1800 - 2017

Mönchengladbach's Textile History

TextilTechnikum

From Hand Weaving to the Textile Industry

Industrialization Replaces the Cottage Industry
Around the middle of the 19th century, today's Gladbach was a tranquil town in the Prussian Rhine province. This is a view from the south in 1856 by Johann Gottfried Pulian (1809–75), now in the Schloss Rheydt Municipal Museum.

If you look closely, you will see evidence of the textile industry that shaped the city for centuries. In the foreground near the water, the elongated dye-works of Doores Zimmermann are clearly visible. Diagonally behind that is a factory chimney.

The records of Martin Pauluhsen from Rheydt give an indication of the arduous work involved in the pre-industrial hand weaving of this cottage industry. He describes how he came to work at the loom at a young age in the middle of the 19th century.

Film: TextilTechnikum/Radio Viktoria

Increase of Factories

The traditional cottage industry was replaced by factories from the mid-19th century onward. This view of Gladbach from 1856 shows a smoking factory chimney at its center, rather than the church buildings characteristic of a cityscape.

View of Rheydt

Rheydt has a more rural character than Gladbach, having only been awarded city status in 1856. This is a view from 1829 from the Schloss Rheydt Municipal Museum.

Rheydt, however, was also characterized by the textile industry for centuries. On the right of the picture, next to the church, a factory chimney is already visible in 1829.

Another picture from that time shows smoke rising from this factory. Here too, modern industry overshadows traditional church buildings.

The artist's interest in depicting this particular factory is unsurprising. It is Lenssen and Beckenbach, which was the first company in today's Mönchengladbach to operate using a steam engine.

The Espionage...
How did this happen? The emergence of the modern factory, which from today's point of view had an almost certain inevitability about it, was not necessarily a matter of course: the initiative of individual entrepreneurs played a major role. Wilhelm Dietrich Lenssen, born in 1805—seen here in a photo from a later date—was one such entrepreneur.

Wilhelm Dietrich Lenssen came from a respected Rheydt family, who had long been active in the textile industry. As a young man, aged 22, he traveled with two companions to Manchester and Liverpool—the center of English industry. At that time, the country was leagues ahead of all other competitors. Anyone who wished to compete with England had to familiarize themselves with the industry there.

Lenssen noted his observations—briefly and hastily written on loose sheets, with the addition of a few quick sketches. At that time, industrial espionage was subject to severe penalties and the export of steam engines from England was forbidden.

Wilhelm Dietrich Lenssen's journey records from 1827 hastily jotted down:

"[Then, the warp for the loom is] smoothed by a machine, of which there were nine, each costing 40 pounds, and put onto the weaving machine. Two girls of 18 years of age operate one machine. Every stroke of the heddle formed a thread. The heddle picks 100 times per minute. The fabric was rather good."

In the same year as Lenssen's trip to England, the first steam engine in today's Mönchengladbach region was set up at his home factory, the Lenssen and Beckerath spinning mill. The factory building was constructed in 1807, and this photograph shows its condition in 1878.

The steam engine came from another pioneer of industrialization in Germany, the Harkort company in Wetter on the Ruhr. It attracted great attention because of its progressive nature, and the connection between Lenssen's journey to England and this technical innovation are obvious. It was not until 1844 that the second Gladbach steam engine came along.

Industrial City....
Within a few decades, industrialization had fundamentally changed the city and people's lives. Outwardly, this change was clearly visible, as shown in this view of the city of Rheydt from around 1900. There are factory chimneys as far as the eye can see.

The city of Rheydt at around the same time (1896). The railroad is an exciting addition—an important driver of industrialization.

The same developments can also be seen in Mönchengladbach, as this depiction from 1898 shows. A large number of factories, mainly textile companies, dominate the cityscape.

Boiler House
1941

Historical photographs from the textile company Achter & Ebels in Mönchengladbach show what it was like to work in the factories. The photographs are mostly from 1927, with some from 1941, but little has changed since the turn of the century. A steam engine served as a central power supply. This is a view inside the boiler house.

Images from the factory Achter & Ebels 1927/1941
AUNDE, Mönchengladbach

Spinning Mill
1927

The spinning mill was already electrified.

Images from the factory Achter & Ebels 1927/1941
AUNDE, Mönchengladbach

Warping Area
1941

The transmission belts for transferring steam power to the machines can still be clearly seen in the warping area.

Images from the factory Achter & Ebels 1927/1941
AUNDE, Mönchengladbach

Weaving Mill
1927

Even in the weaving mill, the traditional propulsion system of transmission belts still dominates.

Images from the factory Achter & Ebels 1927/1941
AUNDE, Mönchengladbach 1927

Weaving Mill
1927

Images from the factory Achter & Ebels 1927/1941
AUNDE, Mönchengladbach

Weaving Mill
1927

Images from the factory Achter & Ebels 1927/1941
AUNDE, Mönchengladbach

Tenter
1927

Images from the factory Achter & Ebels 1927/1941
AUNDE, Mönchengladbach

Stuffing room
1927

Images from the factory Achter & Ebels 1927/1941
AUNDE, Mönchengladbach

Factory Maintenance
1927

Images from the factory Achter & Ebels 1927/1941
AUNDE, Mönchengladbach

Works Fire Brigade

Images from the factory Achter & Ebels 1927/1941
AUNDE, Mönchengladbach

Today
Achter & Ebels became AUNDE, and still operates from the same premises today. This is a view into the warping area, showing a heddle with spools of weft for sectional warping of the vertical threads (warp) for the fabric. Images of the production facility at AUNDE, Mönchengladbach.

View of the weaving mill today.

Images from the factory Achter & Ebels.
AUNDE, Mönchengladbach

TextilTechnikum
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