880’s.
The company used a wide variety of bottle styles.
From about 1880, the company also housed its own design department for bottles and labels and a packing station in which about 20 people worked. Large quantities of bottle labels were stored in a special room – there were always new designs so that, like in the fashion industry, the customer could always be addressed in a new way.
New bottle shapes were also constantly being invented, which were manufactured by various glassworks in the province of Posen, Silesia, Bohemia and the Kingdom of Saxony. There were always new bottle designs, such as round, square, triangular, bulbous, tower-like, pyramidal,shapes, but also small spiked helmets.
In the early 1900’s, the company employed at least 60 different bottle shapes all categorized by number. Our subject bottle closely, if not exactly, matches their Facon (Shape) Nr. 12.
Again thanks to Google Translate, the shape was referred to as the “Dutch Liqueurs Kind,” and was used for cherry brandy, curaçao, stoughton, half and half and anisette.
The bottle was produced in 860ml., 430ml., 120ml., and 60ml sizes. Our bottle is certainly 860ml.