Of course, there would be no RK Rubber without the two men for which the company is named Ernst Reichel and Ludwig Korfmann. Their relationship began when they became colleagues at what was then known as the Charles Baumbach Co., a supplier of brewery equipment and beer ingredients that later evolved into the company that bears the two mens’ names today.
Born in 1878 in Milwaukee, Reichel was the son of a Prussian immigrant, Hugo Reichel, who came to America in 1867 at age 17. Hugo arrived in Milwaukee in 1870 and began working for Charles Baumbach.
After graduating from high school, Ernst began his career as a clerk for the Mohr-Holstein Commission Co. After two years there, he joined his father at Charles Baumbach, which had changed its name to Baumbach-Reichel Co. in 1898, reflecting his father’s position in the company. Ernst became company treasurer in 1902.
Korfmann, on the other hand, was born in Germany in 1869. In 1885, just shy of his 16th birthday, he persuaded his widowed mother to let him travel to America with an older friend, promising her he would return in a year. He secured his first job at a department store in Racine, Wisconsin, working for $2.50 a week while paying $3 a week for room and board.
Virtually penniless, he then borrowed $1.50 and moved to a suburb of Milwaukee in January 1886, where he got a job at a combined saloon/grocery store. After holding a couple more jobs, Korfmann became a salesman for a coppersmith named Herman Pietsch, who made mashing equipment for breweries. That eventually led to employment at Charles Baumbach.
In 1898, he became a partner in the business, and rose to the position of president in 1908. In 1922, the company name changed again, this time to Reichel-Korfmann.