A reflection of Schwabacher needle production
We have been manufacturing needles and needle systems for the textile industry for more than 200 years. Our products are used in the processing of various natural fibers such as wool, cotton and linen, as well as in chemical fibers. Other focal points are needles and needle bars for textile finishing and spreader needles for weaving. In addition to products for the textile industry, axles, bent parts and pins for a wide variety of industries are also produced in accordance with customer requirements.
Please download our company brochure or contact us directly.
We are pleased and also take pride in presenting a short summary of the 225 years of our company’s history to you. In these fast moving times it can be considered a small miracle to be able to look back on such a long history. Here is a small chronicle of the year 1783 when everything began:
The Peace of Paris ends the American War of Independence. England recognises the USA. Florida and Menorca fall to Spain.
After several decades of fighting the Tatarian Crimea finally falls to Russia. The Montgolfier brothers take their first hot-air balloon ride. Aviation is born. Margrave Karl-Friedrich of Baden abolishes serfdom.
All this demonstrates how the world has changed in the last 225 years. While 30 years ago people were talking about typewriters instead of computers, and telephone calls to Italy were still a bit of an adventure, today we are able to react and interact with the most advanced technical equipment.
Up to early modern times only crafts manufacturing goods for every day life could be found in Schwabach. It was only in the second half of the 17th century that the first pin makers settled in Schwabach, laying the foundation for a development which has continued to the present day. In addition to Aachen and Iserlohn Schwabach soon became one of the centres of the German pin industry. Especially in the 19th century there was a considerable increase of pin makers, already with a strong diversification within the manufacturing process. For example the polishing and the sale of pins was often in the hands of wealthy master craftsmen.
One of these many master pin makers was Johann Jakob Staedtler, the son of a coinsmith. He began his five year apprenticeship as a pin maker in 1774. After becoming a journeyman in 1779, he was appointed master craftsman by the pin makers’ guild on Nov. 8, 1783. Today this event is referred to as the date of formation of the Staedtler+Uhl pin manufacturing company. In 1794 Jakob Staedtler chose the flaming heart as his personal trademark which remains the company’s emblem to this day.
A first peak in pin production was reached around 1810, when about 20 % of Schwabach’s population of ca. 8000 were working in this sector of industry. However, due to new production and marketing methods the Schwabach pin producers were soon outdistanced by the pin factories in England and the Rhineland. The annual production decreased from 250 million pins in 1810 to about 70 million in 1854.
One pin producer who already tried to counteract this development at an early stage was Friedrich Staedtler, a son of Johann Jakob Staedtler. He made the salvation of the Schwabach pin industry his lifework. On his initiative a workshop was equipped with modern tools and machines as used in Aachen, and henceforth annually produced half a million pins of high quality.
Nevertheless, Friedrich Staedtler was not successful in persuading the other pin makers of the advantages of modern machine production. He finally declared:
“I stand like a doctor before a terminally ill patient who has realised, that the time for cure has passed”.
Not until the death of his father did the skilled baker Michael Staedtler, Johann Jakob’s grandson and nephew of Friedrich Staedtler, encounter pin production. In 1863 he took over his father’s factory as well as his trademark, the flaming heart.
The introduction of economic freedom in 1868 enabled Michael Staedtler to break free from the pin makers’ guild. With a great deal of courage and innovative spirit he modernised and expanded his father’s business. In 1869 Staedtler entered a partnership with a young pin maker by the name of Conrad Uhl who, however, left the firm again after a few months. Only the name remains until today as a reminder of this brief partnership. Staedtler equipped his factory with modern machines according to the ones used in Aachen. Already one year later he was employing 70 workers. Another twelve months later the number had risen to over 100. When Michael Staedtler retired from day-to-day business in 1898, his son Theodor as well as his son-in-law Hermann Jung took over the corporate management. Michael Staedtler died on July 25, 1904. His goal of reforming and preserving the pin industry in Schwabach had been achieved.
In the last centuries very little has changed in the various stages of pin production. Only the raw materials and the machinery engaged in production have been undergoing constant development.
The report of a tour of the Staedtler factory by the Society of German Engineers in 1895 depicts a vivid picture of the different stages and the machines and tools used in pin production in the late 19th century.
The cutting machines used by Michael Staedtler at this time could cut 400 to 450 thousand shafts a day. To straighten them, the pins were rolled under pressure in packets of several thousands on a metal plate. In the grindery the shafts were sharpened. One grinding machine could sharpen about 150 thousand shafts a day at both ends. This was about ten times faster than a skilled worker had been able to produce manually. To drive in the eye a worker polished the shafts in the middle and the compactor pressed the form of the eye on to the polished part. A second machine punched the holes into the pins. A modern compactor can process 40 to 50 thousand shafts a day, a punching machine about 70 to 80 thousand. After filling the edges, the blanks were broken in the middle and were hardened after repeated polishing. To achieve this, the pins were heated in an oven. When the proper temperature was reached, a worker poured the pins into a big sieve hanging in a basin filled with oil. After boiling the pins in hot oil, they were rubbed. This step was the most time consuming one in the entire pin production process. The pins were packed in several layers of canvas together with fine sand (emery), oil and soap. After that, the packets were firmly tied and moved back and forth on the rubbingbench, so that the needles rubbed against each other and by doing so were polished. This process could take up to 14 hours and was repeated four to eight times. In a last step the pins were washed and packed into barrels with sawdust where they were dried. At that time the Staedtler+Uhl pin factory was annually producing about 250 million pins, as many as all Schwabach pin manufacturers were producing together 80 years ago.
Michael Staedtler introduced many changes and expansions within his pin manufacturing company. In a first step in 1869 he set up the building at Nördliche Ringstraße 12 which is still standing today. This was followed two years later by a hardening-kitchen as well as several other factory buildings. In 1880 he had a hardening furnace with chimney erected, and soon the installation of a new steam engine with a maximum output of 70 HP followed.
The greatest building activity of this time was the construction of a bronze workshop in 1888, where henceforth the raw material for pin production was processed. In 1899 the operation mode for parts of the production was switched from steam to electricity. Already three years ahead of this conversion Michael Staedtler launched the electric maiden as company logo. By the last decade of the 19th century the pin factories in Schwabach had finally become modern state of the art manufacturing plants. On average the size of the companies had multiplied by six between 1875 and 1892. The pin factories in Schwabach were now able to compete with domestic and foreign companies.
As of around 1870 China became one of the main markets for the Staedtler+Uhl pin company. The distribution was organised by brokers such as Leewoo and Foreign Man Chop Pins who then printed their own brand labels on the pin wrappers. In 1880 about 40 million pins were exported to China. Orders from China complied with the Chinese New Year Celebrations, as then the warehouses were cleared and new pins ordered.
Trade with other countries also went by similar local factors. In the case of India export was heavily dependent on the rainy season and the harvest time. If the harvest had been poor, people could not afford pins and the market collapsed. After World WarI the export market for needles to China declined radically due to Japanese competition. Other important export countries for pins from Schwabach prior to World War I were France, Austria and Russia.
In the 19th century trade shows presented the inventions of the industrial age and formed a stage for companies to present themselves and their products. At the Bavarian Industrial Fair in Nuremberg in 1882 Staedtler+Uhl was awarded a gold medal for an “in every respect superb product with special recognition of achievements benefitting the local pin industry.” Further medals and awards were recieved at major national and international exhibitions in Vienna, Moscow, Lisbon, Antwerp and Chicago. Because of his great merits for the local pin industry Michael Staedtler was appointed Councillor of Commerce by the Bavarian Prince Regent Luitpold in 1887. At the second Bavarian Industrial Fair in Nuremberg in 1896 Michael Staedtler even delivered one of the inaugural addresses.
The employment of modern machinery by Michael Staedtler brought about not only an increase in production but also meant a considerable gain for the factory workers. Especially health hazardous procedures like pin grinding was taken over by machines, and filters and mechanisms for dust reduction were installed. A health insurance fund for the factory workers had existed since 1914. In 1949 Siegfried Staedtler built appartments for his workers. From the end of the 1950’s a company pension plan as well as a disability annuity was introduced. To this day the large number of longterm employees, some of them have been working for Staedtler+Uhl for over 30 years, demonstrate the strong ties of the workers to their company.
Had a shortage of material and manpower been one of the biggest problems in pin production during World War I, after the war new problems arose. The Japanese pin producers were flooding the Chinese and Indian markets with cheap pins and other countries like Russia and France were also introducing new tolls to protect their own pin industries.
Despite these numerous problems and the economic crisis, the company managed to secure its position on the market. In 1931 250 workers were mainly producing sewing pins and pins for the textile sector.
Due to the fabrication of surgical needles Staedtler+Uhl was classified as a military-related facility during World War II. This also explains why the factory buildings as well as the Staedtler family residence were one of the few targets in Schwabach during the bombing raids. In 1944 21 workers were conscripted by the Wehrmacht and in exchange foreign workers and prisoners of war were assigned to the company.
For 225 years and now in 7th generation Staedtler+Uhl has been producing pins and pin systems. It is one of the oldest family run businesses in the region.
Although the inventions of the 1960’s and 1970’s laid the foundation for further development, it is the continous improvement of the products and the materials which have made Staedtler+Uhl one of the leading companies in the sector of combing, textile and industrial pin production. With about 100 staff members Staedtler+Uhl is represented around the globe, producing custom designed pins and pin systems for companies worldwide.
“When every needler was close to being a pedlar
in this distress there appeared Michael Staedtler
as the precursor for a brighter future.“
(Poem by Pin Maker Simmerl)
Michel Heftlemacher, Pin Maker (Nuremberg 1515)
Herman Schmid, Pin Maker (Nuremberg 1533)
In 1794 Jakob Staedtler chose the Flaming Heart as his Trademark
On November 8, 1783 Jakob Staedtler was enlisted in the Pin Makers Book of the City of Schwabach
Pin Production in the late 18th Century (Colored Engraving 1788)
Pin Production in the late 18th Century (Colored Engraving 1788)
In the 19th Century Industrialised Pin Production was developed in the Pin Factories.(Wood Engraving, London 1862)
The Chest of the Pin Makers Guild
Babette Staedtler, (Photographs around 1894)
Michael Staedtler, (Photographs around 1894)
In 1856 Michael Staedtler moved to Bachgasse (Photograph around 1880)
The former Tenement of the Staedtler Family in Bachgasse 18 (Photograph 2008)
“Rubbing the Pins”, (Engraving, London 1860)
A Chinese Woman sewing (Engraving, England 1812)
Trademarks of Pins exported to China
The Plans for the Bronze Workshop built in 1888
The Newspapers reported on the Innovations at the Pin Factory
The Steam-Engine taken into Operation in 1888