|ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History / Bobbin Lace in Steckborn|
Lace from Steckborn, history by Anne Wanner,
translations by Mireille Finger, Hetty Leuthold, Angela
Baier, techniques and sample patterns by the swiss bobbin
lacemakers VSS/FDS group under the direction of Vrena
168 pages, 35 Sample Patterns, many black and white and coloured photos, reproduction of documents, text in German, English and French, Schiers Switzerland 2003
ordered at Sfr. 58.00, Euro 39.00
References: archives, literature
Foreword and acknowledgements.
archives as used for the study:
- Dokumente Steckborn, Museum im Turmhof: Quittungsbuch, Rechnungsformulare, Beschreibung von Steckborn 1949, Akten aus dem Oberhaus
- Archiv "Bote vom Untersee", Steckborn
- Staatsarchiv des Kanton Bern: Landesausstellung Bern 1914: Gesellschaft für Schweizerische Heimkunst, Sign. S.L.A.B. 3244 (72)
- Orbes, Archives cantonales vaudoises: Roland Jayet, La famile Fatio (Manuskript)
- Manuscript privé: Notice sur les origines de la famille Fatio, bourgeoise d'Orbe, rédigé en 1915, par William Guex
- Staatsarchiv Ludwigsburg (handschriftliche Korrespondenz):
E 170 Bü 1135 (Liste Schülerinnen , Kontakt Erzgebirge Stapa); E 191 Bü 4845 (Briefwechsel Köngen: Sept 1866 bis Dezember 1910), E 191 Bü 6667 (Brief Zélie Fatiod, Zeitungsinformation), E 191 Bü 6668 (Bewerbung Schülerinnen)
- Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart (gedruckte Berichte):
E 143 Bü 135,136, (Wohltätigkeitsverein allgemein; Einrichtung Schule 1824/25, S.38; Muster aus der Schweiz 1829/30 S.5; Reutlinger Spitzen 1831/32 S.9; Ende Schule 1833-37, S. 19 (Berichte 1842-44 nur noch allgemein), Musselinstickerei 1826-1833, Stroharbeiten 1826-1833).
catalogues (chronological order):
Lacemaking in Switzerland (chronological order):
Bobbin Lacemaking in Germany and Europe (chronological
Sample books in Museum Turmhof at Steckborn:
|Author of part I: Anne
- Industrial and Trade Schools in
- Development in the late 19th and in the 20th c.
|Authors of part II: Rita
the team of bobbin lacemakers
Straw and Horsehair Lace, Equipment, Stylistics and Techniques
- The Straw and Horsehair lace in the Steckborn Museum by Rita Bernhard
- Technical Specialities of the Bobbin Lace from Steckbornby the team of bobbin lacemakers
- Patterns and technical drawings (published in the book and not on this webpage)
"Haven't you got any historical information about your lace collection?" This question was asked many times of us, in the "Museum im Turmhof" in Steckborn. It was a question which cropped up regularly. Articles about some of the lace, had been written at some time or other, but these were out of print and we were not allowed to reprint them. So we had to console our guests and visitors and hope for . Someday in the future. Now - at last - this huge task has been completed and lies in front of you. The history of the Steckborn Lace, its appearance, the manner in which it was worked and its characteristic technicalities. Hardly anyone can imagine, how much work was involved, how many hours of research were needed, to investigate the details of the background, needed for this book!
Previously, when I conducted tours through the Museum, I used to tell the people that there were about 600 diferent patterns in Steckborn. I had a bit of a bad conscience about this, because I could hardly believe that there were so many! Today we know that there are over 2000 patterns! All the samples and patterns had to be compared, redrawn and worked. Then the traces and reports about lace, and its history, had to be researched in the various archives. I would like to express our thanks and appreciation to all those dedicated people, who helped to complete the enormous task of bringing this book to print.
The fact that this book could be realised, and that the members of the Swiss Lacemakers Association, could have so much material to work on, was also due to certain lucky coincidences.
|The first fact is that
Steckborn as a town, was spared and never had any big
fires, so that in the attics of houses many sample books
and lace were preserved. When the "Museum im
Turmhof" was opened in 1937, many people brought
their treasures here. At the biginning of World War II,
all the attics had to be cleared out, by order of the
Fire Department. This increased the collection in the
Museum again. Since then it has become a custom in
Steckboern. Nobody throws their textiles away. They
present them to the Museum. So our collection of bobbin
lace grows and grows. It is still increasing!
This book presents another aspect for our appreciation. - Namely the change in the standard of value: - or the change over from the "occupation of lace work" to the art of lace work". Many people will be surprised to find out that bobbin lace was regarded as a simple textile technique, which one couldl learn in a very short time, and then could quickly earn some money from selling it. This was in the period when the basic materials were expensive and the labour was cheap. Today, it is exactly the opposite, and it is almost impossible to make bobbin lace and to sell it for a profit at the present rate of pay per hour.
I do hope however, that this book will kindle among its readers an increased desire to take up bobbin lacemaking as a hobby, and so help prevent the Steckborn Lace from being forgotten.
Steckborn, 22 December 2002
Hans Peter Hausammann, Museum im Turmhof
The basis for this publication was formed by the voluntary work of all the lacemakers, who for years studied patterns in the old sample books of Steckborn lace. They re-drew the patterns and worked them to make new laces. They also concentrated on the specialities of Steckborn Lace and translated these into technical drawings, in many hours of discussions and hard work.
Thank you to all the members of the group: - Claire Burkhard, Anita Dajcar, Trudi Dreher, Mathilde Erni, Ester Gasser, Silvia Huber-Erni, Vreni Lauffer, Marina Meyrat, Trudi Nöthiger, Madeleine Ziegler and Ruth Zürcher who under the leadership of Verena Mathis, worked on this project.
Thank you too, to those people who, with their knowledge, helped in the development of this publication.
|In Steckborn: - Mrs. Rita
Bernhard; Mrs. Trudi Dreher; Mr. Hans Peter Hausammann;
Mr. Martin Keller allowed access to the "Bote vom
Untersee" and Magistrates Court, Steckborn.
Further important news and facts about Bobbin Lace in Steckborn came from: Mrs. Aebersold-Kihm, Elgg; Mrs. Arber-Siegrist, Bottighofen; Mrs. Nicole Fatio, Céligny; Dr. med. Alfred O. Fleisch, Mammern; Dr. chem. Hans Fleisch, Steckborn; Mrs. Marie Horber-Gräflein, Steckborn; Mrs. Ursula Meister-Jäger, Köniz; Family Fehr-Thalmann, Kreuzlingen; Dr. Alfred Labhart, Rom; Mrs. Heidi Polla, Küsnacht (ZH); Dr. Alfons Raimann, Frauenfeld; Mrs. Lina Sinner-Bruttel, Tägerwilen; Dr. Verena Stadler-Labhart, Zürich.
Information about the development of lace in neighbouring Germany came from: Mr. Otfried Kies, Brackenheim-Hausen; Mr. Dieter Griesshaber, Köngen; Mr. Bernd Weigel, Köngen; the State Archives in Ludwigsburg with Mrs, Monika Dirsch and Mrs. Bader; and the Main State Archives in Stuttgart.
Oberhaus Steckborn, 19th c.
Lacemaking around the Lake of Constance
Steckborn is situated on the "Untersee" - the westernmost, smaller end of the Lake of Constance. On the opposite bank is the German peninsula called "Höri" (1).
The old town centre of Steckborn is triangular in shape. The lake edge forms one side of the triangle. The surrounding earlier hamlets of Dorf, Weier, Wolfkehlen and Feldbach, with its hotel, being the only remaining building left over from the former convent of the Cistercian order, are incorporated into the present town, or settlement. Castle Glarisegg, built between 1772 and 1774, and situated nearby, was turned into a boarding school in 1902. At present the school has been closed and the future of the castle is uncertain.
In 1290, it is documented that the place, Steckborn, is a "stat" - meaning town, with a fortification of wooden palisades. Together with the monastery Reichenau, the name of Steckborn was linked and mentioned in early times. The abbot of Reichenau - Diethelm von Castell, received official market and town status for Steckborn from King Henry VII in 1313. Presumably, the abbot ordered the town walls, with towers and gates to be built. As time passed, the walls crumbled, and in the 19th century the three gates were demolished. In the last few years, the town wall and the tower, which contained the gun-powder, have been restored.
|Until well into the 19th
century, Steckborn retained the identity of a small
country town of the Middle Ages. In 1855, there were 150
livestock keepers in the Old Town. In those days, almost
every houseowner was a craftsman and a small farmer as
well. His private little field of hemp or flax provided
the basic material for spinning thread with a spinning
wheel or spindle whorl. The weaving was done by the
The origin of lacemaking is not known. According to a story which has been handed down, this creative skill was started in Steckborn by a lady who came there from Saxony (Germany). This has however, never been recorded on paper. In an introduction to Steckborn, in the "New Years Paper" 1830 from Thurgau, the historian Johann Adam Pupikofer (1797-1882) mentioned that "bobbin lacemaking was introduced in Steckborn, by a lady who had died not long ago". The same author repeated his opinion, in "A History of Thurgau" from 1830, and also in its second edition (2).
|The catalogues of the trade
exhibitions in Bern in 1830, 1848 and 1857 described the
Canton Thurgau briefly as an area where bobbin lace was
produced. More details were found in the reports on the
four trade exhibitions held in the Thurgau in 1850, 1856,
1866 and 1893 (3). In 1850, the report
reads that lacemaking had been practised in Steckborn for
a long time, and that an innovation was horsehair lace
with fine straw plaits incorporated in the piece. This
new method, a Mr. St. Hanhart had brought from Canton
Aargau to Steckborn, after a serious outbreak of potato
blight, which had caused great hardship to the country.
The first two reports also mention Johann Jakob Wüger,
who in 1850 displayed an especially large selection of
pretty linen lace and horsehair lace, and received
certificates of recognition.
Both Wüger and Hanhart were lace dealers or lace manufactors, as they were titled in those days. The task of such merchants consisted mainly of finding markets, where they could sell the lace. There were also "Fergger" - go-betweens - involved in the lace business. They worked independently, chose the lacemakers, negotiated their payments, often they supplied the necessary threads and materials too, as the lacemakers lived in scattered places, and worked at home. In many cases, these agents delivered the materials and then collected the finished work. Some agents had fixed addresses, so that sometimes the lacemakers brought their lace to the agent. The go-betweens then sold the work, to shops or perhaps sold, also, directly to the clients.
The successful trade exhibition of 1850 in Frauenfeld, encouraged a fresh interest in handicrafts. The exhibition report emphasised in its general remarks (4), that special customer requests had played a part in stimulating renewed interest in lace - making. The local citizens did not cause this. It was the nobility, who resided in many mansions and castles built around the "Untersee" and who paid a lot of attention to fashion, and the luxurious elegance of the cities.
During the troubled time of the Revolution, several castles in the Steckborn area (5) had french troops quartered there. In the first half of the 19th century, several members of the Bonaparte family came to live near the "Untersee". Hortense, Napoleon's stepdaughter occupied the castle "Arenenberg" from 1817 till her death in 1837. Her son, later to became Napoleon III, lived here for several years during his youth. He even gained citizenship of Canton Thurgau and of Switzerland. In the 1870's, Eugénie spent several summers here, at the home of her deceased husband. She donated the "Arenenberg" as a legacy to the Canton Thurgau and wished that it should remain a Museum. The lady-in waiting to Hortense, a Miss Louise Cochelet, bought the castle "Sandegg" in 1817. However, after her marriage to Colonel Parquin, she lived in the castle "Wolfsberg", by Ermatingen. So "Sandegg" served as a refuge for the Bonaparte family, and their guests. Prince Eugen de Beauharnais, a former Viceroy of Italy, lived from 1814 till his death in 1824, in the castle
daughter Eugénie inherited the castle. One of Hortense's
cousins, Stephanie de Beauharnais, a widowed grand
duchess of Baden, bought a castle in Mannenbach, in 1825.
It was renamed Louisenberg by the next owner, Louise de
Séréville, in 1861. In the second half of the 19th
century, other German and English nobility came to live
in castles in the area.
From reports of the trade exhibitions, a further interesting fact came to light. There were some people in Canton Thurgau who were producing and manufacturing silk (6). The Steckborn merchant, Johann Jakob Attinger (1787-1859) displayed in 1850 his own production of silk, and he also had a box with cocoons on display. In 1856, his silk and that from the agricultural college in Kreuzlingen, was awarded a first class diploma. Other silk manufacturers were U. Stähelin from Amriswil, and J.L. Stäbler from Uesslingen. In later years silk production declined, and was not even mentioned in the exhibition report of 1893.
In Steckborn only a few examples of silk bobbin lace were found. Mainly of black silk. In the documentation relating to laces, a term "Blonden" was found to refer to horsehair lace. For example the work shown at the 1856 exhibition in Frauenfeld, referred to horsehair lace only. In other areas, e.g. in the straw industry from the Canton Aargau, in Württemberg and in the Erzgebirge - Germany - lace made with horsehair and straw from the mid 19th century, was also called "Blonde" or "Strohblonden" (7) (straw blonde).
In the french speaking areas, the term "Blonde" refers to silk lace, and why it should also refer to lace made from horsehair, is a mystery. One explanation could be that lightened horsehair and silk have a similar appearance, and they were both worked with bobbins. In Aargau, there is a separation between plaited work, braiding, cording and "Blonde". Only the last term referred to an item where bobbins were used.
In the 1850 exhibition report, there was another interesting and informative remark. The needlework class of the school in Steckborn displayed some of the young girls' work, and received a special diploma for outstanding children's work. Bobbin lace was not specially mentioned, but the young girls could have been taught the techniques of lacemaking together with the other housewifely skills and crafts.
|Exhibition Catalogue: names exhibitors and describes the products|
list indicates the usage for bobbin lace.
In the catalogue of 1850, Johann Jakob Wüger and Melchior Hanhart are listed as lace merchants. The other persons mentioned, from Steckborn and surrounding villages, were exhibitors. Probably, they were concerned with selling lace. It does not state in the catalogues whether these people made the lace themselves.
In 1856, there were fewer lace exhibitions and merchants.
In the 1866 and 1893 exhibitions, the Steckborn industries and trades took part in the Thurgau show. However, the lace trade is no longer listed.
At the National Swiss Exposition of 1883 in Zurich, the following ladies exhibited:
At the Trade Exhibition in Zürich in 1894, the work of bobbin lacemakers from "Untersee" were on view. A lady from Thurgau was seated at her pillow, and made lace, on the gallery. The displayed lace was from:
At the Swiss Exhibition for Women's Crafts in Bern 1928 (SAFFA).
living room, 19th c.
sample-books from Oberhaus, around 1850
|The businessman and lace
merchant Johann Jakob Wüger (1793-1875) played a large
part in promoting lacemaking in Steckborn in the 19th
century. He spent his whole life living in
"Kirchgasse" (church street) in the
"Oberhaus". This name has been documented since
1731. His father was a furrier, and bought the house on
the 29th May 1793, from his father-in-law Christoph
Hanhart. It had been built for Mr. Hanhart. One does not
know whether the house was used as business premises.
From a pattern book, which was found (fig. xx),
one can deduce that a company was formed in 1798. That
was five years after the furrier bought the house. At
first, the business could have been fur trading, but in
later years textiles became more important to them. In
the 1820's, young Johann Jakob Wüger (who was
approximately 27 years old and already a businessman) was
trading with textiles, and could already have started
trading with lace too. In his home town, he was a
respected citizen and councillor. He was married to Marie
Ursula Haffter from Weinfelden. They had two sons and
four daughters. One of the sons, Jakob Wüger (1829-1892)
became a friar. With the name Pater Gabriel he became
famous even beyond the borders of Switzerland as a
In the lace trade, the eldest daughter Dorothea Pauline (1828-1909) together with her brother Ferdinand, played a big role. During her youth, Dorothea spent some time in La Neuveville, to learn french. It is possible that she learnt to make "Neuchâtel" bobbin lace there. Her granddaughter Marie, received copies of Dorothea's diary (8) about her years as a young girl, living in the "Oberhaus". The grandmothers' memories were vividly described by Marie, as she was often told how her grandmother, together with her sisters, helped to sell the bobbin lace in the shop. In the 1860's Johann Jakob Wüger passed the business on to his son Ferdinand (1831-1874). By that time, the daughters were no longer living in the "Oberhaus". Dorothea Pauline ,married the advocat, and later chief magistrate, Johannes Labhart (1820-1877) in 1854. One sister, Anna Margaretha had died young, the other sisters had married and left home.
The 1870's seem to have been very hard and full of suffering for the family. The head of the business, Ferdinand never married, and died when he was only 42 in 1874. A year later, their father Johann Jakob passed away. Dorothea's husband followed in 1877, after a long illness. As the "Oberhaus" no longer had a chief manager, Dorothea had no choice, but to take over.
Dorothea Pauline's eldest daughter, was not yet 20 years
old. She came into the business to help her mother. All
the family's hopes rested on her young shoulders, and
must have weighed heavily. A suitable husband would be
able to help carry on the business. Fortune seemed to
smile on her. She attended the wedding of one of her
cousins, and met a young businessman Louis Fessler
(1843-1905), from Karlsruhe. He worked and travelled to
various large cities in Germany, and came to Steckborn to
attend his brothers wedding. His brother was a building
and railway engineer.
Mathilde and Louis were married in 1880, and Louis took over the business in the "Oberhaus". It was not easy for him to adjust to life in Steckborn, but he managed, and also brought about a fresh upsurge in the lace industry. He kept his contacts abroad, also with Karlsruhe, where his parents lived until 1889. He probably didn't just attend to family matters on his visits. Apart from his business acumen, Louis was also manually skilled. He could draw well, was witty and enjoyed singing. At the turn of the century, his health began to deteriorate, and he died on the 8th October 1905.
The textile business again entered a crisis period, which grandmother Dorothea Pauline experienced, although she could no longer work herself. Once more the young daughter came to the assistance of mother and grandmother, to help with the business. As the grandmothers' health began to fade, and she finally passed away in 1909, the decision was taken to close the textile business. The contents of the shop were sold off.
Mathilde's daughter Marie (1886-1971) married Karl Fehr in 1913. He was an auditor at the Thurgau Cantonal Bank. For a while, they lived in the bank building. In 1928, however, Karl Fehr became ill, and had to resign from his job as bank manager. Once more, members of the family moved back to the "Oberhaus", which was a refuge for them. By this time, it was no longer a bobbin lace mecca. The house remained in Marie's possession until her old age, and was finally sold in 1966.
|Diary with memoires from
Some extracts from the hand-written diary follow:
|Childhood years of Dorothea Pauline.|
enjoyed telling us about her happy childhood, when all 4
sisters were still at home.
In those days the bobbin lace industry was at its peak. A large amount of horsehair lace was made, which gave a lot of work to them all. One had to rewind the horsehair, which was delivered on large reels had to be rewound onto smaller reels. This, one had to deliver to the lacemakers, together with the pattern (which one sometimes also had to draw).
The most popular patterns among the lacemakers, were the simple insertion designs with holes. These the children could also do. They were called by the french term "Blondes". The more complicated patterns were executed by the older or elderly, experienced, lacemakers. These "finished" lace lengths were taken to Canton Aargau, where the straw motives were added to the design, and the completed lace was then distributed in France. Most of this lace went to Paris, where hats and bonnets were made out of it.
The parents had a large work load with shop and office work to do, so the daughters had to see to the household. Each girl had her turn, "her week" as it was called. She was expected to help out everywhere. Grandmama was the eldest and was in charge.
great grandparents had more and more orders for bobbin
lace, especially for the horsehair, in white and black.
It was decorated with straw flowers etc. in Aargau, and
almost all of the lace was sent to Paris. There they were
formed into a type of bonnet.
Dorothea Pauline and her family.
|My grandparents were very
happily married and they had four children. Mamma
Mathilde, Heinrich, Paul and Alfred. Mamma was the eldest
and stayed on in Steckborn. Grandfather died when he was
only 56 years old, so Grandmama moved back into the
"Oberhaus". She had the upper floor changed
into a flat for herself. She then helped in the shop and
especially in the still flourishing lace industry.
and her family.
At first Papa, who had travelled to various big cities in Germany during the course of his work, found it very hard to settle in Steckborn. Nevertheless, as our "business" was very neglected, due to uncle Ferdinand's death, he stayed to carry on the lace business. The lace dealing was still doing well, so he had some job satisfaction. Uncle William came to Steckborn. He was a railway engineer and came to assist with building the "Nordostbahn" (The North East Railway). His other brother, Uncle Christian (my godfather) was an architect with the railways. Uncle William's family often came to the "Palme" to visit the grandparents.
At the time Mamma married, and the business was taken over by Papa, the lace industry was going into decline. There were still enough orders to fulfil, and as Papa could draw very well, he designed patterns and had a few, very good lacemakers to execute them. These lacemakers lived in Ermatingen, and could make whatever patterns he drew. Mrs. Kihm, Küfers was especially talented. Papa often said she was his right hand. Later, when the new thread replaced the horsehair (the beginning of the synthetic fibres) the bobbin lacemakers enjoyed working with these new threads, because they didnt' break as often as the horsehair, which had to be knotted over and over again. However, the new threads could be used by machines, which made the lace much cheaper than hand-made lace, and so this craft and the industry died.
|The Heyday During the Era of Family Wüger|
|Of all the bobbin lacemakers
who once lived in and around Steckborn, there are only a
few traces left (11). In the two
catalogues of the Thurgau Trade Exhibitions, the two
ladies who made lace for the "Oberhaus" were
Mrs. Verena Füllemann (1817-1900) and Katharina
Füllemann (1824-1893). There is a photo showing
Elizabeth Kern-Merkle (1813-1898) from Berlingen, seated
at her lace pillow, making lace at an advanced age.
However, she probably did not do it for money, as she was
the sister-in-law of Minister J.K. Kern, the Swiss envoy
at the court of Napoleon III.
More than 2800 pattern samples of bobbin lace are in the collection in the "Turmhof" Museum in Steckborn. It is very difficult to decide whether a " foreign" sample is among the collection, and served as a pattern later on, or whether certain patterns were developed in Steckborn. The age of the samples could be a deciding factor. A large number of lace samples were glued into sample books, and the books were inscribed with names and dates etc. of the owners. So one can distinguish between early or mid 19th century samples, or others, made towards the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century. However, one cannot rule out the possibility that some bobbin lacemakers in the 1920's took their grandmothers or great-grandmother's lace samples into their own books and labelled them with their own names.
The sample books probably served to help the clients choose a special lace. The notion that the home workers collected samples for their own books, is probably an idea of the late 20th century. The ladies usually specialised in making a few patterns only and worked the same ones over and over. Therefore they became very practised and could produce a lot of lace in the shortest period of time.
|The early sample books are
mainly connected with the lace business in the
"Oberhaus". One folding book with 12 panels and
63 different samples of horsehair and straw lace, is
decorated with a label inscribed: "Ferd. Wüger,
previously - House of J.J. Wüger" (pattern
samples No 546-608). Of special interest, the label
states the foundation of the company, as the year 1798,
and an extra title as Straw Manufactory.
Unfortunately from the early years, between 1798 and approximately 1830, there are no other documents or papers. Ferdinand Wüger, who took over the business in the 1850's, would probably have compiled this sample book. Likewise, from the "early" years but without any dates, there are five folding sample books (patterns No 1748-2011) with examples of linen lace. One can presume that Joh. Jak. Wüger showed these to his customers and probably displayed the samples at the trade exhibition in Frauenfeld in 1850.
A small, privately owned sample book, labelled "Pillow laces from the Oberhaus", was probably also used for the clients. The pattern book of Susanna Hanhart-Buchenhorner (1824-1894) probably represents the collection of a go-between or middlewoman (with patterns No 452-545). Two thin books (patterns No 609-709 and patterns No 1238-1586) without any data, show linen bobbin laces, similar to the privately owned book from the "Oberhaus". The laces are stuck in, all over and close together. The patterns resemble those of the earlier examples, and the book could also have been from the "Oberhaus" or from one of the go-betweens.
Barbara Kihm-Ribi, Küfer's (1839-1929), Ermatingen
|The Upswing with Louis Fessler|
|At the time of the lace
merchant Johann Jakob Wüger and his son Ferdinand,
Steckborn lace was at its high point. The horsehair and
straw lace which was produced then, was used for hats,
bonnets and various decorative items. The bobbin
lacemakers of that era also produced lace in linen for
tablecloths, bedlinen and other household items, shirts,
collars etc. The following period brought about an
interruption and decline. Johann Blumer-Egloff wrote in
an article, during the World Trade Exhibition in Paris in
1878, that: .."this branch of the handicraft
industry has ceased almost completely" (9).
The memoires of the families in the "Oberhaus" leave one in no doubt, that Louis Fessler, the son-in-law from Karlsruhe caused a new upsurge in the family fortunes and those of the lacemakers, after 1880. His marriage to Mathilde Labhart (1856-1931) in this year started a new era for Steckborn lace.
Mathilde Fessler-Labhart probably compiled this sample book in the 1880's (No 2313-2331). It has 3 panels with horsehair lace. Further examples of straw and horsehair lace are in a "Blondenbuch" (patterns No 2180-2246). A short time ago, further sample books were found in a private collection. These books also had examples of horsehair and straw lace and stemmed from the estate of the "Oberhaus". They too had the same format as the "Blondenbuch", and they were most certainly also used by the customers. There must have been a complete series of these books. The pattern numbers in the "Blondenbuch" coincide with the numbers in an order book from the years 1896 to 1905. Here, the clients' names have been entered in abbreviated form.
|Some of them could have been
firms from Wohlen, in Canton Aargau. Fessler also had
customers across the borders. At least one customer lived
in France, namely: "Eug. Martin, 113 rue du Temple,
Paris". He is listed with full name. The term
"Berner Blond." (bernese Blondes) is also found
several times. This is an indication that the lacemakers
in Steckborn, also made the horsehair lace, needed for
the headdress of the bernese national costumes (10).
This was at the end of the 19th century, and before the
development of lacemaking in Lauterbrunnen. Accounts and
receipts from the early 20th century, confirm that the
lace was made for clients form Bern and Thun.
The order book also shows, apart from the orders and the work allocations to the lacemakers, Louis Fesslers' way with words. For example, in January 1897:
"What slumbers in the background? Orders many and large? That would be very healthy!"
However, two weeks later the disappointment:
"Untill today, they have let us down. I will console myself with the future!"
Towards the turn of the century, there are fewer such entries. On the one hand, there were less orders, and on the other hand Louis Fessler had increasing problems with his health. The year of his death, 1905, brought the end of business at the "Oberhaus".
Susanna Louise Labhart-Hug (1853-1929)
|Bobbin Lacemaking about 1900|
|Of all those bobbin
lacemakers who were living, and working, in and around
Steckborn, at the end of the 19th century, there are not
many written traces left (11).
One knows that Mrs. Anna Katharina Müller-Teucher (1833-1909), passed on her knowledge and skills of lacemaking to her daughter-in-law Sophie Müller-Schurter. Names and vital dates are known of Mrs. Marie Gräflein-Maron (1844-1918), of spinster Miss Berta Schmidhauser (1866-1951), she lived across from the "Oberhaus", of Miss Louise Brügel (born 1867) from Berlingen, of Mrs. Marie Hug-Brochazka (1880-1962), of Mrs. Bötschi (1898-1981). Also of Mrs. Susanna Louise Labhart-Hug (1853-1929), of Marie Gretsch-Wilhelm (1874-1969) and of Mrs. Elisa Forster-Gräflein (1887-1966). Some photographs have remained, and another photograph shows the former teacher Mr. Ernst Kreis (1896-1982) seated at his lace pillow. He had already retired, when the photo was taken. Mrs. Lina Sinner-Bruttel (born in 1914) made bobbin lace in her youth. She knew the family Fehr-Fessler, the last owners of the "Oberhaus", and she remembers that in the 1920's, no bobbin lace was sold from the premises any more.
Many lacemakers' names were entered in Louis Fesslers order books from (1896-1904) (see p. xxx). For example, Mrs. Barbara Kihm-Ribi, Küfer's (1839-1929) from Ermatingen, is mentioned several times. She is also mentioned as a very important co-worker of Fesslers', in Marie Fehr's diary (see p. xxx). Mrs. Kihm made horsehair and straw lace, and also worked as a go-between. It is however, not known which ladies she obtained lace from. It is known that Frau Kihm also taught bobbin lacemaking to a lady of russian nobility, who had emigrated, and who lived in Castle Hard. Her son, Konrad Kihm (1880-1976) also drew patterns, of which quite a few have been preserved. He signed and dated his patterns in 1902, and it has been found that he based his designs on patterns printed in the magazine: "Illustrierte Wäschezeitung" from 1898 (12).
Mrs. Madgalena Müller-Deucher (1846-1924) was a pedlar and sold among other things lace from Bohemia. In an advertisement dated December 1913, she listed many textile and lace items (13).
Mrs. Susette Sigrist-Müller (1861-1939) was photographed in her livingroom, in 1912. The two young girls in the foreground, at their lace pillows, learnt the craft from her. Two items made by Mrs. Sigrist, are in the Museum Collection in Steckborn.
|One is a black silk mourning
scarf or shawl (No H.S. 1867) and a curtain, which she
had entered in a competition. Together with Mrs.
Margaretha Spillmann-Labhart (1834-1925) they exhibited
their lace work at the Swiss National Exhibition, in 1883
in Zürich. Many linen sheets decorated with simple
designs in bobbin lace are still preserved and privately
owned. At the Trade Exhibition of 1894, in Zürich, both
ladies represented Steckborn again, and it is known that
one of them gave lace lessons while they were there (14).
Bobbin lace samples confirm that during this period, linen lace was not neglected. Several examples which have been preserved, were made by Margareta Bischof-Gräflein (1866-1933). Before she married, she lived in Steckborn. Both her daughters Lina (1886-1982) and Bertha (1889-1970) while they were children, had to work at making a certain length of bobbin lace every day. Thereby, helping to increase the income of the family. Lina later married and moved to Rapperswil (on the Lake of Zürich). She stayed in contact with family and friends from Steckborn throughout her life. In her later years, she again started making bobbin lace. Her daughter compiled an album, with old and newer patterns and samples for her in the 1950's.
Berta moved to Dübendorf after she married. In later years, her mother Margareta came to live with her till she passed away. Bertha's daughter, who lives in Küsnacht (ZH), was also influenced by the bobbin lace background (15).
Mrs. Katharina Hausmann-Biefer (1875-1945) compiled a book with bobbin lace samples (pattern No 1-205). Her daughter didn't learn to make lace, but she kept the book. She opened a handicraft shop in Steckborn, and the mothers' patterns kept her memories alive.
with Andrée Clerc - Berthoud
and Susanne Hanhart - Kreis
|With the closing of the
business in the "Oberhaus", Steckborn lost its
important sale center. The bobbin lacemakers still made
some lace, but soon only a few loyal customers and lace
fanciers knew where the lace was made.
From 1908, Mrs. Andrée Clerc-Berthoud (1886-1966) concerned herself with obtaining newer and more attractive designs for the laces to increase their saleability. She spent her youth in Canton Fribourg. Later, she attended schools in Neuchâtel. She was married in 1906 to Charles Clerc, who came to teach French, Greek and Latin at the Boarding School Glarisegg, near Steckborn (16) in 1908, and settled his family in the "Lower Lake Region".
Several reports in the newspaper "der Bote vom Untersee", during 1913 (17), mentioned a new approach to bobbin lace. An advertisement dated 3 June 1913, announced the "sale of traditional handicrafts at bargain prices", at a special showing. Mrs. Clerc realised that with some training and education in bobbin lace courses, the quality of the lace would be improved. So together with Mrs. Susanne Hanhart-Kreis (1873-1955), they organised and advertised a bobbin lace course, to be given by "Miss Ullmann and Mrs. Leiser".
Ilse Hanhart (1896-1971, married in 1923) from Steckborn, and Ilse Ullmann (1895-1967, married in 1917) from Mammern, were among the first
|young girls who attended the
courses and became inspired by Mrs. Clerc to improve the
local lace patterns. A sample book with bobbin lace
strips which belonged to Ilse Hanhart has been preserved.
Ilse Ullmann came from a family who were well-known for their needlework skills (the Ullmann-Saager family). As a young lady from a well-to-do family, she attended various schools and colleges in Neuchâtel, Bonn, and England, and she returned to Switzerland when the first world war broke out. Probably the collection of lace and patterns, which her family gave to the Steckborn Museum, stemmed from her interest in bobbin lace. The original pieces of lace, fixed to red or blue cardboard still have the price tags attached (18).
After Mrs. Clerc moved away from Steckborn, her co-worker Susanne Hanhart-Kreis, took over the care of the lace makers. Several papers and forms printed with her daughter Ilse's name, point out that Ilse was involved in selling lace, before she married, in 1923.
Andrée Clerc-Berthoud (1886-1966)
Ilse Ullmann (1895-1967)
|Revival of bobbin lacemaking|
|From the beginning of the
20th century, there was a movement towards a revival of
bobbin lacemaking in Switzerland. It seemed as though the
Swiss National Exhibition in 1914, in Bern, helped to
re-acquaint people with this branch of the handicraft
skills and works of art. At this Exhibtion, the lace on
display came from Lauterbrunnen and Gruyère. These
styles of bobbin lace attracted a great deal of publicity
and recognition, as opposed to the Steckborn Lace, which
slipped into the background for a long period. Steckborn
Lace was not even mentioned in the National Exhibition
catalogue, nor in the technical report. The only sign of
Mrs. Clerc's efforts to resurrect Steckborn Lace, was a
small advertisment about "Swiss Home Crafts".
This society was founded in Geneva in 1911, and its aim
was to preserve and develop the folk art of the country.
The society was also interested in the making of bobbin
lace among the other crafts, and at the Exhibition in
Bern, they sold lace at a stand in the bazaar. According
to the advertisement, it was announced: "Lace from
Steckborn (Thurgau) under the direction of Mrs. Charly
(sic.) Clerc" (19). Two years later,
Franziska Anner undertook an appreciative assessment of
the eastern Swiss bobbin laces. In her book, she drew
attention to the fact that Mr. Pupikofer's
"Neujahrsblatt" from 1830, had already
mentioned the Steckborn Lace.
The Vocational Art School in Zürich started instruction courses in lacemaking in 1916, as part of their syllabus (20). Alice Frey-Amsler was the teacher. She attempted mainly to favour the home industry in Bern, at that time. In Zürich, newer, more modern lace was being created as was seen at an exhibition of her pupil's work. They were pictured in the magazine "Wegleitungen" of 1916. In 1919, the "Society of Swiss Artists and Sculptors" had an exhibition at the "Kunstgewerbe Museum" (Museum of Arts and Crafts) in Zürich, and among their creations, they also devoted some space to new bobbin lace displays. At the same time, a small book on the development and history of bobbin lace was published (21). With regard to Steckborn, there was only one sentence, stating that the making of bobbin lace in Steckborn, was a source of income, for a while, in the mid 19th century.
In the courses for art needlework , in the former "Industrie- und Gewerbemuseum" (today Textilemuseum) in St. Gallen, learning to make bobbin lace was part of the curriculum. The St. Gallen Museum acquired a selection of bobbin lace pieces from Lauterbrunnen, Gruyère and Geneva, to add to their collection. They were interested in the development going on in Steckborn, with regard to bobbin lace, but that was all. In the annual report of 1917/18, Steckborn was again not mentioned. The lace made in the french part of Switzerland was reported at length. A new society called "Trèfle de Genève" (the Clover Leaf of Geneva) formed by a group of ladies, who wanted to promote artistically designed or refined needlework, adapted from old patterns. They would try to get orders and sell the works to wider circles of the population (22) and interested parties.
The bobbin lacemakers from "Untersee" still received, and worked orders for lace, which
|several documents confirm; a
new interest in the regional traditional costumes played
a large part. In 1896, four orders for "Bernese
Blondes" were entered in Louis Fessler's order book.
Two preserved receipt books from 1928 - 1930 (23)
list several clients from Canton Bern. In 1949, Eduard
Hanhart, husband of Susanne Hanhart-Kreis, wrote in a
publication on Steckborn, "lately, only the
horsehair lace for the traditional costumes, is still
financially worth while" (23).
The last few orders mentioned in the receipt books were most certainly in connection with the Swiss National Womens' Exhibition (SAFFA) in 1928, in Bern. Mrs. Hanhart-Kreis had a stand during the exhibition period (24). At the SAFFA, the women were encouraged to display their "amateur" handicrafts and needlework. There were 465 entries, of which only three items were in bobbin lace (25). This is an indication of how unimportant, at that time, bobbin lacemaking was, as a hobby or sparetime occupation.
In 1942, an order for a lace badge, to mark the celebration of the Swiss National Day (1st August) was issued to the Needle Craft and Art Workers from Gruyère (26). They had to make 800'000 badges. To be able to finish so many items, the lacemakers from the "Bernese Oberland" (Interlaken, Spiez, Lauterbrunnen etc.) were asked to assist. Even a factory in St. Gallen had to help out, as well. Steckborn and its lacemakers were forgotten. All the old documents and information, about the skills in Steckborn, must have been stacked away and "slept "peacefully" in many an attic.
After the sale of the "Oberhaus" in 1966, many lace books, sample books, documents and papers were given to the Museum in "Turmhof". There, they were available to the general public and must have inspired many people, and especially needle craft-skilled ladies. Since 1979, bobbin lace courses have been given again in Steckborn. Elisabeth Eigenmann and Susanne Kappeler issued two folders with Steckborn patterns (27). Silvia Böhni and Vreni Bachofen re-drew lace patterns, for the Swiss Country Crafts Association in 1984 (28). The interest in the traditional bobbin lace of eastern Switzerland had been reawakened. The second meeting of the National Swiss Lacemakers (every kind of lace) in Weinfelden/Steckborn in 1985 (29), was the impetus, which started the project to research the background of this beautiful branch of the Arts.
A comparison between the Home Industries in Southern Germany and Switzerland
|During the research into the
history of Steckborn Lace, the amazing resemblance
between the pillows used in Steckborn, those used in
Southern Germany and the pillows form Canton Neuenburg
formed an important starting point.
A clue to the connection was found in Marie Fehrs' diary: - ."while our grandmama was in the french part of Switzerland she attended the Institute Peter in Neuville". Brother Jakob Wüger attended the commercial school there at the same time, and made a very nice drawing (sketch in charcoal) of her, for a girl friend. Dorothea Pauline Wüger improved her french in Canton Neuenburg, and thus it is possible that she became intertested in making lace herself, and returned home with new ideas and enthusias.
As previously mentioned, there was an oral story in circulation, that a lady from Germany introduced lacemaking to Steckborn.
In the following section, we will attempt to judge the probability of the influences between Switzerland and southern Germany. In the areas such as the Black Forest (Schwarzwald), the foothills of the Alps (Albvorland), or the region around the Lake of Cosntance (Bodenseegebiet) the traditional rural way of life in the 19th century, remained more or less the same, in spite of new inventions such as steamships since 1824, or the building of the railway around 1840. Therefore, it is not surprising that neighbouring areas showed common interests and influences.
Since 1951, the present Baden-Württemberg borders on Switzerland. This new province was formed by combining the Grand Duchy of Baden, and the kingdom of Württemberg. In 1856, the Grand Duchess Luise (1838-1923) founded the "Women's Organisation" of Baden in Karlsruhe. This organisation was especially concerned with improving the training and education of women, in handicrafts. Since 1870, a Swiss lady - Elizabeth Weissenbach - was appointed to improve the skills of the needlecraftr sciences in the Grand Duchy of Baden: She was a pupil of a Swiss educationalist Josef Kettiger (30), who wrote a book - the Principles of Education - in 1854. On the basis of this book, Elizabeth Weissenbach trained 421 öupils from the region Constance, in the years from 1870 to 1909. These pupils were officially titled "Needlecraft Teachers" (31).
In Baden, the Swiss influence was especially dominant in the education and training of the needlecraftr subjects. King Wilhelm I of Württemberg (1781-1864) who ruled from 1816,
|devoted his attention to
schooling and education. His first wife, Katharina
Pawlowna endeared herself to their people, through her
social welfare work. In the yerar 1816/1817, there was
famine and high prices. She founded a welfare
organisation to help the poor. After her untimely death
in 1819, her husband King Willhelm, took over direct
control of the Organisation, which made it much more
flexible, whith less red tape, than the State Welfare
The Welfare Organisation wanted to get to the root of the problem, and start schools especially for the children of the Poor, with the purpose to counter begging and other mischief due to idleness. A very important target was to promote new industries and trades, and train teachers for the instruction of such (32). At that time, industry, crafts, trade meant the same - one must produce something, and to do this, one needed a groundign, regular hours of work and diligence. To prepare the boys and girls for work in a factory, they had to be trained at an early age to be hardworking, industrious, punctual and have a sense of order. The children from poor families were taught the textile trades, so that they could carry on their trades, and be independant in their adult life. Almost everywhere in Württemberg, in addition to the elementary schools also industrial or craftsschools were built. Both boys and girls had to go there, apart from other handicraft subjects, bobbin lacemaking was taught. The children from paupers had to attend the trade schools, during their free afternoons. In the elementary school children had two afternoons off per week. The only exception for a boy not attending a class, was when there was urgent agricultural work to be done. As opposed to the cities, schooling in rural areas, ws mainly absolved during the winter months. In Württemberg, the number of industrial schools built in the years between 1817 to 1864, increased rom 88 to 1450 institutions (33).
In Württemberg, the technique of bobbin lacemaking was known in several areas, in the 18th century. We will return to this subject later on. We would like to concentrate on a special institute in Stuttgart first:
|The Bobbin Lace Institute in Stuttgart|
|In the reports of the above
mentioned Welfare Organisation (34), one finds
remarks about a lady from the french part of Switzerland,
who in 1824, was living in Stuttgart, and was willing to
teach impoverished girls, and train them in the art of
bobbin lacemaking. The forefathers of Zélie Fatiod
(1797-1874) came from France, and settled in the french
part of Switzerland. After several years, they were able
to become citizens of the small town of Orbe (Canton de
Vaud). It is not known if Zélie herself lived here. Her
father is listed as being a carpenter in the Val de
Travers (Canton de Neuchâtel) and her mother came from
Meimsheim (Württemberg) (35).
The Welfare Organisation appointed her to teach in June 1824, with a salary of 22 Gulden per month (36). The old chancery building in Stuttgart was designated for use as a school, and girls from all over Württemberg could apply for a place, to learn how to make bobbin lace. The pillows and bobbins were made by local carpenters and turners, for their free use during their training period. Later on they could purchase the equipment. The management of the Welfare Organisation purchased the thread from abroad, smaller amounts were bought in Stuttgart from bohemian glass dealers. The Organisation also paid for the board and lodging of the out-of-town pupils. The girls had the opportunity to make lace and sell it, during their training period.
The former pupils stayed in contact with Stuttgart, and obtained their threads, and cartons or patterns here. In the printed reports of 1829/30 one reads that Zélie Fatiod had new patterns for the bobbin lace sent to her from Orbe (as note 34).
The money which was previously spent on purchasing lace, from abroad, one hoped, would remain in the country, and provide work for many. This was the reasoning behind the founding of a lace industry in Württemberg. It was also planned to export the lace to England and Russia.
|The training of the young
lacemakers progressed well, and 8 pupils from Stuttgart,
and 17 girls from the country learnt to make lace, in the
first year. The next year, there were 16 from the city,
and 12 girls from the countryside. Each year,
approximately 30 bobbin lacemakers returned to their
hometowns, after completing their training. There, some
of them, worked the lace to sell it, others taught in industrial
schools and still others were able to train other women,
in the art of bobbin lacemaking.
In this way, the craft was spread across the country, and quickly established itself. After six years, the central management of the Welfare Organisation decided that they should concentrate primarily on finding markets for the lace, instead of training any more pupils (as note 34). Zélie Fatiod travelled back to Switzerland, on 1 September 1830, as her health was failing. As a result of her petition, she received a sum of two months salary, as a parting gift.
The intended connection with the lace merchant Ferdinand Stapa, from the Erzgebirge could not be realized (as note 36). The schooling and training in Stuttgart were passed on to a previous pupil - Meta Kutter from Ravensburg, with the assistance of her sister.
After 1833, there were only odd bits of news about the lace institute in Stuttgart. It was supported until 1844 and received 300 Gulden per year (as note 34). The Welfare Organisation, during this time, only gave support to the poorest villages and to hardship cases.
|Zélie Fatiod asks for Acknowledgment of her Services|
|Stuttgart, 12th June 1830
To Your Gracious Majesty
I hereby, humbly submit a request.
For more than six years, I have been employed at the expense of the commendable Welfare Organisation here, which supports the bobbin lace school. This institution originally appointed me, and my assignment was, to train young girls in the making of bobbin lace. I also had to educate them, to the standard where they could work as teachers themselves, in this branch of the textile industry.
I tackled this task with such zealousness, that I even worked on 12 April, (holiday, stipulated by the Educational Board). I did this, to help shorten the schooling period of the poor country girls, without sufficient means, who had to pay for accommodation and food themselves. They could then go out sooner and earn their own bread.
The results of my assignment have been fully realised. There are now several lace schools, scattered throughout this country, namely in Calw, Heilbronn, Ellwangen, Gmünd, Ravensburg etc., which are very productive.
In addition, to my very strenuous occupation to
assist in getting this branch of the textile trade off
the ground, I have been giving my lace patterns, free of
charge, to all the lace teachers whom I have taught. I
had to have someone from my hometown (Orbe, Canton of
Vaud, Switzerland) send them to me.
|attestation of their
satisfaction with my work, by the superior, and I have
received my dismissal. For more than six years I have
worked in this institute, and have applied myself to the
best of my ability. I have also sacrificed my health, and
now I have been released without any security for my
Without doubt, my prospects are very uncertain, but I have faith. I hope that Your Honourable Majesty, who rewards every deserving cause so generously, will also graciously consider my petition. An appreciation of my services, in relation to securing my future existence, and to paying the high costs of my last illness, would bear tribute to your graciousness.
I would wish to bring to your merciful attention, my special circumstances, in this most humble, respectful request to Your Honourable Majesty.
As a result of the exertions of my occupation, I have been sick several times. My last illness cost me more than fl. 100, and because of the weakness of my body, I will not be able to earn any money, or work for a long time. My parents and our relations in France (sic.), are all without means, and are not in a position to support me. My salary as a teacher, was so small, that I was unable to save anything.
I will die as a humble servant to Your Gracious
from the state archives Ludwigsburg E 191 Bü 6667
|letter of applicant for Stuttgart:|
|Kochdorf on 10 March 1826
good friend has informed me that young women are being
accepted for training, by the Organisation, for the
making of Lace. I do have a little experience with filet
work, and therefore I humbly ask, if it is early enough,
to consider me for a vacant place at the institute. I am
able to bring the best references.
Should I be favoured by good fortune and be chosen, I will reward and please my superiors, through hard work and good conduct, for as long as I live.
In the meantime, I will perservere in hope of your gracious goodwill, and I remain respectfully, your humble and obedient servant.
Helene Friedericke Bechler.
STUTTGARTER ALLGEMEINE ANZEIGEN
Thursday the 4 May 1826
With Royal Württemberger permission.
Stuttgart. The bobbin lace institute which has been formed with royal support, has to date had continual favourable support and progress. Several greater districts have taken advantage of the invitation, by the central executive management of the Welfare Organisation, which was mentioned in the newspapers of May 1825. They sent the girls to lessons here, and now they can teach others in their home towns. At present, there are 26 pupils. However, in the coming month of May, several girls who have already absolved the course in bobbin lacemaking, will be returning home, and 8-10 places will become available for new pupils.
The central executive management would like to bring this to the attention of the greater districts, who have a desire to start this new branch of the textile trade in their towns. The Welfare Organisation offers lessons, free of charge, in bobbin lacemaking, and would like to stress that the commendable management, which has special control of the institute, would like those, who want to attend, to take note that costs for board and lodging will be 12 kr. daily.
Usually, 4 months are sufficient time to learn lacemaking to a degree, where one can earn money, as an occupation. For those pupils who would like to become teachers in this branch of the textile trade, another 3-4 months will be necessary, so that, in all respects, the pupil will be able to deliver what is expected of her. The lace which has been worked by the pupils, is sold by the institute for between 6 kr. and 2 fl. per "elle". The pupils receive some money after deductions are made for the cost of the materials.
At first, the earnings will only be small, but under the guidance of a qualified teacher, the pay will soon be 8-10 kr. daily. With increasing skill and speed, the pupil will earn much more.
The possibility of selling the lace has not been a problem. Rather the opposite has happened and not all the orders could be executed. The pupils will be given the lace desk (stand and pillow) with the necessary equipment here, and each girl who leaves the institute as a qualified lacemaker and teacher, to go and take a post as an industry teacher, will be presented with her own lace desk, free of charge.
With the increasing number of complaints about lack of work and possibility of earning some money, from the female population, this type of work should be a big help, especially to the physically weak or sickly persons. Lacemaking would allow them to earn some income.
The 25 April 1826.
from: state archives Ludwigsburg. E 191 Bü 6668
|Muslin Embroidery, Straw Industry|
|The Welfare Organisation
also supported other home industries, and one can follow
the exchange of ideas and techniques across the borders.
One example was the creation of embroidery on thin cotton
cloth, called Muslin Embroidery (see note 34).
This artistic handicraft was closely connected with
several Swiss commercial dealers, who supplied materials,
patterns, drawings etc., to an area stretching from the
Lake of Constance northwards and in a northeasterly
direction (across present southern Germany)
"Oberschwaben and the Schwäbische Alb".
The finished work was then returned and paid for. The work of the suppliers of the materials, or the go-betweens, was very demanding. Usually the department stores, or the commercial dealers, would send the order and materials up to the Lake of Constance. However, from the city of Constance to the people who were to execute the order, it was the responsibility of the go-between or middle man. They often had to transport sizeable amounts of the raw materials. Therefore, some sort of security or a deposit of money, was necessary. The go-between had to have considerable knowledge of embroidery, himself or herself, because the sewers and embroiderers had to be controlled. Often the women and girls, had to be taught the stitches, and perhaps after a year of practise, they could do it perfectly themselves.
|The Württemberg Welfare
Organisation also assisted the workers in this trade.
However, the demand was not constant, and sometimes there
were periods, when no orders came from Switzerland. So
the Welfare Organisation was more cautious in advising
girls to follow this trade. They did, however, have
embroidery frames made, and distributed them to the very
poor in the schools. They also paid the teachers who
instructed the children in embroidery.
Enterprising businessmen from Württemberg also sought new ideas and directions in the straw trade (see note 34). Teachers and merchants educated themselves in Switzerland and Italy in the production, plaiting and sewing of straw. The king personally, sent two men to Italy for training, and as a result, Württemberg had a royal factory, which gained in prestige and expanded throughout the kingdom. The straw was grown in certain places and hats were manufactured out of it. This industry was dependant on the whims of fashion, and in the end, it too was not as successful as had been hoped.
of women's hat, straw lace
of women's tie, embroidery on Muslin,
|Early Bobbin Lacework|
|Bobbin lacemaking in
southern Germany was not really a completely new
occupation. In the 17th and 18th century, reports about
bobbin lacework in the "Schwäbische Alb"
(southeastern Germany) area had been found. However, the
notes were scattered in odd documents, and actural
examples of prickings or patterns were not found.
The locality of Eningen appears to have been an important centre for peddling and hawking of goods, before the 18th century. The bobbin lace trade expanded in this area during the 30 Years War (1618-1648). However, there was much burning, plundering and the Plague, during that period. So no examples of any lacework survived (37).
In Neukirchen (Hessen), on the slopes of the Knüll Mountains it is said, that already more than 50 women and girls managed, through lacemaking, to keep themselves alive in the year 1775. How this developed there, is not known. Further reports about lacemaking refer to the latter half of the 19th century, and are concerned mainly with marketing the lace. In Neukirchen, chiefly the poor people and children made bobbin lace. It was said that lacemaking, and earning your bread by it, was the last step before being reduced to begging (38).
In the years between 1825 and 1834, bobbin lacemaking
developed and spread outwards from the Stuttgart
Institute, to many localities in Württemberg.
|who made lace were, by the
names given to the various designs. For example: snake
pattern, midge, pussy-cat steps, little roses, little
christmas trees, tulip pattern, garland, runny nose,
double crown style. This also shows that the Eutingen
lace developed very independently, compared to the bobbin
lace work from other places. Here the cottage industry
really blossomed, especially between 1825 and 1835.
Later, one finds only odd reports about lace (39).
documents mention a Reutlingen lace (see note 34).
This collective name for lace from a whole region, seems
to have been mainly used by the lace dealers. In the
printed reports of the Welfare Organisation from 1831/32,
Reutlingen lace is described as narrow bands of lace,
made in linen or English cotton thread. Another type,
also labelled as Reutlingen lace, was called Leonish
lace, made from fake gold and silver thread, and was worn
by the country folk on their bonnets, bodices and aprons.
As previously stated, the art of bobbin lacemaking came
to Steckborn sometime during 1825 by someone who married
a citizen of Steckborn. Unfortunately, more is not
documented, but it is very plausible, that a woman from
the southern region of Germany brought the art of bobbin
lacemaking to Steckborn.
|Bobbin Lacemaking at the End of the 19th Century and the Start of the 20th Century.|
situated on a plateau in the "Schwäbische Alb"
provides a further example of the influence and
connection between Switzerland and southern Germany, at
the end of the 19th and early 20th century, when the
Welfare Organisation still played an important role.
The earliest reports about bobbin lacemaking date from 1843, in the so-called industry schools, here. After 1880 the reports become less numerous. Apart from lacemaking equipment, a sample book has been preserved, in which several simple examples of lace have been carefully mounted and labelled. These pieces of lace, plus some working notes, refer to the technique of "freehand lace".
Of special interest are the documents concerned with the sale of lace. In control lists, which were kept, there were names of 18 lace dealers and merchants, in the years 1878 to 1881. Between 1882 to 1887, there are 31 names on the list. In the years 1888 to 1893 the list shortened to 21 names, and from 1894 to 1899, there were 19 dealers noted (40). It seems the dealers were often women who did not make lace themselves.
Christine Kächele was one of the women who travelled to Switzerland on "lace trips" which lasted 3 to 4 weeks. As was the case with other dealers, she also visited her "regular" customers frequently, and as an established rule, she was treated to a meal. She delivered the lace and received new orders. This trading is documented until the early 20th century. From the control lists, one finds that another woman, Katharina Kächele, stopped her trading occupation in 1919. Christiane Buck applied for and received a passport to travel and carry on trading in lace, in 1923.
In Köngen by Nürtingen, there existed a bobbin lace school, from the mid 1800's until the end of 1917, which a lady called Auguste Weishaar (1802-1886) had founded. She was the third wife of the minister Jakob Friedrich Weishaar (1775-1834). Together with her daughter-in-law, who was widowed by son Otto (1826-1875), they tried to help the needy among the citizens of Köngen. After Auguste died, Berta Weishaar-Gunzenhauser (1854-1935) inherited the ministers' castle, and opened it, to be used for various functions: art studios, meeting rooms, youth hostel, conference and convention centre (41).
In 1856, Auguste Weishaar had requested a braid and tape dealer, named Carl Robeck from Nürtingen, to investigate and learn about the lace schools in Belgium and Saxony (Sachsen). In 1854, he had exhibited his lace at a german trade exhibition and had received a certificate of merit, for it (42). There are also letters preserved, which he wrote to the Welfare Organisantion in Stuttgart, in which he asks for support, as Auguste Weishaar had to resign from the bobbin lace school due to old age (see note 36).
|Robeck himself, delivered
the thread and fetched the completed lace. He charged 5 %
of the total money he collected. The church of Köngen,
supported the lace school with an annual contribution,
from 1870 onwards. This money appeared not to meet all
the expenses, because Robeck wrote again to the Welfare
Organisation, and stressed: "now, in these hard
times, it is doubly necessary to support this branch of
the textile trade, because the result of the war (God
help us) will make distress even greater. As in this
instance, it is good that these home crafts exist, and
the money is best applied now to train the people".
Another teacher, Wilhelmine Schopper also sent a petition (see note 36). She listed all her expenses for the last 3 years. The town council gave her 5 Gulden, as her salary, per year. They also gave her another 5 Gulden to pay for the heating, so that she could teach the children aged 9 to 14, in their free time, how to make lace. The girls who had been confirmed and the older girls also received assistance, help with prickings and patterns from Wilhelmine. She further noted that she gave lessons in her home and had to pay for the heating of the classroom.
The Welfare Organisation in Stuttgart granted assistance of 30 Gulden per year between 1870 and 1873, and approximately the same amount was also provided, from the sale of the lace. The lace teacher listed a comparison of wages. A domestic servant received free accommodation and food plus 50 to 60 Gulden, and a factory worker received even more. The petition was accompanied by a letter from the vicar and the town mayor, who verified the skills, knowledge and eagerness to help the large section of the population who were very poor. One can assume that lacemaking was carried on, as above, by women who married someone in the area or who took up a post in a village or town.
In 1910, the lace school in Köngen had Katharina Maier, who was 70 years old, as its principal. She was assisted by another lace teacher, Nane Fleig, who was 37 years old. 128 girls and older women attended lacemaking lessons in the castle, at Köngen. The central management of the Welfare Organisation again granted an amount, to be paid out by the church council.
At the beginning of the 20th century, people of
influence also tried to revive interest in bobbin
lacemaking in other parts of the country. In Eutingen
(previously mentioned) the local doctor attempted to
renew interest in bobbin lace, in 1913.
|Summary of part I|
|In southern Germany and in
the upper Rhine area, the art of bobbin lacemaking
probably goes back to the 17th century. Traces can also
be found in the 18th century. Unfortunately, there are no
early documents to be found in Steckborn. The swift
spread and flourishing of this home craft, from
approximately 1820 until mid 1800's and later, led one to
suppose that there could have been lacemaking equipment
stored in the attics of many a house, left over from
earlier lacemaking episodes.
The previously mentioned highpoint in the 19th century is connected with the spread of bobbin lacemaking, which radiated from the Stuttgart Institute. The first teacher there was Zélie Fatio from Neuchâtel, who had patterns and prickings sent to her from her home town. Also her pillow which came from the Neuchâtel area, was used as a model for those pillows made in Stuttgart. Her pupils were allowed to buy their equipment, when they had finished their training and returned to their home towns and villages. They, in turn, trained other women and girls to make lace. In this way, the influence spread from the Stuttgart Institute. It is a fact, that there is no documentary proof connecting Steckborn with the Stuttgart Institute but Steckborn, undeniably, was affected and influenced by the northern neighbour.
The customers, at that time, were primarily the nobility who lived in the various castles and mansions around Steckborn. In general, the Biedermeier fashion, with its froth of lace on clothes and household linen, assisted the boom. The production of bobbin lace proved, compared to the other textile techniques, and other home crafts, to be advantageous, because poor people and children, could make lace. They had a relatively short training period of more or less six months, and the pillows and other equipment, were easy to transport. They also used, to a greater or lesser extent, local materials, and so could earn enough to keep themselves.
The family, who owned the business in the "Oberhaus", was respected and some members of the family also held high political positions. They had a marked feeling
|of responsibility towards
their fellow citizens in the region. In the second half
of the 19th century, the "Oberhaus" became a
refuge for the widowed women of the family on several
occasions, and it seems that profit was not the most
important factor, as far as business was concerned.
In Steckborn, it is not clear, where the women learnt the art of bobbin lacemaking. There were needlework classes here, but bobbin lacemaking is not specifically mentioned. A mother could have taught her daughter the skills. There are many instances where patterns and designs travelled across borders. Apart from the exchanges through the Stuttgart School, various deocuments from Köngen show the connection between east and west. The dealer Robeck, from Nürtingen travelled in 1856 to Belgium and Saxony, and brought his experience back home. The peddling trade, as confirmed in reports after 1878, showed how more examples of prickings and pattern exchanges, could have taken place. Therefore, it is not surprising, that the later Steckborn sample books of 1900 reveal the different influences. Here, one notices several simple pieces of lace in the "freehand technique", which are similar to those examples seen in Hülben (Schwäbische Alb).
A defining gimp, which highlights parts of the design, is found in Steckborn Lace, as well as in the lace from Eutingen. Both places also use very similar lace pillows.
The peculiarities of the Steckborn Lace are to be found in the earlier sample books. These books, which were well documented, and were compiled in the first half of the 19th century, are very special. Without doubt, the horsehair and straw lace, is something exceptional. In Württemberg, horsehair and straw lace is only once documented, in Spaichingen (42). One can presume that the bobbin lacemakers who made it, were influenced by the Steckborn Lace.
The technical analysis of the lace will throw light on further distinguishing characteristics.
Equipment, Straw and Horsehair Lace, Stylistics and Techniques
|In the local museum in
Steckborn, and from private families, a selection of lace
pillows, dating from the 19th century have been
collected. Locally called a "Würk or
Klöppelkiste" (work or bobbin chest). The word
"Würk" stems from the verb "werken",
rather than the verb "wirken", because in the
19th century and even today, "wirken" is used
in connection with a technique associated with the
manufacture of stockings or tricot material (a type of
The lace pillow is divided into two
parts. The front section is covered with a waxed cloth or
other smooth material, and slopes towards the worker. The
bobbins (attached to the threads) move on this surface.
The rear part of the pillow is raised, and a roller,
covered with padded material (very often with velvet) is
set into the top surface. The lace pattern is fixed to
the roller. Left and right, there are drawers which pass
under the working surface, to hold all the equipment. The
whole resembles an almost square box, tapering to the
front and constructed out of wood. The padding was
usually sawdust and felt. A similar pillow is also used
by lacemakers in other places. For example, in 1827, a
lace teacher from the french part of Switzerland, went to
teach lace in Stuttgart. There she gave the pupils in her
class, her own Neuchâtel pillow, as an example. The
Steckborn pillow could also have come from Neuchâtel, or
been influenced by their shape. One knows, from the
previously mentioned diary, that one of the daughters
from the "Oberhaus" went to the Neuchâtel
region to improve her French. An exchange of experience
in lacemaking can be presumed, although it is not exactly
known today how this happened.
|are bobbins in two sizes.
The smaller ones are approximately 11 to 13 cm long, and
resemble the bobbins which are used by the "German
neighbour", in Württemberg, especially those used
in Eutingen. The top end does not have the extra ridge
and grove, which is found throughout the rest of
Switzerland. The larger bobbins have a rather ball-like
bottom end. They may have been used for the horsehair,
although they seem quite clumsy. However, no other bobbin
shapes were found in Steckborn, which leads one to
presume that they must have been used for that purpose.
The pillows and bobbins could be made by the local carpenters and turners. In an advertisement, a glazier offered bobbin lace pillows for sale. It is not apparent from the advertisement whether the glazier manufactured the pillows himself. The glazier was the husband of the lacemaker Susette Sigrist-Müller. In the address book dated 1897/98, Heinrich Wüger is listed as a bobbin turner who made, "Weinhahnen-Klöpperli zum Spitzenwirken" (could be: spigot-like bobbins to make lace).
The pins were manufactured by the needlemakers. In Steckborn, this trade was already listed in the marriage register, around 1800. In an encyclopaedia of 1827 (43) an entry names "Labhard Daniel, Needle Manufacturer and also other wire items". The catalogues from the Trade Exhibitions do not list any needle makers from Steckborn, however.
|The Straw and Horsehair
Lace in the Museum of Steckborn
Text by Mrs. Rita Bernhard (Steckborn)
|Included in the large number
of items of lace in linen thread, there are also examples
of lace made out of horsehair and straw in the
"Museum im Turmhof". The visitors especially
admire these, because they are so rare, and nowadays
hardly made anymore. Straw bobbin lace (pillow lace)
was made in Steckborn, approximately in the mid 19th
century. The fine straw strings and plaited bands were
produced in Wohlen in Canton Aargau, and most of the
finished lace was sent back there. It is said that once
upon a time, a straw processing industry like that in
Aargau, was set up in the "Weiermühle" in
Steckborn. However, this industry did not last long.
There is no more information about this period.
There are not many examples of pure straw lace. A few items were found in a sample book, dated 1850, and a few more in a sample book belonging to the lacemaker Susanna Hanhart-Buchenhorner (1824-1894).
Most of the lace combines horsehair and straw. There are quite a number of pieces of lace combining natural and dyed raffia, silk cords and ribbons, or two-toned hemp. Later, the horsehair was replaced by the synthetic material Crynol. (See diary in part I).
The museum owns two ladies head coverings: a Biedermeier bonnet made wholly out of bobbin lace bands of horsehair and straw. The other one is a small,
|very pretty hat (Capote).
This belonged to Mrs. Magdalena Schiegg-Merkle
(1788-1872) a well-to-do citizen of Steckborn. This hat
is decorated with lace made of horsehair, straw and black
velvet ribbons, also some lace from Valenciennes and a
wide black velvet band.
Among the many old bobbins in the Museum, are some very large ones (15.5 cm long and made out of walnut wood) with ball-like ends, which presumably were used for the straw lace. The shaft, on to which the material (straw) was wound, is 7 cm long. They are approximately four times as heavy, as the other bobbins of that period. Neither Mrs. Danuta Mülhauser from the Straw Studio in Rechthalden (Fribourg) nor Mrs. Monika Schmied, a teacher of straw crafts in "Lanzenhäusern" (Bern), could confirm this.
Recently, Mrs. Schmied received some bobbins which are 30 cm long. These were supposedly used for making straw lace. She told us that the straw and horsehair had to be moist while it was being worked. Both these materials quickly took on the curl from the bobbin, and so one had to hurry. Another problem were the pins. They were not yet rust-resistant, which added to the lacemakers difficulties, and so the finished piece had to be promptly removed from the pillow. A tedious and delicate process.
by the bobbin lace team:
The local museum in Steckborn, has approximately 2'800 items of lace. Of this number, 340 examples were in horsehair and straw lace. A selection of these were in dealers sample books, others were in photo albums, files and still other examples were mounted on display boards.
Looking at the many items, one notices that they are mainly executed in the Torchon technique. Other lace types, for example plaits, free hand Guipure or Point Tulle Ground Lace, have very few examples. With the exception of a few articles, the lace was executed in linen (thread).
As has been found in other places, the sample books showed that the Steckborn Laces had very few corner designs. The corner designs shown in the book, and also the round shapes up to number 798, have all been redrawn and redone by the various lacemakers in the working group.
The team searched for the peculiarities of the Steckborn Lace, and have come to the following conclusions: -
More information about the peculiarities are in the chapter on technique.
|home content||Last revised June 17, 2004|