the waldorf cigarette factory

So — the first waldorf school was named after a cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. The waldorf salad got its name from the Waldorf Hotel in New York (later the Waldorf Astoria), where it was created. But were there any connections between the cigarette factory in Stuttgart and the hotel in New York? Incidentally, the company that owned old cigarette factory in Stuttgart also bore the name Astoria — The Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company — though nowadays the factory is occasionally mentioned only as the Waldorf cigarette factory. (I believe? I may be mistaken here though.) And the waldorf schools, as far as I know, never adopted the entire name Waldorf-Astoria.

And, more importantly, what happened to the Waldorf cigarette factory? My google searches didn’t bring up anything but a very brief history of the factory itself on wikipedia. I may have come across more substantial information at some point in the past, but I cannot remember.

The Waldorf Hotel, opened in 1893 according to Wikipedia, clearly predates the Waldorf school. The salad, likewise, was a creation of the 1890s. The Waldorf Hotel closed for relocation, merged with the Astoria Hotel and opened as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1931.

The Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company, on the other hand, was established by Emil Molt — the anthroposophist who would later be involved with Rudolf Steiner in setting up the first waldorf school — and colleagues in 1906. It had been named after John Jacob Astor (1763-1848) from a German town called Walldorf. He had emigrated to the US and become enormously wealthy. Molt’s Waldorf-Astoria cigarette company went out of business in 1929 — that is, before the joint Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York had even been opened.

To make the story more complicated, the Waldorf-Astoria hotel had originally been two hotels, both of which were established by descendants of the same rich emigrant John Jacob Astor, whom the cigarette company had been named after. As already mentioned, the Waldorf Hotel was opened in 1893. The other hotel — the Astoria — was established four years later. By this time, it seems, the family had adopted the name of John Jacob Astor’s home village, Walldorf, though with another spelling: Waldorf.

The Waldorf-Astoria Tobacco factory may have ceased to exist in 1929, but the tobacco brand remained in production, during many years manufactured by a company called Remtsmaa. The waldorf schools are still around. When the Stuttgart school had been established by Molt and Steiner in 1919, Molt was manager of the cigarette company, and he and the company provided the building space the school needed.

[Photo: from the wikipedia entry on Emil Molt.]

7 thoughts on “the waldorf cigarette factory

  1. Zooey,

    Great stuff! I’ve got things aplenty to comment about here, but first I just came across this Brooklyn, NY radio program that first aired a month ago. I’m listening to the beginning and he plays music as well as talks about Steiner. It’s 45 minutes, but scroll down to see a summary of the various sections. It came up in my search for Waldorf Astoria Cigarette factory.

    (The Heritage Radio Network is a part of the Heritage Foods USA, which is located in Brooklyn. You can order your Thanksgiving turkey from them.)

    Burning Down the House – Episode 41 – Rudolf Steiner and Friends
    First Aired – 10/13/2010 07:00PM

    Using Rudolf Steiner as a catalyst for a historical analysis of the Vienna Secession, Curtis looks at the flow of ideas, and the interconnectedness of all things human.

    A journey back to the beginning of the 20th century through a group of artists looking for a change, ready to admit the limits of science. Be it Gustav Klimt, Sigmund Freud, or Rudolf Steiner, the demand for a fuller, more connected, use of the human mind. This style of living became known as Anthroposophy.

  2. OK, Zooey, first correct a typo here. You’ve got JJ Astor living to be 185!

    It had been named after John Jacob Astor (1763-1948) from a German town called Walldorf.

    So, JJ the First dies on March 29, 1848. But then William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor, is born two days later, March 31, 1848, and that day straddles Steiner’s death day of March 30! Wee Willie Waldorf is the son of JJ the Third, and he is the Waldorf half of the famous Hotel.

    Wee Willie’s cousin, JJ the 4th, is the Astoria half. But JJ the 4th is probably most famous for going down with the Titanic in 1912. But before he died, he put his wife into the lifeboat. She was 5 months pregnant with JJ the 6th (there’s a reason it’s not the 5th) and he is considered a Titanic survivor even though he was a fetus at the time.

    Then Wee Willie Waldorf Astor dies in October 1919 just a month after the first Waldorf School opens. How karmi-cosmic the timing!

    And finally from the wiki site about the History of Waldorf schools

    The school opened on Sept. 7, 1919 with 256 pupils in eight grades; 191 of the pupils were from factory families, the other 65 came from interested families from Stuttgart, many of whom were already engaged in the anthroposophical movement in that city.

    In the following years, a numerical balance between the factory workers’ and outside children was achieved; it had been an explicit goal of the social three-folding movement to create a school that bridged social classes in this way.

    For the first year, the school was a company school and all teachers were listed as workers at Waldorf-Astoria, by the second year the school had become an independent entity.

  3. Hi Zooey,

    I found something about Waldorf-Astoria at steinerdefender Daniel Hindes site. This seems to come out of Emilt Molts biography:

    (…) The story of the “Waldorf Astoria” goes back to John Jacob Astor. The Astor family, originally from Savoy, had settled in the south German village of Walldorf in Baden. Johann Jakob Astor was born on July 17, 1763. He emigrated to America as a young man and there, with luck and daring, made a great fortune. In the 1850s, the Astor house was the most elegant private home in New York City. Descendants of Astor later founded the famous “Waldorf-Astoria Hotel” in his memory.

    Connected with the hotel was the “Waldorf-Astoria Cigar Store Company.” Two of its managers, Mr Kramer and Mr Rothschild, had come to Germany around the turn of the century with the trademark rights. Originally, they produced their own brands; later, they had them made by Manoli in Berlin. They were unsuccessful, however, and eventually put their business up for sale. Müller and Marx heard of this, and, in 1905, bought the rights to the trademark. (…)

    About what happened to the factory:

    (…) While the school flourished, business went downhill in the 1920’s. Molt bought out his partners in the Waldorf Astoria Cigarette Company. Inspired by the idea of a business association to fund anthroposophical work he and several other Stuttgart-based anthroposophists donated their businesses, becoming shareholders in “Die Kommende Tag”. The association was poorly managed, and collapsed a year later. The Waldorf Astoria Cigarette Company, its prized asset, was sold by the association to some banks, who kept Molt on as manager. Molt lost his entire investment, as did many others. In 1928 the banks sold their interest to the largest cigarette manufacturer in Germany, which was in the process of buying out and liquidating the competition. Molt read about the sale in the newspaper, and was shortly out of a job, the Waldorf Astoria Cigarette Company relegated to history. (…)

    One of the managers of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company was a Rothschild?

    Is the connection between Molt and Rothschild (if it’s one of the powerfull Rothschilds, but I suppose so) one of the reasons that from the moment manufacturers in Germany began to revolt Steiner involved himself in economics ? It was in this period that he worked with Emil Molt on the Threefold Order and that Steiner began to speak in the benefit of private ownership.

    (…) What Steiner opposed was the misuse of private property, not the institution itself. He favored a peculiar mixture of private ownership and social conscience, whereby both individual capitalists and small groups of especially “talented” executives would manage private capital as a sort of trust for the ostensible good of the whole community (…)

    Steiner often searched support from the powerfull: nobilty, politicians and capitalists. This hasn’t changed since then.


  4. Hi Grts,

    The article you cite above was written in January 2009 by the “Peter Twins” Staudenmaier and Zegers, and its original appears here:

    I assume it is just an oversight on your part that you do not credit the two Peters as the authors of this article. Now moving around your site I see that you do credit them on the homepage — it’s just missing on the article itself.

  5. Thanks Ramon! Great info — I didn’t know the cigarette company had existed before 1906, for example.

    I think Molt had some difficulties convincing the other people involved in the cigarette company to keep supporting the waldorf school as well. (Again, my memories are hazy, but I think I’ve read something of that nature.) As you point out, not everybody may have been happy with Molt’s association with Steiner, for political and/or economical reasons.

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