Knox Gelatin Co., originally known as the Landesman Co., had its beginnings in early 20th-century Camden, specifically at the intersection of 4th and Erie streets. This company specialized in producing gelatin for various industries, including food, photography, and pharmaceuticals. The pivotal moment came when Maurice Kind, a German-born brewer who immigrated to the United States in 1898, acquired the company. Under his ownership, the firm was renamed the Camden Gelatin Company.
Chemist Paul Adolf Kind, Maurice Kind’s son, joined the company’s ranks after completing his education. However, tragedy struck when Maurice Kind passed away in 1915. This event occurred just a few years following a significant fire at the gelatin factory in 1912, with more on this shortly.
Knox’s visionary approach extended beyond product innovation; he also made a name for himself through pioneering marketing techniques. From audacious slogans to groundbreaking airborne advertising campaigns, he earned the moniker “Napoleon of Advertising” and achieved significant business success. Tragically, Charles Knox passed away in 1908, leaving behind his legacy and a thriving business. In an era where women’s leadership in business was unusual, his wife, Rose, assumed the reins of the world’s largest unflavored gelatine manufacturer. Rose Knox not only earned the respect of her employees but also garnered a devoted following among women across the nation.
The devastating fire broke out during the early hours of January 30th. Originating on the first floor of the Camden Gelatin Company’s factory building at Fifth Street and the Delaware River in North Camden, it quickly escalated. The alarm was raised, with Box 14 at Fifth and Erie Streets pulled, accompanied by a phone alarm. The inferno illuminated the night sky, prompting second and third alarms to be rapidly transmitted. The efforts of arriving firefighters were hindered by frozen hydrants, leading them to build bonfires under the hydrants to thaw them. Meanwhile, they sought out alternative hydrants to battle the blaze. Multiple master streams were deployed to combat the fire’s ferocity.
Tragically, collapsing walls unleashed flying embers, igniting secondary fires in the machine shop at the Camden Ship Yard and a third blaze in the Troth Warehouse. Amid the chaos, Fireman Edward Finley of Hook & Ladder Company 1 was overcome by dense smoke and had to be removed from the scene unconscious. He was transported to West Jersey Homeopathic Hospital, where he was successfully revived. By 2 A.M., the tenacious firefighters had brought the fire under control. The gelatin plant, jointly owned by Kind and Landesman, consisted of an office building and two two-and-a-half-story factory buildings, all of which were tragically destroyed in the fire. Engine Company 4 remained on-site until the afternoon, ensuring that the smoldering ruins were properly doused.
In 1916, Charles Knox became involved in the business, leading to the company’s renaming as Kind & Knox. Eventually, Kind & Knox became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Knox Gelatin in 1955. Knox Gelatin, originally based in Johnstown, New York, underwent several ownership changes, including being sold to the Lipton Tea Co. in May 1972 and later to a German-owned company in 1992.
During its prime, Knox Gelatin held a prominent place in American kitchens and was a staple in the culinary repertoire of American households, akin to the ubiquity of Campbell’s Soup today. Today, Kind & Knox Gelatine is renowned for consistently delivering high-quality gelatine products catering to various industrial sectors, including edible, pharmaceutical, photographic, and technical applications.
The Camden plant served as a major employer in North Camden for many years. In more recent times, both city government and the local community group known as the North Camden Land Trust have explored options for redeveloping the site, which lies just west of Pyne Point Park. However, as of the fall of 2003, no concrete action had been taken on this redevelopment project.
Knox Gelatin Co., originally known as the Landesman Co., had its beginnings in early 20th-century Camden, at 4th and Erie streets.
Just 100 years ago Camden was a thriving, prosperous industrial metropolis and the future looked bright for this river city.
Various industries in Camden, circa 1929
One workman was trapped and seriously injured, while two others scrambled to safety when a seven-foot pipeline trench collapsed at the Kind & Knox Gelatin Co.