F.J. Kaldenberg Company

F. J. Kaldenberg Company, by Racine & Laramie Tobacconist, May, 2018

1868 Catalog Cover, courtesy S. Paul Jung Jr.

Frederik William Kaldenberg, F. W. Kaldenberg, a German by birth came to the United States as a child.[1] He was a mechanician, an all around artisan and general workman of the kind that we do not meet with today. In 1853 he started a business working amber, ivory and mother of pearl. He began making meerschaum pipes in 1855, claiming to be the first in the USA. At that period it was almost impossible to obtain raw meerschaum in this country. He was approached by an Armenian, one Bedrossian, who had brought two cases of raw meerschaum into this country from Asia Minor. It was just as difficult for the Turk to find a purchaser for his material as it was for the artisan to find the material to make the pipes. Consequently the meeting of these two was a happy one that forged the missing link. It was not long before these two cases of meerschaum were turned into pipes of special shape and design, which brought the literati, the artistic, and the mercantile nabobs of the great City of New York, to the workshop of the artisan who had wrought the first meerschaum pipes in the United States.[2]

Kaldenberg’s first exhibition of his meerschaum pipes in 1865 was at the The American Institute of the City of New York for the Encouragement of Science and Invention.[3] Kaldenberg became news worthy when he sent 30 pipes specially designed to the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1867. He competed with more than 90 other manufacturers from London, Munich, Paris, Dresden, Ruhla, and Vienna. For his Macbeth and the three witches pipe Kaldenberg was awarded the bronze medal (gold being reserved for inventions) for “best meerschaum goods” becoming the first American pipe company to be honored by a foreign country. The Officials of the Exposition before granting the medal required Kalenberg to sign affidavits that the pipes were made entirely in the United States.[4] A Paris gentleman offered to purchase the Macbeth pipe for 10,000 francs, and the offer was rejected.[5]

In 1867 his son Frederick Julius Kaldenberg was brought into the business which then advertised in the newspapers as “Kaldenberg & Son”. At this time the firm was manufacturing pipes and smoking accessories as well as ivory, mother of pearl, and amber goods that were sold wholesale and in their own shops.

Facsimile of Kaldenberg 16" meerschaum pipe that won a medal at the 1867 Paris Exposition Universelle. Courtesy Ben Rapaport, 1999
187 Paris Exposition Medal

For the 1867 Exposition it was recorded that the United States entered “ . . . thanks to the ingenuity and talent of Mr. Kaldenberg, some admirable carved meerschaums, which in material and workmanship cannot be surpassed by any of European manufacture. Several of these have been on exhibit for the past week (at their shop) in John Street. The largest is eight inches long, with an amber mouthpiece of the same length. Out of a solid block of meerschaum is cut, with wonderful delicacy and force, the whole scene, figures and all, of the meeting of Macbeth and Banquo and the three witches. . . . A cigar holder bearing the imperial arms, and intended as a gift to Napoleon III. is a marvel of skill and beauty. These specimens are additionally interesting as being among the first ever made in this country.[6] Kaldenberg reported that they imported the largest piece of amber ever seen in this country, and carved it into an entire pipe of a No. 5 London bend size which was then on display at the Paris Exposition.[7]

Also in 1867 the business was advertising three shops in New York City: 23 Wall St. and 717 Broadway] -Douvelle’s Cigar Store. Then in 1869 Frederick J. Kaldenberg took over the business. F. J. had a knack for getting his name in the papers. That year Kaldenberg & Son’s stores were selling tickets for the Arion Vocal Society as reported in the New York Times. At that time they began advertising the stores as “F. J. Kaldenberg”. In 1878 they advertised three stores at 125 Fulton St., 6 Astor House-Broadway, and 71 Nassau St. In 1883 Kaldenberg advertised two shops, 125 Fulton St. and 6 Astor House. It appears that the wholesale business was thriving, and F. J. opened branch retail stores in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis. The firm incorporated with F. J. Kaldenberg as President in May 1887. Directors at various times included G.M. Hard, president of the Chatham Bank, Eberhard Faber, the pencil manufacturer, Henry C. Euler, J.M. Segfus of Tarrytown, Frederick R. Kaldenberg and Guido F. Kaldenberg. The capital stock was $500,000 of which F. J. Kaldenberg held $350,000. E. Faber held 600 shares, J Sigafus 300, E. F. Kaldenberg 500, John Sanson 500, and several others 100 shares or less.[8]

Stealing was no small crime in 1868. In the Court of General Sessions (New York City) Thomas White and Charles Wilson pleaded guilty to stealing two meerschaum pipes worth $85 from Frederick W. Kaldenberg. For this they were each sent to State Prison for two years and six months.[9]

1876 Centennial Exposition Metal

The United States conducted its 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. A quantity of meerschaum pipes, amber goods and pipe trimmings were represented from Austria, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and the United States. Kaldenberg showed about 1500 meerschaum pipes and his Centennial show piece, Columbia. The Columbia pipe was 28 inches tall with four hookah mouthpieces, and a central pedestal upon which were four free standing meerschaum figures representing agriculture, commerce, manufacture, and navigation. On a ledge above the figures were four cherubs representing music, painting, literature, and sculpture. At the very top was a figure of Columbia representing power, justice and liberty. The international jury awarded F. J. Kaldenberg the only award for American made meerschaum goods.[10]

Kaldenberg also showed two $500 pipes at the Centennial Exposition. One was fashioned as the head of Mephistopheles and the other representing the head of Bacchante. The massive stems were twins, each being of amber forty inches long and composed of three hundred pieces. All the ornamentation of the amber was done by use of file and lathe. Many bits of clear amber were inlaid into a ground of the clouded amber producing the appearance of jewels. Another remarkable piece exhibited by this maker at Philadelphia was an amber cigar holder sixteen and a half inches long which Kaldenberg claimed to be the longest in the world. The price named for this holder was $250.


By 1878 Kaldenberg had the three stores in New York City and perhaps the largest most extensive meerschaum and amber factory in the country.[11] This implies that they were wholesaling to many other tobacconists. About seventy-five persons were employed in New York, but a part were engaged in ivory-turning and manufacture of amber jewelry. At least forty persons were employed solely in connection with the manufacture and sale of meerschaum goods. The workmen were chiefly Germans which had learned their trade in Europe and then undergone a long training with Kaldenberg before they were trusted with the finest work. An indication of the volume of manufacturing is the statistic that his factory was making six gross of meerschaum cigarette holders per day.[12]


In an 1877 newspaper article F. J. described the procedure for making a meerschaum pipe. The meerschaum block was purchased packed tightly into cases three feet long, twenty inched wide, and one foot deep. Depending on the quality the price of a case varied from $75 to $500. The blocks of meerschaum were first cut by band-saw into pieces of the size required. A piece was then dampened with water to soften it and carved by hand into the required form. The piece was then baked in an oven until dry and then smoothed with sandpaper and shave grass obtained from Connecticut. The process of cutting and shaping meerschaum is similar to turning and carving wood or ivory. The meerschaum article is then boiled in a preparation of wax to facilitate its coloring. The finishing touches of carving are then performed, the stem is fitted, and the case is made of wood with leather covering. Lastly the final polish is performed with a soft cloth and silicate of lime (diatomaceous earth).

The 1877 price of plain meerschaum pipes according to quality and size ranged from $1 to $15, a really fine one being obtainable for $10. The cost of carved pipes varied from $10 to $100. Kaldenberg had made pipes for sale at $250 and this price is greatly exceeded by those made for exhibition. Mounting with gold, silver, etc., or inscribing with monograms was only done to order. In the ordinary course of trade carved pipes were sold in about the proportion of one to every twenty plain pipes. Plain pipes there of only six standard shapes in may varieties in size.[13]

From what Ben Rapaport had ascertained, only two New York tobacco pipe companies exhibited in the 1893 Chicago’s Columbian Exposition, they were the F.J. Kaldenberg Company, and the Demuth Company.[14]

The first report of problems with this expanding organization was In 1889. Charles Thoelen the trusted foreman in the meerschaum pipe manufactory was arrested for stealing over $6000 worth of goods from the firm. Then in 1893 they encountered serious financial problems.

Circa 1870 Cased Meerschaum, courtesy Racine & Laramie Tobacconist

The New York Times April 8 1893


Ad, courtesy Doug Valitchka

Fredrick J. Kaldenberg, one of the leading men in the meerschaum-pipe trade, made an assignment yesterday, without preference, to Henry C. Euler.
Mr. Kaldenberg has three stores, situated at Beekman and Nassau Streets, at Fulton and Cliff Streets, and at 6 Astor House. He resides at Tarrytown. He assigned as a dealer in meerschaum pipes, ivory goods, &c.

He is also the President and principal owner of the F.J. Kaldenberg Company of 211 to 229 East Thirty-third Street, which manufactured the goods he sold.
The business was started by Mr. Kaldenberg’s father in 1858, and the assignor succeeded to it in 1869, in May, 1887, he incorporated the F. J. Kaldenberg Company with a capital stock of $500,000. organized under New-York laws, and induced several well-known men to become interested in it. Among them were G.M. Hard, President of the Chatham Bank; E. Faber, the pencil manufacturer, and Henry C. Euler and J. M. Segfris of Tarrytown. Mr. Faber was Treasurer of the company for several years, but at his office it was said yesterday that he resigned over a year ago.
The Kaldenberg Company manufactured meerschaum pipes, rubber and pearl goods, car springs, &c. and has branch stores in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and St. Louis. The annual report of the company filed in January last showed assets $750,000 and liabilities $285,000.
Deputy Sheriff Finn has taken possession of the factory of the company on East Thirty-third Street under an execution for $918 in favor of C. O. Waite, and under to attachment for $2,165 in favor of the Clinton Bank. The attachments were obtained in the City Court on the ground that the principal place of business of the company is in Westchester County. The Cattaraugus Cutlery Company obtained a judgment against the company about two weeks ago for $2,814 on a disputed account.
The F. J. Kaldenberg Company in December last valued its machinery and fixtures at $210,000 and merchandise on hand at $230,000. It does not own the factory property which it occupies at 211 to 229 East Thirty-third Street. This belonged to Mr. F. J. Kaldenberg individually. He bought the property in December, 1883, it having previously been occupied by the New-England Car Spring Company. He recently valued it at $340,000, and it is encumbered by a mortgage of $115,000. The factory is seven stories high and covers a plot 175 by 100 feet.
Mr. Kaldenberg owned the greater part of the stock of the F. J.. Kaldenberg Company, and virtually ran the business, having great faith in its success. It is said that he put a large amount of money in it, endorsed its notes heavily, and in many cases personally guaranteed its purchases. Things went along regularly until the recent stringency in the money market, since which time he has found it very difficult to float paper for the business. Notes were falling due which he had either made or endorsed for the company, and, finding that he was unable to meet them, he made an assignment.
Mr. Kaldenberg was looked upon in the trade as a man of wealth and large resources. In December last he made a statement to Bradstreet’s showing assets of about $1,000,000, liabilities $339,000, and surplus $661,000. Included in the assets were bills receivable and accounts for $220,000, real estate, 211 to 229 East Thirty-third Street], $340,000; stock in the F. J. Kaldenberg Company, $345,000; merchandise, $81,000; cash $14,000.
The liabilities included mortgage on real estate, $115,000; contingent on endorsements, $218,000. Friends of Mr. Kaldenberg said yesterday that they thought his embarrassment would be only temporary. He had gone to deep into the business of the company, having put his whole fortune into it. He was regarded as a man of honest record and a hard worker, of good mechanical ability and correct habits.

The next day The New York Times published another article about F. J. Kaldenberg company that explained the causes of its financial embarrassment: The trouble of the company is attributed to several causes — the stringency in the money market, slow collections, poor sales, and the failure of a European house owing the company a large sum. The company has notes under discount. It is said, amounting to $250,000 of which $50,000 matures during the present month. Holders of notes which had already matured demanded their money and refused to extend the notes, and on account of the financial stringency the company was unable to obtain further accommodations. The liabilities of the company, outside of the amount due to Mr. Kaldenberg, are placed at $275,000. of which $250,000 are on notes indorsed by Mr. F. J. Kaldenberg. The later has advanced over $100,000 of his private means to the company, and has also allowed it the use of the factory premises which he owns, and there is a large amount due him, it is said for rent. The assets consist largely of property that cannot be easily realized upon, being a valuable stock of merchandise, raw and in process of manufacture, machinery, plant. &c. The quick assets have been exhausted in providing means for settlement of the most pressing demands, in the hope that the company could be saved. The annual report of its condition in January last claimed assets of $750,000. Friends of Mr. Kaldenberg think that if the assets are carefully handled there will be more than enough to pay all the creditors in full. Of the notes out, $25,000. it is said, was discounted through the branch in Chicago.

The assignee, Henry C. Euler then sold at auction on May 9, 1893 Frederick J. Kaldenberg’s factory building known as 211 to 229 East Thirty-third Street in New York City for the benefit of creditors, probably the mortgage holder because the other trade liabilities do not appear to have decreased. After the sale Kaldenberg continued his manufacturing operation but as a tenant not the owner of the building.

On July 21, 1896 a new corporation was formed, The Kaldenberg Pipe Company, to manufacture smokers articles, capital $50,000. The directors were George W. Augustin of Jersey City, F. J. Kaldenberg of Tarreytown, and Guido F. Kaldenberg of New York City. Now F. J. was managing two corperations, three retail stores in New York City, perhaps the largest smoker’s requisites factory in the U.S., and four branch stores around the country.

On Christmas Day 1896 a casualty loss, a fire occurred from which Kaldenberg Pipe Co never recovered. The floor on which the fire started was occupied by Adolph Tinner as a snuff manufactory, the remainder of the building being used by B. F. Kaldenberg [sic] as a meerschaum pipe factory. The factory building was almost entirely destroyed by fire.[15]

Another problem of the Kaldenberg Pipe Company came to a head in the weeks after fire destroyed its factory:

A Factory Run with Alleged Stolen Stock—Head Salesman Arrested.
The F. J. Kaldenberg Company, manufacturers of pipes and smokers articles, which was burned out in the East Thirty-third Street fire some weeks ago, has caused the arrest of Henry W. Probst, its head salesman, charged with larceny. Warrants are said to be out for several other of its employes [sic], who have disappered [sic]. It is said that the Kaldenberg Company has been robbed in a systematic manner for nearly a year.
Before the fire, Mr. Kaldenberg constantly missed stock and articles from the factory. It appears that the thieves were at first content with stealing manufactured goods, but finally began to take raw material and even machinery. When 4,000 feet of belting was taken Dec. 1, 1896, Mr. Kaldenberg complained to the police.
Detectives worked on the case up to the time of the fire without result. Afterward they followed Probst to 172-184 Worth Street, where a well equipped factory was found. The lease was made out to Probst and Max Reinlein, who had left the Kaldenberg Company in December. Mr. Kaldenberg, at the Worth Street factory, identified nearly $6,000 worth of stock and machinery stolen from his factory.[16]
Reinlein went to Europe, and Probst tried to settle the case. When arrested, he is alleged to have made a full confession. He is now in the Tombs.
An April 13, 1897 article in The New York Times reported more information on this theft. The Kaldenberg firm was manufacturing pipes, pearl pistol handles and pen holders. At Probst’s trial Kaldenberg said that several thousand dollars worth of pistol handles, pearl shells, and pearl penholders had been stolen. When Probst and Reinlein were found at 74 Worth Street they were doing a prosperous business under the name of the “American Pearl and Ivory Company”. Kaldenberg identified his goods in court.

On Aug 24 1897 there was notice of an auction of property, 155 feet by 99.5 feet, of Frederick J. Kaldenberg and Mary Sophia Kaldenberg on the northerly side of Thirty-third Street. This appears to have been real-estate not lost in the 1893 Trustee’s auction.[17]

F. J. Kaldenberg was also an inventor. On March 21, 1897 he was granted a patent for a diamond shank for tobacco pipes.[18][19] He assigned the patent to his wife Mary Sophia Kaldenberg of Tarrytown. His business address became 438 Broome Street, Manhattan. F. J.was working elsewhere on something new because in an article in the Jan 23, 1899 edition of The Times—Democrat of New Orleans F. J. Kaldenberg’s residence was reported as Globe, Arizona.

On July 15, 1900 Frederick J. Kaldenberg of Tarrytown, formerly of the firm of F. J. Kaldenberg & Co., which was dissolved, was seeking bankruptcy. Kaldenberg with no assets and liabilities of $265,590.80 made a general assignment on April 7, 1893 for the benefit of his creditors. There was a October 31, 1900 hearing on granting Frederick J. Kaldenberg’s petition for bankruptcy[20], and his petition was granted November 1, 1900.[21]

The Kaldenberg Pipe Company’s problems not not yet over. Some of F. J. Kaldenberg Company’s creditors, whose claim had been terminated by the bankruptcy did not give up trying to collect on them. Because Eberhart Faber had personal money they went after him on the theory that 1) a year ago he had been a Director. He had resigned a year before the bankrupcy. and 2) F. J. Kaldenberg Company had technically not complied with the annual filing requirements. The Judge agreed that the Annual Statements were defective, but ruled against the plaintiffs because he ruled the entries in Kaldenberg’s books were not sufficient to establish the debt against a stranger to the corporation.[22]

In March 1906 F. J. advertised to sell his 20 room, 2 1/2 acre home in Tarrytown. It appears that he was unsuccessful because he later died there.

And so the F. J. Kaldenberg Company was no more. F. J. Kaldenberg became active in Globe Arizona as President of the Old Oak (copper)Mining Company. He died at his home in Tarrytown on February 21, 1912 in his 66th year. Mr. Kaldenberg was a member of the American Institute of Sciences, had been issued 5 U.S. Patents, and was survived by six children.


  1. Rapaport, Benjamin, A complete guide to collecting Antique Pipes, 1979, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Exton PA, p.83
  2. Fritz Morris, “The Making of Meerschaums,” Technical World, April 1908, 194-195.
  3. Collecting Antique Meerschaum Pipes, Rapaport Ben, Schiffer Publishing, 1999, p.43.
  4. Cope’s Tobacco Plant, No.63, Vol.1, June 1875, 755.
  5. Rapaport, Supra, p. 43. 5
  6. The New York Herald, January 31, 1867.
  7. The Evening Telegraph, Nov. 06, 1867, p. 7.
  8. Democrat and Chronicle, April 08 1893.
  9. New York Daily Herald, Feb. 13, 1868, p. 4
  10. Cope’s Tobacco Plant, No. 63, Vol. 1, June 1875, p.754.
  11. The William Demuth Company was a competing manufacturer. 11
  12. The Democrat Advocate, February 17, 1877, p.2.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Rapaport, Supra p. 44.
  15. Buffalo Evening News, Dec. 26, 1896.
  16. The New York Times, Jan. 16, 1897.
  17. The New York Tribune, Aug 02, 1897, p. 4.
  18. Grant USD16570S Frederick J. Kaldenberg
  19. https://patents.google.com/patent/USD16570
  20. The New York Times, Oct 19, 1900, p.9.
  21. The New York Tribune, November 1, 1900, p. 7.
  22. New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division — First Departmtnt [1]