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Norda Essential Oil and Chemical Company Photograph Collection

Identifier: 2013-047

Scope and Content

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.


  • Creation: circa 1950s


Access Restrictions

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

Copyright Information

To obtain reproductions and copyright information, contact:

Background Note

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.


39 Photographic Prints (1 box)

Language of Materials



Black and white print photographs of the manufacturing and laboratory facilities at the Norda Essential Oil and Chemical Company in Boonton, New Jersey.

Acquisition Information

Purchased for collection. Kuenzig Books, July 2013.

Digitized Materials

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

Related Materials

See also the Bernard Polak and Polak's Fruital Works, Inc. Collection, 1935-2004, at the Science History Institute.

See also the Leebert Lloyd Lamborn notebooks, 1894-1898, at the Science History Institute.

Condition Description

Material is in good condition.

Processing Information

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.

Norda Essential Oil and Chemical Company Photograph Collection
Finding aid created by Hillary S. Kativa and encoded into EAD by Melanie Grear. Inventory added by Sarah Newhouse in 2023.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 8/28/2023: Digitized Materials note added.

Repository Details

Part of the Science History Institute Archives Repository

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia PA 19106 United States
215.873.5265 (Fax)