Seven generations – one company / Chapter 4.
The fourth generation
Throughout the year, in this section we are going to present you with an overview of the previous seven generations of the Wüsthof family who have worked for the company. Today, we are looking at the fourth generation.
Under Eduard Wüsthof’s management, the company had expanded significantly.
It was still not large enough to support all five of his sons, however. Over time, three of them moved into different fields of business. Eduard jr. and Robert took on leading positions at the plant as engineer and business manager respectively. They had the same commitment as their father and after his death in 1876 pursued the course he had started on: In the following years, the company participated in large exhibitions, including those in Frankfurt and Cleve (1881), in Paris (1887) and in Düsseldorf (1902). These all resulted in recognition and awards.
The company began exporting its goods in 1881. Robert, the younger of the brothers, travelled to North America. He was 23 years old at the time.
He travelled on the Main, a sail-driven steamship run by German shipping company Norddeutscher Lloyd. The journey from Bremen to New York took 12 days. In his luggage he had two large boxes of shears and pocket knives. To finance the project, they had sold the old premises in Höfchen near Widdert.
Robert’s arrival in New York, however, turned out to be a disappointment: He was left high and dry by a middleman, who had made some big promises back in Germany. Robert didn’t even have the money to pay the customs duties. He managed to keep his head above water by finding casual work as a waiter and washing gloves.
It was only after three months that he was able to find a buyer for his shears and knives. The buyer not only paid for the goods, but he also placed another order for more than double the quantity of shears and pocket knives. The journey across the Atlantic had turned out to be worthwhile after all.
Since the German side of the business had also expanded and the premises on Flurstraße were getting more and more cramped, the company once again began looking for a larger property. They finally found what they were looking for on what is now Kronprinzenstraße and were able to purchase the property immediately. The company’s final production facilities, storage and administration are still located at this site.
Construction work now began in earnest. First, a two-storey manufacturing plant was built set back from the road. The manufacture of shears, pocket knives and the new table knife production was moved to these new premises. Robert moved in to a few of the rooms on the top floor with his young wife Louise, née Knieriem.
Everything continued to go to plan. An 80 HP steam engine was set up to produce electricity. Then a drop forge and a grinding plant for table knives was constructed. The two brothers, Eduard and Robert, also built prestigious residential houses looking out onto the road. Today, the double villa is considered a good example of the architecture of that period.
On 9 May 1895, the TRIDENT (“DREIZACK”) symbol was registered as a trademark under number 6258 at the Imperial Patent Office in Berlin. Since then, it has been protected by law in almost all countries worldwide. Prior to this date, the Wüsthofs had used two crossed arrows as their trademark.
In the years leading up to the First World War, the factory underwent systematic expansion.
The manufacture of table knives and shears was expanded, a special department was created for razor blades, a shears forge and a nickel-plating plant were constructed and the production of forks began. The achievements of the two brothers, Eduard and Robert, can never be underestimated, since they managed to turn a workshop into a factory.
In 1914, production changed to take account of the wartime economy. Eduard, who never had any children, had already retired from the company at the beginning of 1914 for health reasons. In December of the same year, Robert died at the age of just 65, having caught a chill whilst out hunting.
All of a sudden, this hugely successful company had lost both of its figureheads and yet it was not left without a leader, as you will soon find out in the next chapter: “The fifth generation”.