ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History   /  publications

The Sample Collections of Machine Embroidery of Eastern Switzerland in the St Gallen Textile Museum
in: Textile History, 22 (2), p. 165 - 176, 1992, by Anne Wanner-JeanRichard

page 1 of 10
1 -
introduction: history, early enterprises
2 - St Gallen Entrepreneurs and their Sample Collections: early manufacures: Rittmeyer,
3 - Grauer,
4 - Alder,
5 - Iklé Frčres,
6 - Tschumper,
7 - Fraefel
8 - The Types of Embroideries Produced: designers, white embroidery, coloured embroidery, post cards, lace, curtains
9 - Machine Lace
10 - Contemporary Reports (world exhibitions), Announcements and Advertisements (magazines), labels and envelopes.

Since the thirteenth century, the production of thread and textiles has played an important role in St Gallen. In the nineteenth century, this importance grew, first through the spinning of cotton and the weaving of muslin, and then from the second half of the century onwards through the production of machine embroidery. The basis for the development of the machine embroidery was the invention of the so-called "hand machine", two of which were sold in 1829 by their inventor, Josua Heilmann from Mulhausen, to the St Gallen cloth merchant Franz Mange (1).
These looms, entirely operated by hand, were not suitable for large-scale production, since at least two people were needed for their operation.


Moreover, the final products were rather coarse in their appearance, and because of the time required for working, only a relatively small amount of embroidered material could be produced. This type of machine was improved in the following years by entrepreneurs and mechanics in St Gallen; in particular the pantograph was changed and shorter needles were introduced which permitted the usage of finer yarn and more delicate material. The machine could be operated by a single person, and due to the enlargement of the machine - first to 2.70 metres, then to 3.60 metres and later to 4.50 metres - the number of embroideries produced simultaneously rose (2).

see also


The St Gallen historian Hermann Wartmann reported in 1880 about the first enterprises which were created in St Gallen and its surroundings (3). In 1840, Franz E. Rittmeyer established the first factory with 12 machines in St. Gallen. In 1852, there followed J.J. Zust, Sennhauser & Co, as well as J. L. Billwiller. Larger entreprises operated outside the town, like Rittmeyer who in 1854 founded a factory with more than a hundred looms in Bruggen while Wiget, Haene and Huber chose Kirchberg and the Brothers Giger established in 1855, an embroidery firm in Degersheim which was followed in 1856 by an establishment by J.C. Altherr in Speicher. Further factories followed.


As for embroidery techniques, two innovations were especially important.
- First the Schiffli machine embroidery which was developed in 1863 by the master weaver Isaak Gröbli (1822-1917) (4). The principle of the hand machine was combined here with that of the weaving machine which most importantly eliminated the time-consuming threading of yarn by hand. Later, Gröbli's son Arnold made the machine automatic by introducing the Jacquard system of perforated cards to control the needles.
- The other important innovation was the invention of the corrosion technique which led to the production of mechanical lace (5).



Sample book, Rittmeyer St Gallen, 1879,
hand embroiderey machine, Textile Library St Gallen


Page of sample book, Alder & Rappold,
Schiffli embroidery machine, 1873 - 1910
Textile Library, St Gallen





Sample book, Huber, Kirchberg, 1890-1910,
Textile Library St Gallen


Detail from sample book
Textile Library St Gallen


Ever since the early period in the development, firms in eastern Switzerland collected samples of machine embroideries and kept these in sample books or sample collections.
A large quantity of such sample collections of firms of St Gallen found their way into the textile library which forms an important part of the textile museum at St Gallen. The early examples include books on the production of Rittmeyer, on the Giger firm, the Tschumper firm, the Huber firm in Kirchberg, the Wetter firm, the Fischbacher firm and many others. Apart from the sample books of the firm Rittmeyer, the important collections of the firms Grauer, Alder and Iklé will be discussed in the following sections. All are in the collection of the St Gallen textile library.


The orders given by the customers were based on the sample collections. Emma Lendenmann recalled in her memoirs that "When a buyer of embroideries had made an appointment, two fast horses were put to the carriage and sent to Flawil where the customer was received and taken by carriage up to Degersheim.... " (6). About her work in the sample room, she said: "...among the functions I had to carry out, was the sticking of samples into a special book. It was one of my duties to provide a whole library of such sample books and to keep them in a special room. Special collections were also sent to customers abroad.

  References - 1 - 6:
1 - Hermann Wartmann,
Industrie und Handel des Kantons St Gallen 1867-1880 (St Gallen 1884-1887), p. 155; and also a summary of all important sources: Arnold Saxer, Die Stickerei-Treuhand Genossenschaft St Gallen (St Gallen, 1965); and Matthias Weisshaupt, Bibliographie zur Industriegeschichte St Gallen (St Gallen, 1987).

2 - Ernest Iklé, La Broderie Méchanique 1818-1930 (Paris, 1931), p. 10.

3 - Wartmann, Industrie und Handel.

4 - Ernst August Steiger-Züst,
Schweizerische Landesausstellung Bern 1914, die StickereiIndustrie (Zürich 1915), p.30.

5 - According to Steiger-Züst (see note 4), Charles Wetter-Ruesch was the inventor of this technique.

6 - Emma Lendenmann-Bosch, "Meine Erinnerungen an die Stickerei-Industrie in Degersheim", Toggenburgern Annalen (1983), p. 28.


Introduction Rittmeyer Grauer Alder Ikle Tschumper Fraefel Types Lace Reports

content Last revised 25 July, 2004