H. E. KUGELMANN by Wayne Harris
Hermann Emil Kugelmann was born at Coromandel Valley, South Australia, on 8 August 1858. His parents (Carl and Louise) had migrated, along with 215 other passengers, to Australia from Prussia, arriving at Port Adelaide on the barque Victoria, in November 1848. The Kugelmann family has a delightful theory that the couple eloped from Prussia. They were both single at the time and are listed next to each other on the ship's passenger list. Hermann's father was Carl Friedrich Hermann Kugelmann. He was about 26 years of age and described as a carpenter on the ship's passenger list. Carl's father (another Hermann Kugelmann) was a Major in the Prussian Army. Carl's wife-to-be was Louise Wilhelmina Hesse. She was about 20 years of age, unaccompanied by family and described as an Agri-maiden, on the Victoria's passenger list. The couple married in Adelaide on 10 February 1849, only three months after their arrival in Australia.
Ludwig Kugelmann, a brother of Carl's, arrived in Adelaide on 22 October 1853, on board the ship "Courier". Ludwig was one of the first miners at Charters Towers, Queensland. He returned from Queensland and bought land at Canterbury, a Melbourne suburb. In 1884 Ludwig built a general store on the corner of Canterbury Road and Wentworth Avenue, Canterbury. At the time, it was the only shop on Canterbury Road between Hawthorn and Blackburn. He sold everything from red-tin flasks of gunpowder to bottles of South Australian wine. He eventually owned a complete street block of shops and houses around his shop. The anti-German sentiment of the First World War, combined with the fact that he had married into a very "English" family, convinced Ludwig to change his name - which he did by deed poll - to Live Winsome-Power. Ludwig's shop was demolished in the early 1970s.
Carl continued in his trade as carpenter for a time, but he appears to have become active as a herbalist from at least 1866, as that is the commencement date given in later promotion of the Kugelmann products. Carl's will, sworn at Dunedin, New Zealand on 29 July 1880, describes himself as a herbalist. He was apparently involved in both spheres of work during his lifetime as, at the time of his death, at Bethanga (his place of residence being given as Lower Bethanga), Victoria, on 19 June 1891, aged 63 years, he was described as a cabinetmaker. It was stated on his Death Certificate that he lived 18 years (ie. till about 1866, if consecutive years) in South Australia, and 16 years in Victoria. This leaves three years unaccounted for, at least some of which were apparently spent living in New Zealand. His Death Certificate also indicates that Carl had married again, at 52 years of age, to Elizabeth Grace - a widow - at Carlton, Victoria.
Although Carl had a large family (at least eight children - Ernst - deceased, Carl Ludwig, Friedrich Walter, Hermann Emil, Ottie (?) Chrishold, Ernest Arthur, Fanny - deceased, and Albert Samuel), he named Hermann Emil (whom he referred to in his 1880 will as Emil - "grocer, importer, &c, &c.") as his Executor and sole beneficiary. The naming of Hermann as sole beneficiary probably indicates that Louise had died (most likely in New Zealand) and Carl had not yet married Elizabeth Grace. Carl's children were probably, but not necessarily, all from his union with Louise.
A Brisbane newspaper advertisement dated 29 November 1901 states that Hermann Emil Kugelmann, then aged 43 years, "...has practised over thirty years...". If that is correct, he must have assisted his father with the herbalist business from about 1870 or 1871 when he would have only been 12 or 13 years of age! Hermann's home address in 1880, was given as 191 Lygon Street, Carlton, Victoria.
Hermann, already practicing as a herbalist, moved from Adelaide to Melbourne in about 1883. He married Agnes Burchill at Hawthorn, Victoria, on 4 October 1884. They had six children, two of whom died in infancy. The surviving children were Vernon, Kasmir, Waldemar, and Evelyn.
Hermann expanded his business to Sydney and by 1892 Brisbane, periodically visiting both cities. In Queensland at least, and possibly in New South Wales, he also visited surrounding provincial towns. Some of his bottles and labels also proclaim that a New York branch was in operation - but details about its existence are, to date, unknown. It was well advertised by Hermann, but may have merely been an agency.
A family member has indicated that Hermann was a brilliant herbalist, but he habitually over-extended his finances. His plans for expansion were often ahead of his ability to pay, necessitating re-financing of mortgages, etc. This resulted in his bankruptcy, on 8 June 1892. At the time, he was trading as H.E.Kugelmann & Co., manufacturing herbalist, William Street, Melbourne. Hermann was only one of many whose fortunes were dissipated when the land boom collapsed, resulting in the severe depression of the early 1890s. Hermann's financial ineptitude resulted in a family split and it makes the reading of the following advertisement beg the question - was expansion, or inability to pay, the reason for his move to new premises in Brisbane, in 1901? On the face of it, a burgeoning business, in expansion mode, would be assumed to be the reason.
His 1901 Brisbane newspaper advertisement, titled "DON'T DIE!" states that "Mr. H.E.Kugelmann, of 15 Bridge Street, Sydney, and 14-16 Queen Street, Melbourne, and who has visited Brisbane regularly for nine years, wishes to intimate that owing to his Practice increasing so largely, and to insufficient accommodation at Gresham Hotel, his Brisbane consultations will next week, and in future, be conducted at The Commonwealth Buildings, Adelaide Street, corner Albert Street, Brisbane. Consultations free on all Chronic and supposed to be Incurable Diseases next week .... and about every sixteenth week thereafter. Also at the following Provincial Towns on dates named, and thereafter at regular intervals, as usual, of about sixteen weeks...". The towns and the venues were given as - Warwick (Poulsen's Refreshment Rooms); Ipswich (Palais Royal Hotel); Maryborough (Royal Hotel); Bundaberg (Mr. Colman's Grand Hotel); Childers (Mr. Kulick's Grand Hotel); Gympie (Mining Exchange Hotel); Toowoomba (Imperial Hotel - late Long's).
Hermann's advertisement claimed that he "... has cured thousands of sufferers from every disease known to science, after all doctors tried had failed, and can tell his patients what is the cause of their disease without being informed by them. .... If preferred, a legal agreement is entered into for a stated sum for each case." A testimonial sworn in Brisbane on 6 November 1901, by Mrs. E.Shanahan, states how she was cured by Mr. Kugelmann of chronic asthma after doctors had failed.
Hermann bought "Gooramadda", a property which had belonged to Dame Nellie Melba, on the Murray River. He built large sheds on the property, in which to store herbs.
Hermann retained strict control of the herbalist business until, at 74 years of age, he died on 22 August, 1932, at "Vimy House" Private Hospital, Queens Road, South Melbourne. His occupation was given on his Death Certificate as that of a merchant. The cause of his death was stated to be "Carcinoma of Pancreas." After his death, his wife, Agnes, lived at Scott's Hotel, Melbourne, for a time, then with one of their three sons, Kasmir. Kasmir (or Kas, as he was known to friends and relatives) was in the Real Estate trade and appeared to play no part in the running of the herbalist business, at least in the latter part of his life.
It appears that Electric Essence Pty. Ltd. had been operating with Leo Norman Neal (merchant) and Mary Zacharin (secretary), as proprietors, following H.E.Kugelman's death. On 3 November 1932, William Stubbs (storeman), replaced Mary Zacharin and on 10 November 1932 the company's title was changed to reflect that it was in liquidation.
On 15 December 1932, Hermann's sons, Waldemar and Vernon Kugelmann, registered Electric Essence Pty. Ltd. as a Victorian company. For a time it acted as proprietor of the Kugelmann products and operated from premises at 114 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne. It was formed "to acquire and take over as a going concern that portion of the business now carried on by Leo Norman Neal, 512 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, relating to the manufacture, export and sale of Electric Essence (which business was formerly carried on by the late H.E.Kugelman)..." Thomas Archibald Harris Ready (chemist) and Sheila Collins (clerk) were associated with the company from 3 December 1934. Waldemar Kugelman replaced both Ready and Collins on 15 June 1937.
On 10 December 1934 H.E.Kugelman & Co. Pty. Ltd. was registered as a Victorian company by Hermann's sons, Waldemar and Vernon, for the purpose ..."of wholesale or retail Botanic and general merchant, Manufacturer, Indentor, Importer, Exporter or supplier of or dealer in or agent for the purchase or sale of herbs, drugs, chemicals, medicines patent or proprietary, metals, mineral substances ... and any herbal remedies, veterinary medicines ...." Although only Waldemar and Vernon were described as Managing Directors (Vernon being titled First Managing Director), 200 preference shares were allocated to William James Woodmason, gentleman, and he was made a Director of the company from inception. William died on 5 July 1940. Perhaps he injected capital into the business, but his true value to the company is unknown at present.
The names Hermann and Kugelmann have variously been spelled with a double "n"' and a single "n" over time, but originally both appeared with a double "n". The single "n" spelling is generally the more recent. It is interesting to note that at the time of Waldemar and Vernon taking over the business, Waldemar spelled Kugelman with one "n", but Vernon retained the original spelling and used two "n"s in the spelling of his name.
Both Waldemar and Vernon described themselves as wholesale druggists.
Vernon resigned from the companies on 2 May 1945 and Waldemar's wife, Nancy (nee Turner), Commercial Artist, took his place.
The registered addresses of the companies changed to 114 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne on 20 November 1937, to 33 Chatham Street, Prahran on 1 November 1953, to second floor, 72 Auburn Parade, Hawthorn on 10 May 1966, to 67 Sydney Road, Coburg on 20 December 1977, and to 34 Newman Street, West Brunswick on 24 November 1980.
In the early 1970s, Peter van Wunnik, a chiropractor and herbalist, became acquainted with Waldemar who had been buying small quantities of herbs from him. Waldemar's wife had been injured in a fall and he tried to sell the business to Peter. Peter was interested in buying the company but Waldemar wanted to keep the Electric Essence and Herbal Soap parts of the business. He also wanted a lot of money for the business, so nothing came of it, at the time.
On 29 August 1975 Waldemar and Nancy, who were then living at 63 Wentworth Avenue, Canterbury - possibly in some of Ludwig Kugelmann's former property - sold the companies to Nathaniel and Helen Spencer of 34 Milverton Street, Burwood. They were both described as Manufacturers. The companies then traded from the Spencers' home address. Nathaniel and Helen had a son studying herbalism or naturopathy, but the companies deteriorated. Nathaniel Spencer was obtaining herbs from Peter van Wunnik because the larger suppliers lost interest in supplying to a diminishing market. Peter eventually met with him and arranged to buy the business, taking over a run-down stock of very old herbs, labels, etc. This occurred on 20 December 1977 when ownership passed to Peter and Kathleen, and Tom Van Wunnik and the companies' address changed to 67 Sydney Road, Coburg. The Van Wunniks proceeded to build the business up again and on 24 November 1980 it moved to the present premises at 34 Newman Street, West Brunswick.
The van Wunnik family continues to market cough mixture and stomach mixture, under the title H.E.Kugelman & Co. Pty. Ltd., via Summit Health Products (herbs, tinctures) & Windmill Herb Farm & Laboratories Pty. Ltd (former name Electric Essence Pty. Ltd.)., all located at 34 Newman St., Brunswick West. Peter's children - Grant & Chantelle, now operate the Brunswick business. Peter believes that the Kugelman company, commenced in 1866, is the oldest surviving herbalist company in Australia.
Peter kindly sent me some original and some photo-copied labels (see samples below) from the various old Kugelman companies. Some of the early labels bore a price of up to two guineas (= $4.20) for one bottle of mixture. This would have been a very large sum of money at the time. However, most of the Kugelmann medicines were designed to be taken in small quantities, which made the treatments last, in some instances, for up to 110 days per bottle!
(insert "The Healquik Essence" label)
Some of the labels, like that for The Healquik Essence depicted, also bore a message on their edges asking the customer to clean and return the bottle when empty. If customers complied, this, of course, would reduce the number of bottles required.
Another product was called "magnetic Hairvitah." It had a colourful label. The printed price was 5/- (= 50 cents) per bottle, later changed to 7/6 (= seventy five cents) on the example depicted. In 1985 a 100ml bottle of "Hairvitah" had a recommended retail price of $5.95. A range of herbal pet care products was also included in the Kugelmann range in latter times.
(insert the "Hairvitah" label)
A number of bottles, mostly rectangular in shape, were used by H.E.Kugelmann. No embossed examples are known from the period following Hermann's death (ie when the companies bore the title "Pty. Ltd."
Grateful thanks is extended to Mr. Don Kugelmann (grandson of Ludwig), Mrs. Lorna Kugelman (widow of Kasmir), Peter Van Wunnik (a present owner of the Kugelman companies), and Mrs. Helen Zappala (grand-daughter of Kasmir), without whose assistance this article would not have been possible.