We are back in 1921 and following the truly amazing, and little known story of the Czech-American entrepreneur, František Korbel!  Leaving Bohemia now, we find Korbel in the United States and beginning his incredible work to establish one of the largest and most profitable businesses by any Czech in America at that time.

Follow along for an amazing story with insights and details, which will help anyone who loves Czech culture, history, and genealogy!

Amerikán Národní Kalendář

Year: 1921, Volume: XXXXIV, Pages: 264-283

“Memoirs of Czech Settlers in America”

He fought for the freedom of our nation in 1848 – and lived to see it in 1918

1921 Korbel image


Died in Prague, on the 1st of January, 1920, at the age of 89 years

“Korbel had to work very hard in America, especially without any knowledge of English just to save his existence. First, he worked in New York, later he worked to survey for the Pan-American railroad, and finally later his situation improved.

After the amnesty was agreed to, which was ten years later, he returned home as an American citizen.  But he was surprised that when he had just arrived in Podmokly, where he crossed the border, that he was informed that he had to go to Prague to report to the Police Director, Baron Paümann, to answer some questions.  Baron Paüman was known as a Czecho-phobist, who had proclaimed during the Bach era he “would finish the Czech affairs within 6 years’ time”.  After getting advice from Vojta Naprstek, who also received amnesty, Korbel was prepared for the questions from Paümann.  He received just a warning that he had an obligation to inform the police station in Novy Bydzov, whenever he might decide to leave his home in Vysoke Veseli.  This strict police oversight was unpleasant for Frantisek Korbel, as well as the political situation in the entire country.  He decided to go back to America.  This time together with his younger brothers Antonin and Josef.  Successfully they left the country, secretly crossing over the border and then continued on to Zittau.  Then later on to Bremen and finally to New York.

The Korbel brothers, led by Frantisek, were exemplary men of hard work. They worked together, and built in their new overseas home a big Korbel Company, which became respected not only by our compatriots but also by all Americans. They decided to live in the distant state of California, and they succeed there thanks to their hard work.  In 1863 they established, thanks to experiences of František Korbel, a large company in San Francisco. They had a factory which was made for producing cigars and cigar boxes, complete with their own lithography.

Exclusive permission granted for use by F. Korbel & Bros.

Exclusive permission granted for use by F. Korbel & Bros.

They bought large areas of forest land in Sonoma and Humboldt Counties, cut the trees and built sawmills there.  They sold the lumber and in the cleared areas they established vineyards.  In this way the Czech Korbel cultivated the distant American land, in wild forests where no men had lived before and where grew giant trees with heights of 100 meters and with widths of 24 feet – as witnessed in one photograph where we can see standing at the stump of one tree an entire school class with their teacher.

There is an entire town by the name of Korbel, with a rail station of the same name, which will forever bear the name of its Czech establisher who also built all the roads and railroads around them.  Merchant ships of the Korbel Company sail across all of the oceans, bringing cedar for boxes and other goods.  They dock in America as well as in Australian and European harbors.

Korbel was the first man to send gold-diggers to Alaska, which belonged to Russia at that time.

Gold rushers in the Klondike!

Gold rushers in the Klondike!

Also the Anglo-American humorist magazine “Wasp” was established by František Korbel.  A branch of the company was also established in Chicago.  Since 1892, Korbel served for 12 years as the honorary consul of Austro-Hungary in San Francisco and represented our nation very well in this office.”

Stay with us as we continue this fantastic story tomorrow and bring you even more details of the amazing life of the great Czech-American František Korbel!

Onward To Our Past®

A Genealogical Historian, who is focused on family history and genealogy of the highest quality, but with a dose of fun. Avid about documentation and evidence. Loves helping folks of all levels in their genealogy pursuits, especially in the areas of Bohemia, Czech Republic, Italy, Cornwall, Kent, United Kingdom, U.S. Immigration and Cleveland, Ohio.

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