Dräger model 1904/09 breathing apparatus

In the context of the simultaneous exhibition “8 Objects, 8 Museums” by the Leibniz research museums, the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum presents an important milestone in the development of rescue devices for the mining industry: the Dräger model 1904/09 breathing apparatus.

Miner installing a prop, ca. 1950 by Deutsches Bergbau-Museum BochumLeibniz Association

Underground – at grave danger

Extreme physical effort under dangerous conditions – that describes the mining industry at the end of the 19th century. Terrible mining disasters shocked workers and mine owners alike. The strong solidarity in mining led to enormous efforts in rescue services. To leave no miner underground was and still is the maxim. Therefore, it is no wonder that great efforts were undertaken around the turn of the 20th century to improve the occupational safety and the corresponding equipment for underground rescue operations by means of technical innovations.

Dräger model 1904/09 breathing apparatus: properly mounted on a glass body after extensive restoration by Museum collections, documentation centre for mining history of the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum BochumLeibniz Association

The breathing apparatus by the Dräger company, founded in 1889, is one example of these efforts. It was used by mine rescue teams and fire brigades. While the advanced technology significantly improved the rescuers’ work, they still had to adapt to the device’s limitations and proceed with caution. This gave rise to the motto: “Stehe still und sammle Dich!” (Stand still and compose yourself).

Dräger model 1904/09 breathing apparatus: schematic drawing to illustrate the operating principle (from DRÄGER 1912) by Deutsches Bergbau-Museum BochumLeibniz Association

A drawing illustrates the operating principle of the Dräger apparatus: The device works according to the regeneration principle; the breathing air is renewed during circulation.

The exhaled air passes into the carbon dioxide filters (p¹/p²) through a layer of caustic potash; in the process, the majority of the carbon dioxide is converted into potassium carbonate and deposited. This generates a significant amount of heat, which is released into the ambient air through the condenser (I).

The consumed oxygen is replaced from canisters c¹ and c². The pressure from the oxygen canisters causes the flow of the breathing air.

The regenerated air flows into the air bag (b2), from which it is inhaled. Valves ensure that the inhaled and exhaled air are kept separate.

This principle of the apparatus developed by Dräger is still applied in modern respiratory protection devices.

Lubeca valve, Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum, From the collection of: Leibniz Association
Show lessRead more

Via a Lubeca valve developed by Dräger himself, which serves to reduce pressure, oxygen is added to the exhaled air.

The Aerophor by Theodor Schwann, 1853 (from DRÄGER 1912), Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum, From the collection of: Leibniz Association
Show lessRead more

The Dräger model 1904/09 breathing apparatus was not the first of its kind, but with its development, Bernhard Dräger set a new standard. The device was particularly reliable, simple to use and provided 3 times more breathing air than was previously the case.

The disaster of Courrières, front page of Le Petit Journal, 25 March 1906 by Deutsches Bergbau-Museum BochumLeibniz Association

Competition – catastrophes, crises and economic context

While Bernhard Dräger endeavoured to establish his breathing apparatus on the market, the worst mining disaster in European coal mining history occurred in Courrières in northern France on 12 March 1906. More than 1,000 men lost their lives, and the disaster led to major social unrest and strikes. The miners accused the mine management of not having done enough to ensure the safety of the mine and subsequently having done too little to rescue the victims.   

French (left) and German (right) mine rescue teams in Courrières, postcard, undated (1906) by Deutsches Bergbau-Museum BochumLeibniz Association

Dräger himself travelled to Courrières to assess the situation there. Of course, this was also economically motivated. A steep competition had developed on the market, and German mine rescue teams using safety equipment from the Westfalia AG participated in the rescue efforts in France. However, the Drägerwerke ultimately conquered the market, sealing the deal with the takeover of their key competitor, the Westfalia AG.

Rescue teams at work with Dräger breathing apparatuses (from “Geschichten, die unser Unternehmen prägten” (Stories that defined our company); Internet publication by the Drägerwerk AG & Co. KGaA, Lübeck by Deutsches Bergbau-Museum BochumLeibniz Association

Not only in Germany was the breathing apparatus a tremendous success. By 1924, a total of 5,000 devices were in use in fifteen countries. With the continuous revision of breathing apparatuses and technical innovations, the Dräger company was able to become permanently established in numerous markets. In North American mining, rescue teams are still referred to as “Draegermen.”

Three miners “breakfasting” underground, ca. 1935 by Deutsches Bergbau-Museum BochumLeibniz Association

The principle of solidarity – together through thick and thin

There has always been great solidarity amongst miners, and this is easily understandable in view of the ever-present dangers in this occupation, as well as the difficulty of everyday work. Working without daylight and the seclusion of the work place, but also the relative independence there, the enormous physical strain and the oppressive environment with pollution, confinement, heat and humidity create a long-lasting work-related identity:  Each person looks out for the others, and no one is left behind.

Diplome d’honneur au nom du Président de la Republique (honorary certificate, issued in the name of the President of the Republic [France], Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum, From the collection of: Leibniz Association
Show lessRead more

The solidarity among miners also extended across international borders: After the terrible mining disaster in Courrières in northern France, German mine rescue teams came to the aid, even though political relations between Germany and France were tense. The public enthusiastically applauded this aid, and the German rescue teams eventually received official recognition by the French authorities. In addition to a medal, the honourees received a confirmation certificate, as shown here by the example of Friedrich Wulfmeier.

Statute of the “Allgemeiner Knappschafts-Verein zu Bochum” (General miners’ union association in Bochum) dated 1 January 1982, Bochum, Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum, From the collection of: Leibniz Association
Show lessRead more

Early on, the strong sense of solidarity underground led to the establishment of “Knappschaften” (miners’ unions). These unions served as a model for the formation of modern social insurance systems. They developed from medieval fraternities and granted their members remarkable social support during times of illness and disability. In the event of death, widows and orphans were supported with considerable benefits.

Celebration of the Knappenvereine in the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum, Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum, From the collection of: Leibniz Association
Show lessRead more

Solidarity went along with a strong class consciousness – miners tended to associate with each other even in their spare time. Around the turn of the century, this gave rise to may sports and leisure clubs. Each year, in collaboration with the Landesverband der Berg- und Knappenvereine (state association of miners’ unions), the museum organises the “Bochumer Knappentag,” which is attended by approx. 450-500 miners, flag bearers in traditional costumes and marching bands.

Aerial view of the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum by Deutsches Bergbau-Museum BochumLeibniz Association

Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum

The Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum documents, studies and presents the history of worldwide mineral resource extraction from prehistoric times until today. A demonstration colliery allows visitors to experience the world of mining; the head frame, a local landmark, offers a sweeping view across the city of Bochum and the Ruhr region. Shortly before the end of the German coal mining in the year 2018, the historically grown exhibitions will be redesigned, among other things, to shed a new light on the dependence of human progress on resource extraction and resource processing and to focus on the importance of mining for the Ruhr region.

Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum (DBM) - IMAGEFILMLeibniz Association

A view into the demonstration colliery by Deutsches Bergbau-Museum BochumLeibniz Association

The demonstration colliery presents the technical developments in coal and ore mining up to the modern extraction methods. Along a route of 2.5 kilometres, visitors can experience the day-to-day activities underground. A rope hoisting simulator with an air lock allows visitors to physically recreate the miners’ depth experience.

A view into the special exhibition “BERGAUF BERGAB – 10.000 Jahre Bergbau in den Ostalpen” (UPHILL DOWNHILL – 10,000 years of mining in the Eastern Alps)Leibniz Association

Collection objects from various time periods document the driving of mine workings (building of tunnels). The everyday historical collection represents the aspects of mining related to daily life. The roots of the mineralogical collection reach back more than 150 years.

Exhibition area concerning St. Barbara, the patron saint of miners by Deutsches Bergbau-Museum BochumLeibniz Association

Since the 1940s, mining-based art and culture have been the focus of the museum’s collection. The important role of the Christian faith in coping with the dangerous work is demonstrated by the objects in the sacral-transcendental collection.

Excavations of the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum by Deutsches Bergbau-Museum BochumLeibniz Association

In the year 2004, the dating of a piece of charcoal made it possible to declare the discovery of the world’s oldest known gold mine to date in Sakdrissi/Georgia. Due to its cultural-historical significance, the pit was placed under protection in 2006; until 2013, the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum coordinated the research activities. In the meantime, the protection status of this unique object was revoked again in order to continue the commercial exploitation of the area’s gold deposits – an example of the conflicting interests of economy and culture.

Credits: Story

„8 Objects, 8 Museums“ is a joint project of the Leibniz research museums and the Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien in Tübingen on the occasion of the Leibniz Year 2016.

All reproduced documents, photos and films:
Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum, photos: 1, 2, 3, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22
Dräger-Werk AG & Co. KGaA, Lübeck: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13
Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum (produced by G+K-Film, Frankfurt): 19
Kurt Wardenga, Gladbeck: 17
H. Blossey: 18
AVttention/Klaus Stange, Marienheide: 23

Text and object selection:
Diana Modarressi-Tehrani, Stefan Brüggerhoff, with support by Michael Farrenkopf

Translation: Hendrik Herlyn

Dräger, Bernhard (1912): Der Werdegang des Rettungsapparates, Essen
Drägerwerk AG & Co. KGaA: Geschichten, die unser Unternehmen prägten (Stories that defined our company), Internet publication http://www.draeger.com/sites/de_corp/Pages/ueber-draeger/historie.aspx (accessed on 11/26/2016)

Advanced literature:
Farrenkopf, Michael (2006): Courrières 1906 – Eine Katastrophe in Europa. Explosionsrisiko und Solidarität im Bergbau. FFührer und Katalog zur Ausstellung des Deutschen Bergbau –Museums Bochum, des Institutes für Stadtgeschichte Gelsenkirchen und des Stadtarchivs Herne

Tafelski, Maxi (2009): Restaurierung eines Dräger Rettungsapparates – Modell 1904/09 aus der Sammlung des Deutschen Bergbau-Museums Bochum, Metalla 16.1, Bochum

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
From Bach to Bauhaus
Art, sights and history brought to you by over 160 institutions in Germany
View theme
Google apps