Norman Kohlhepp, Renaissance Man

Norman Kohlhepp

University of Cincinnati Track Team, Normal Kohlhepp Second from the Right

Currently being processed in Special Collections are the papers and photographs of Louisvillian Norman Kohlhepp (1892 - 1986).  Kohlhepp was a multi-talented individual who excelled in the fields of science, art  and education.  A graduate of Louisville's Manual Training High School, he went on to obtain a degree in metallurgical engineering from the University of Cincinnati.   After graduating, he worked for the General Fireproofing Co. in Boston, MA, a manufacturer of steel office furniture.

In 1917, Kohlhepp enlisted in the armed forces and served in the "Reserve Mallet" in World War I - a transport unit that was created as part of the French Army but later became part of the United States Army's Transport Service.  He also trained other mechanics during his time in France.  Kohlhepp remained in Europe until 1919 when he returned to Camp Taylor and was demobilized from the Army.

Already skilled at mechanical and scientific rendering, in his mid-thirties Kohlhepp began to seriously pursue the fine arts.  During further visits to France, he founded the American Students and Artists Club in Paris, where he met his future wife, Dorothy.  She encouraged his artistic inclinations and Kohlhepp began his studies at the Académie Colarossi and Académie de la Grande Chaumière.   Kohlhepp and his wife also studied with Andre Lhote, the cubist painter.

Kohlhepp whole-heartedly extended his support to the Louisville arts community and was active in the Art Center and the Louisville School of Art.  His work resides in collections at the University of Louisville, The J. B. Speed Art Museum, The National Museum of American Art and the Smithsonian Institution.

The Kohlhepp photo collection contains over 200 negatives and prints, highlighting his time at the University of Cincinnati, the General Fireproofing Co., the war years in France, and his travels abroad in later decades.

The Kohlhepp papers contain correspondence from his parents while he is attending UC,  his senior thesis and supporting articles, and material from his time in the army, including his note books on automotive repair and maps of various sections of France.  The collection also includes financial papers and work correspondence from the 1920s to the 1940s, and a 1983 copy of Beaux Arts features an article about Kohlhepp and his artwork.

Scrapbook of Photographs from the General Fireproofing Co.

Filson Historical

4 comments on “Norman Kohlhepp, Renaissance Man

  1. Cathy

    I have a drawing with the Howard shipyards with his signature on it and it’s attached to a piece of wood I really don’t know anything about this but my mother held on to so now I have it
    If you could please give me some information on this because I know nothing about it

    1. Jennie Cole

      Hi Cathy,
      The Howard Shipyards were in Jeffersonville, Indiana, and would have been an interesting subject for artist Norman Kolhepp when he was in Louisville. If you have additional questions, please contact the FIlson’s Special Collections Department at Thank you for your comment!

      1. Charles J. Lehman Brooks

        My name is Charles Lehman Brooks. My Mother was a Kohlhepp. Norman Kohlhepp was her Uncle (her Father’s brother) and my Great Uncle. I met him as a child, but have no recollection of him on a personal level. I was more familiar with his sister, my Great Aunt Edna. I have four of Uncle Norman’s renderings, that belonged to my Mother, which I treasure. I am thrilled to have found these various articles on the internet. Some 8-10 years back…. there was nary a word about him; but now… WOW… all kinds of information. Thank you, Lord, for the soul and life of Norman Kohlhepp.
        Charles J. Lehman Brooks

        1. Jennie Cole

          Dear Mr. Brooks, thank you for sharing your memories of your family with us! We appreciate it. We continue to get works by your great-uncle into our collections, and we appreciate them as well!
          Best wishes,


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