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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The Firm of
Grauer in Degersheim (9)
The village of Degersheim lies in the northern part of Toggenburg. The spinning of cotton began in this valley between 1730 and 1740, and between 1763 and 1780 the weaving of muslin was introduced in Hemberg, Mogelsberg and Degersheim.

The new cotton industry caused Degersheim to more than double its population within a few years; in 1763 there were 21 houses; by 1798 there were 47. The village was almost totally burnt down in 1818, and when it was rebuilt an atempt was made to establish a weaving basement in every house. From the beginning of the 1840s, goods from Toggenburg were successfully sold in Central and South America.
Qualified weavers had acquired their skills by working for many years at the weaving loom, and in this village the first embroidery machines were already established between 1842 and 1848.

Here too, the new technology was first used by small firms which soon developed into actual factories. The factory law of 1877 resulted later in a return to home embroidery and home industry. The reason for this change was the fact that all firms with three or more machines counted as factories. They were therefore subject to the new law which imposed restrictions regarding working hours, employment of children, etc., on firms.
These laws did not apply to home embroiderers, whose wives and children could help without considerable restrictions regarding working hours.

The first firms in Degersheim were the Giger Brothers, Grob-Raschle, Ernst Kuhn, Meyer-Kreis, Hartmann, Grauer and Hufenus.


The Grauer firm developed into an important enterprise. The family came from Wurttemberg (Germany) to Switzerland in the 1850s.
Initially, father Grauer ran a tailor's business in the village, and later worked in the embroidery industry. He married a local girl, Antonia Schnetzer, and in 1859 their son Isidor was born.

The latter went to Geneva at the age of 15 to learn French. We meet him again in Paris, aged 17, in the company of two other Swiss men. After his return to Degersheim at the age of 19, he joined the embroidery firm of Arnold Hufenus. The latter, however, soon moved to the town of St Gallen to establish a business there.

Isidor Grauer continued to run the firm in Degersheim - which after his marriage changed its name to Grauer-Frey - on his own. He acquired a leading position in providing embroidery for the fashion industry, and for a long time Degersheim was called "Little Paris".
At the turn of the cetury, up to 400 people were employed in Grauer's firm, of which 200 worked in the factory, and the same number were home workers who received orders from the firm.

The entrepreneur introduced various innovations, as for instance the first automatic embroidery machine which he purchased in 1911. Fifty designers and drawers created novelties which were exported to the United States, South America, England and Russia. In 1922, the enterprise, under the leadership of Isidor's sons, changed its name to "Grauer & Co".

  From his numerous business travels, Isidor Grauer brought home historical lace and embroideries which served his designers as illustrative material. In the course of time, he printed fabrics of various periods and origins.
In October 1983, the Textile Inistitute in St Gallen obtained this collection, the "Sammlung Grauer". Besides the historical textiles there is a specialist library obtaining 2'000 items. Today, the St Gallen textile library also owns the sample books from the period between 1885 to 1920 containing about one million machine embroidery fragments.

9 - Clemens Principe, Degersheim, wirtschaftliche Entwicklung und Sozialstruktur (Dissertation, Zürich und St. Gallen, Polygraph. Verlag AG), p. 20.


Introduction Rittmeyer Grauer Alder Ikle Tschumper Fraefel Types Lace Reports

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