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József Zwack, was born 200 years ago – Part 4.

In 1902, the Pest Diary reported that József Zwack and Partners Liqueur Factory and Pálinka Distillery had a beautiful exhibition at the industrial exhibition, where the company manager was also introduced to the Royal Archduke Frederick. It also turned out that the dreaded liqueur was known as early as its founding in 1840: “Among the company’s products we mention the world-famous« Unicum »bitter brandy, which is widely exported even overseas. As early as 1840, the Unicum stomach-strengthening herbal drink was known. Pomace, plum and real apricot brandies all praise the Zwack factory ”. One of the symbols of the active relationship with the royal family was the stylish “Z” shaped labeled Imperial liqueur. According to family legend, one of their ancestors was dr. Zwack one of the doctors of Joseph II. offered his ruler a special herbal liqueur, who could not be praised for the special drink and said “Das ist ein Unicum! – It’s unique! The legend goes into the darkness of the past. In any case, I cannot prove or deny myself in the court schematisms that can be found, nor in the contemporary news and press. Dr. Zwack, whose legend has been well known since the 1990s. However, we see that there are reports that Emperor Franz Joseph I. was very pleased with the company and its products.

However, the company also won the title of yard supplier to other courtyards. By the turn of the century they had already advanced to yard suppliers of the Serbian royal house. In 1907, it was reported that the products of Joseph Zwack were available in almost every part of the world and were sought after in India, the Fire Land, the United States, and South America. The Unicum has become the company’s main product, therefore it is not a coincidence that it has been excellently counterfeited. The “general” took a hard line against the counterfeiters (that is how József Zwack, the founder of the company, was called). Lawsuits against and against an advertising campaign were launched at the turn of the century for legitimate trademark protection. They also had a problem with the red cross trademark on a white background, because the International Red Cross (mostly in foreign distribution areas) also protested against it, therefore later changed the label and transformed Unicum ‘s unique trademark into today’ s well – known red – gold cross.

József Zwack was not only known for his permanence in economic and commercial life, he was also known for his charity. His social role was also very significant: he was a member of the board of the Israelite Hospital, the charity section of the Pest Israelite Cultural Association, and the committee of the Israelite Crafts and Agriculture Association. Besides he also served as a committee member of the First Hungarian Savings Bank, the Terézváros Savings Bank and the Terézváros School Council. According to recollections, “he spent his Sundays wandering outside, personally investigating the actual conditions of those applying for help from him. This is how he chased up school children he taught, girls to marry, whom he gave a dowry, orphan children he raised at his own expense in the orphanage, and who knew this incredibly strict businessman, would not have recognized the same other man who made scholarship foundations. He was constantly doing good, even without the knowledge of his closest environment. Zwack always considered it important to express his commitment to the poor. He ordered: Since elementary education is essential to the development of human society in the right direction, the four poor, well-graded pupils attending the elementary  school on Mester Street near the factory should reward two boys and two girls with 4,000 crowns equally and without religious difference. ”

József Zwack also experienced the First World War, by which time his family was running the business, it seems very well, since in 1915 a sample shop and detail shop was opened at 20 Kossuth Lajos Street, which was still advertised in 1918. Alcohol, liqueur, or rubbing alcohol was also preferred in World War I packages. Utilizing this, the company produced Unicum bottles specifically for pockets. The 94-year-old old man was a general, leaving all his knowledge behind and passing it on February 20, 1915.

József Zwack occupied a very upscale position in the capital, the sympathetic, benevolent concern was surrounded with general respect. For the employees of Zwack József és Társa, he created his retirement association, participated in all humane movements and showed great agility in public life for the rest of his life. ” Past and Future, 1915.

He has been featured in several newspapers. In the second place of the family who settled in Pest, the factory founder, the eldest brother, József, departed this life. He made his will as early as 1904, which he subsequently amended or supplemented three more times. According to the summary of the basic decree, József had the following six items, which make up the majority of his property:

  1. Ownership of Joseph Zwack & Co., including real estate;
  2. the 6/10 part of the house at 3 Ó utca in Terézváros (the family lived here);
  3. insurance of 30,000 Crowns with the Fonciére Insurance Company in Pest;
  4. insurance of 1000 Crowns with Caritas Insurance Company;
  5. 15 shares of Pest-Budai Hengermalom Rt.;
  6. various securities worth 4000 Crowns.

The will also included two pairs of seats in the Dohány Street Synagogue, which he bequeathed to his son,Lajos and his brother Dávid. In the first addition, made in 1907,  the female piece of the church chairs handed down to Hermine (daughter of József Zwack) of life-long, and also provided a life annuity for her benefit. It should be mentioned that he mentioned the death of József’s brother David in the third branch decree of 1914, but did not mention that the house on Ó utca, where he actually lived according to the address book, which they shared with Miksa’s brother, that was sold in 1910 for 269,400 crowns.

The corporate wealth and knowledge of the legacy have all remained with the descendants. The rising history of the Unicum company began here and continued at the beginning of the 20th century, then after a short break and saving values, the family returned to Hungary with Unicum and several other products from the 1990s. József Zwack, the founder, left behind a legacy that made the brand and the factory and spirituality he dreamed of known worldwide in his day, but still today. Finally, I would quote from the Unicum advertising song (Unicum-Fox) promoted by the company between the two world wars. Originally performed by the Holéczy Ensemble, its music was composed by Ákos Holéczy: “But there is no better drink than Unicum today, just drink one, my beautiful treasure. And the waiter is already coming to take a sip and cheer up the Unicum. (…) ”


source: Török Róbert, Honismeret, A Honismereti szövetség folyóirata, XLIX. Évfolyam.

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