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

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  St Gallen Entrepreneurs and their Sample Collections

Hardly any scholarly research has been done on the embroidery firms of St Gallen; there are, however, reports, year books, papers on firms' anniversaries, and in some cases even descriptions by the firms' owners themselves. These writings give an impression of the development of several enterprises. Although in most cases these are not works based on research, they nevertheless present a picture of the important embroidery firms of St Gallen.



Franz Elysäus Rittmeyer, 1819 - 1892

Machine embroidery, produced 1850-1860
so called "Hamburghs" ,
Ernest Iklé collection, St Gallen

Lace edging with ring decoration,
produced from 1877,
Ernest Iklé collection, St Gallen


Embroidery machine operated by hand
invented by Heilmann and improved by Rittmeyer and Vogler


The Firm of
Franz Elisaus Rittmeyer-Ziegler (7)
F.E. Rittmeyer was born in Lindau on 23 May 1819 and moved in 1829 to St Gallen where he completed his school years. He was sent to Lausanne in order to learn French, and was later trained as a merchant in Bordeaux.

Following this, he entered his father's cloth business. He improved the embroidery machine of Heilmann, which had been acquired by his grandfather Franz Mange, with the help of a mechanic called Anton Vogler. In an old cotton factory in the Wassergasse of St Gallen, both of them rented larger rooms and equipped them with embroidery machines.

The actual breakthrough was achieved in 1851 at the Great Exhibition in London. Other reports give the dates of 1853 or 1854.

According to some sources (8), one Herr Hamel from Hamburg is said to have appeared in St Gallen and to have bought the entire production of one year in order to sell it to the USA. Another firm's history claims that in 1853, purchasers from New York chose the St Gallen trading house Vonwiller as their business partners and placed the first orders for machine embroideries for North America in 1854.


In 1856, the year of the opening of the St Gallen railway, Rittmeyer was able to embark on a new enterprise in Bruggen, outside the town, where 120 embroidery machines were set up in six large rooms.

Franz E. Rittmeyer worked together with his brother Robert who had taken over the running of the factory in Bruggen, and his other brother Otto who was interested in further improvements of the embroidery machines.

He invented, for example, mechanical devices for the making of holes for "broderie anglaise", and a supplement of the machine for Festonnieren (scalloping) of edges.

During its best years, the enterprise employed about 300 workers, in addition to home workers who performed several operations, like inspecting, cutting, etc.

Unfortunately the Rittmeyer brothers were unable to overcome the crisies of 1890, and in 1891 the factory ceased working. In 1898 it was sold.


satin stitch with handmachine


7 - Dora Fanny Rittmeyer, Geschichte der alten Stickereifabrik in Bruggen und der Familie Rittmeyer (St. Gallen, 1943).

8 - Ulrich de Gaspard Vonwiller/Hoffmann: Geschichte eines St. Gallischen Gschäftshauses, 1759-1892 (Einsiedeln, 1893).


Introduction Rittmeyer Grauer Alder Ikle Tschumper Fraefel Types Lace Reports

content   Last revised 25 July, 2004