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Richard Koch Family Collection

 Collection
Identifier: AR 25369

Scope and Content Note

This collection documents the life and extended family of Richard F. Koch (1920 -). Much of the material relates to his mother, Stella Dreyfus Koch (1878-1962), and her family. Both the Dreyfus and Koch families were descended from German-Jewish immigrants that arrived in New Orleans in the mid 19th century. Stella and her siblings were the first generation born in the United States, and still spoke and wrote some German. The family also corresponded and even did business with some of the relatives who remained in Germany.

The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence. The largest set of letters is between Richard F. Koch and his wife Janet, starting with his letter inviting her to a dance when both were in college in the late 1930s, continuing with their courtship and marriage in 1942, and through the end of Koch's army service in 1945. The other major set of correspondence belongs to Stella Dreyfus Koch, Richard's mother. Her main correspondents were her husband, Richard S. Koch, her mother, Bertha Dreyfus, and her brothers and sisters. Most of her correspondence is between 1899 and 1918. A variety of other correspondence is also found in the collection, primarily between members of the Dreyfus/Koch family.

Other materials in the collection include scrapbooks, educational materials such as school work and diplomas, military materials relating to Richard F. Koch and Fred Dreyfus's United States Army service, clippings, poems and songs, and a range of early 20th-century printed ephemera such as theater programs and menus. Most of the materials range from the late 19th to the mid 20th century, although there are a few items from the 1830s.

A highlight of this collection is a set of about a dozen handwritten German poems from the 1830s, written for Rosalie Koch by her friends in Mainz. Each poem is written on a small slip of gold-edged paper, and they are found in a wood and tooled leather souvenir case.

Another highlight of the collection is Fred Dreyfus's material from World War One. He was posted in France as part of the United States Army from 1917 to 1919, and he wrote almost daily to his mother, in addition to keeping a detailed diary.

This collection also contains hundreds of photographs of the Dreyfus and Koch families. The 19th-century images are mainly posed, while the 20th-century photographs are more informal, and include candid snapshots of children playing and families on vacation. The formats include tin types, cabinet cards, and other card-mounted photographs, but primarily comprise small black & white silver gelatin prints. Some of the photographs bear identifying information and dates. Highlights include a wealth of Dreyfus family portraits, candid photographs of babies and children playing, and a carte-de-visite of Nathan Koch from 1865.

Most of this collection dates from the late 19th to the mid 20th century, although there are a few items from the 1830s to 1870s.

Dates

  • 1832-1959
  • Majority of material found within 1899-1945

Creator

Language of Materials

This collection is in English, with some German.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Biographical Note<extptr actuate="onload" altrender="Richard F. and Janet Koch (1942)" href="http://digital.cjh.org/webclient/DeliveryManager?pid=1380805" show="embed" title="Richard F. and Janet Koch (1942)"/>

Richard Frederick Koch (born 1920), nicknamed "Dickie," was the son of Richard S. and Stella Dreyfus Koch. He grew up in Cedarhurst, New York, and graduated from Lawrence High School in 1936. He studied engineering at Bard College and graduated in 1940. He briefly taught at Columbia University before joining the Army. In 1942, he married Janet Doris Koch (1917-1997, née Phillips). Their children are Richard P. (Terry) Koch and Lewis Koch.

When World War Two broke out, Koch joined the United States Army's Signal Corps as a second lieutenant. After radar electronics training at Fort Monmouth, he was posted to England as a United States observer from September 1941 to March 1942. In June 1942, he was transferred to the Signal Corps Radar School at Camp Murphy in Florida. Koch was on sick leave with jaundice from June-July and September-December 1943. He returned to Fort Monmouth in October 1944, with the Signal Corps Publication Agency, and was discharged in March 1946 as a first lieutenant. His top secret work in England and in Florida helped introduce radar technology to the United States.

Richard F. Koch was of German-Jewish descent. His maternal grandparents Leon and Bertha Dreyfus were immigrants, as were his paternal grandparents Nathan and Marie Dreyfus Koch. His parents, as well as many of his uncles and aunts, appear to have been able to read and write German.

Richard F. Koch's maternal grandfather, Leon Dreyfus (1842-1898), son of David Dreyfus, was born in the Bavarian town of Ingenheim, Germany, and immigrated to New Orleans in 1857. There, he joined Nathan Koch, also a recent German-Jewish immigrant, a brother-in-law, in the jewelry business. They remained in New Orleans until 1889, when they moved their business to New York City. The company folded in 1897. Leon Dreyfus's nephew Jonas Koch (circa 1859-1932), the son of his sister Marie Dreyfus Koch, was in business together with his brother Richard S. Koch.

Leon Dreyfus was married to Bertha (née Hirsch) Dreyfus (1844-1928), and they had seven children, including Richard F. Koch's mother Stella Koch, (1878-1962). Their other children were Frederick (1876-1950), Louisa (married Theodore Rostenberg), Leah (born 1882, married Samuel Landauer), Max (married Amy), Phina, and Theodore (married Rose Pforzenheimer).

Richard F. Koch's mother was Stella Dreyfus Koch (1878-1962). She was married to Richard S. Koch (1876-1935), with whom she had Helen A. Koch (1907-1919), Alfred N. Koch (died circa 1919), and Richard (1920-2012). She and her husband were doubly related as first cousins. Stella was born in New Orleans. In 1889, her father moved his family to the New York City area, and Stella completed her schooling there, including a degree obtained from Normal (now Hunter) College. She was a teacher in the New York City public schools for some time in the early 1900s, and was a longtime resident of Cedarhurst, New York. In 1905, Stella married Richard S. Koch as part of a dual ceremony in which her sister Leah Dreyfus was also married, to Samuel Landauer. A rabbi officiated the Landauer portion of the wedding, but an official from the Society of Ethical Culture married Stella and Richard, probably indicating a significant degree of assimilation on their part.

Richard F. Koch's uncle Frederick Jonas Dreyfus (1876-1950) was born in New Orleans, but his family moved to New York City thereafter and he received a bachelor's degree from the City College of New York in 1896. For twenty years, he was with Frank & Dugan, silk ribbon manufacturers in Paterson, New Jersey. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1917 and was in France during World War One as part of the 11th US engineers. From 1920 to 1933 he worked for his brother-in-law Samuel Landauer's company, SC Landauer, a surgical supply company. Dreyfus was a long-time resident of Paterson, New Jersey, and later of Cedarhurst, New York.

Richard F. Koch's wife, Janet Doris Koch (1917-1997), was the daughter of Lewis and Maude (née Simon) Phillips. Maude was from a comfortable New Orleans Jewish family, and was educated there before attending college in New York City. The family soon moved to Brookline, Massachusetts, which is where Janet grew up and attended Simmons College.

Additional family members who appear in this collection include Bertha Dreyfus's sister Johanna Hirsch; Leon Dreyfus's brother Theodore (died 1879), whose wife Marie (1852-1940) returned to Germany after his death; Charles and Minna Titche (related to the Dreyfus family); and Hermann and Julia Schwartz of Bergzabern, Germany (related to Richard S. Koch).

Extent

8 Linear Feet

Abstract

This collection documents the life and extended family of Richard F. Koch (1920 -). Much of the material relates to his mother, Stella Dreyfus Koch (1878-1962), and her family. Both the Dreyfus and Koch families were descended from German-Jewish immigrants that arrived in New Orleans in the mid 19th century. The bulk of the collection consists of personal correspondence, but the collection includes scrapbooks, educational materials, military materials, clippings, poems and songs, printed ephemera, and photographs. Highlights include a set of about a dozen handwritten German poems from the 1830s, and diaries and letters written during Fred Dreyfus's US army service in World War One.

Arrangement

This collection was arranged into five series, based on family members. The majority of the materials relate directly to Richard F. Koch, Stella Dreyfus Koch, and Fred J. Dreyfus (Series I through III, respectively). All other materials relating to the Dreyfus and Koch families were placed in Series IV. Note that because this is a family collection, and because the various family members corresponded extensively with one another, the materials in Series I through IV are interrelated. See the series descriptions for more detail. Materials about Richard F. Koch's wife Janet and her family are found in Series V: Phillips Family.

Related Material

Photographs have been digitized of Richard F. and Janet Koch, Fred Dreyfus, and Stella Koch.

Separated Material

Paintings were removed to the LBI Arts and Objects collection. A medal received by Richard F. Koch upon graduation from Lawrence High School was removed to the LBI Arts and Objects collection. The book Portraits of Jews by Gilbert Stuart and other early American artists ( 1927 ) was removed to the LBI Library.

Note

Some of the oversized diplomas in series I and series IV are missing.

Processing Information

Envelopes were removed, unless they contained identifying or date information not found on the letter. Materials were rehoused. Some photographs were individually rehoused, while others were grouped by format and foldered together and placed in separate box. Many of the photographs are fading and curled. Relevant pages from 1907, 1909, and 1910 Tulane University yearbooks in Series V were photocopied, and yearbooks discarded. Most of the scrapbooks in this collection are very fragile.

Title
Guide to the Richard Koch Family Collection Undated, 1832-1959 , bulk 1899-1945 AR 25369
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by Kevin Schlottmann
Date
© 2011
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
Made possible by the Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives Grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources through The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support "Illuminating Hidden Collections at the Center for Jewish History"

Revision Statements

  • 2012: TRM: Added folder numbers for oversized materials, slight presentation revision to Separated Materials; added note about missing diplomas.
  • January 16, 2013:: Edited biographical note.
  • October 28, 2014: : Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States