Ohio Biographies

Herman Knuwener

Herman Knuwener, head of the prosperous firm of Knuwener & Verhage, owning and managing the Cincinnati soda and mineral water works, is of full German blood on both sides; was born in Hanover, now in Prussia, July 23, 1848; the oldest son of William and Lizzie (Huxal) Knuwener, both natives of the same German State. and both are still living at the old home in the Fatherland. He was educated in the elementary schools, under the compulsory system of school attendance long in vogue throughout Germany. In his fourteenth year he began active life among total strangers at Diepholtz, some distance from his native place. He engaged as an apprentice in the dry goods business, serving according to the German system, not only without pay, but at his own cost for instruction in the business. For four years he sustained this burden, not being allowed the use of any money, and being pledged against the use of tobacco in any shape, his father signing a bond that he would observe an agreement to this effect. At the expiration of his apprenticeship, feeling opposed to the stem, severe military laws, which would presently have called him into needless service for three years, he resolved to emigrate to America, and again started out alone in the world. He landed in New York in 1866, came on at once to the Queen City, and for about a year did not engage in business, but improved his time in learning the language of his adopted Country and taking a full course in Nelson's Business college. His acquaintance in the city, and with the English speech, then enabled him to obtain a situation in the now great dry goods store of Alms & Doepke, then a comparatively small establishment in the old building at the head of Twelfth street. He was given the honorable post of salesman at the front counter, and was otherwise very kindly treated by the firm, to whom he justly attributes the beginning of his fortunes in Cincinnati. He was with them but a year, however, and then entered as a salesman the store of Messrs. C. Steinkamp & Co., on Main street above Twelfth, in which, after only about half a year, he became a junior partner. He went out of this connection in 1874, and the house has since become extinct. Mr. Knuwener sold his interest to Mr. Steinkamp, and embarked in the soda and mineral water manufacture, buying the business of his father-in-law, Mr. J. H. Overdyck, at 719 Home street, after the death of the latter. He conducted the business alone until 1876, when the establishment was consolidated with the similar works of Mr. Henry Verhage, on Walnut street, and the two joined their energies in a strong and prosperous partnership. In the spring of the same year, they moved to the much more spacious and convenient quarters they now occupy, at 270-2 Sycamore street, near the corner of Eighth street, where their business and popularity have grown upon their hands until they now have the largest establishment of the kind in the city and in the State of Ohio, and probably in the entire west. They have certain specialties in soda fountains (steel) not enjoyed by any other house in the city, and now supply most of the dealers in soda-water. Their business is almost exclusively with city retailers, and is a good, safe traffic, which nets them very profitable results. Mr. Knuwener is the sole manager in charge of the works, and to him may be credited the success and prosperity of the firm.

He has taken time, however, to interest himself somewhat in politics and other affairs, and is a member of the Lincoln club and sundry other organizations. In 1880, though a Republican, he was elected, against his inclination, in the strong Democratic Sixteenth ward, a member of the board of councilmen, in which he is now acceptably serving his constituents. When the new Committee of the council was formed on the consumption of smoke, under a recent act of the legislature, he was appointed a member of this important committee. In the council he has kept a vigilant eye upon the public interests, particularly the plunder of the city treasury, and not long since moved a resolution of inquiry into the vast expense of the city advertising, which was passed and has already been productive of much good.

Mr. Knuwener was married in Cincinnati February 23, 1871, to Miss Louisa, daughter of Mr. J. H. Overdyck, a well-known German citizen, and Mrs. Henrietta (Dunker) Overdyck. Their children number two: Millie and Henry Knuwener. The family live in a pleasant residence at No. 388 West Court street.


From History of Hamilton county, Ohio, Henry & Kate Ford, L. A. Williams & Co., Publishers, 1881