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Norda Essential Oil and Chemical Company Photograph Collection


Held at: Science History Institute Archives [Contact Us]315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Science History Institute Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

The Norda Essential Oil and Chemical Company was founded in 1924 in Boonton, New Jersey by Hermann J. Kohl (1889-1971), a German chemist and pharmacist. Kohl received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Heidelberg University and emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1910. In keeping with Kohl's chemical training, Norda specialized in aromatic chemicals, essential oils, natural and imitation flavors, and pharmaceutical intermediaries for use in perfume, cosmetic, and food products. In its early years, the company achieved great success as a supplier of essential oils for the soap industry, including scents such as lavender, geranium, Rose Marie, and spike and thyme, and reported a total business of $1,680,000 in 1930. However, Kohl's indictment in February 1930 on liquor conspiracy and federal bootlegging charges cast a pall over Norda and its fellow perfume and fragrance companies, many of which were perceived as fronts for the illegal distribution of grain and denatured alcohol during Prohibition. Eventually, the charges against Kohl were dropped in 1934 following Prohibition's repeal and Norda continued to prosper, making its initial public offering on the stock market in March 1962 and registering several patents for scent-related products, such as a sea shell perfume diffuser. In 1985, Norda was acquired by Unilever, an Anglo/Dutch food and fragrance company jointly based out of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

This collection consists of black and white print photographs of the manufacturing and laboratory facilities at the Norda Essential Oil and Chemical Company in Boonton, New Jersey circa 1950s. The collection is essentially divided into two parts: the first half of the photographs document the plant's equipment and supplies, while the latter half depict the laboratory facilities and steps in the manufacturing process, such as compounding, fractionation, and analytical testing. The equipment pictured includes vacuum stills, autoclaves, centrifuges, and spices used in the production of perfumes and essential oils, as well as specialty apparatus like refractometers and micro-stills. All of the photographs in this collection were removed from spiral albums and re-housed during processing, with the original order and descriptions maintained.

The entirety of this collection has been digitized and is available online in our Digital Collections:

Purchased for collection. Kuenzig Books, July 2013.

Processed by Hillary S. Kativa in 2014. Photographs were removed from albums and re-housed during processing with the original order maintained. Object identification numbers were assigned to individual photographs.

Science History Institute Archives
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid created by Hillary S. Kativa and encoded into EAD by Melanie Grear. Inventory added by Sarah Newhouse in 2023.
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes and the collection is open to the public.

Use Restrictions

To obtain reproductions and copyright information, contact:

Collection Inventory

Norda Plant, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.001
Building #1 and Still Tower, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.002
Warehouses, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.003
Hydroxy Building, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.004
Control Laboratory, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.005
Spice Storage, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.006
Interior of Building # 1, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.007
Vacuum Still, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.008
Vacuum Stills, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.009
Benzaldehyde Plant, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.010
Spice Stills, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.011
Aldehyde Equipment, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.012
Esterification Plant, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.013
Autoclave, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.014
Column and Stills, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.015
Centrifuge, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.016
Hydroxy Equipment, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.017
Cetyl Alcohol Plant, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.018
Extraction Unit, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.019
Stainless Steel Reactor, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.020
Analytical Laboratory, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.021
Polariscope, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.022
Oil Sample - Gravity Check, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.023
Refractometer, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.024
Oil Sample - Analytical Testing, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.025
Master Perfumer, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.026
Master Perfumer, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.027
Perfumers at Work, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.028
Perfume Research Team, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.029
Aromatic Research Chemist, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.030
Aromatic Research Chemist, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.031
Micro -still, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.032
Fractionation, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.033
Checking Odor Values, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.034
Production Compounding, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.035
Production Compounding, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.036
Production Compounding, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.037
Compounding a Base, 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.038
Soap Perfume Base Department , 1950s.
Box 1 Object 2013.047.039

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