Then as Now!
Ship interiors at the beginning of the 20th century

Deutsche Werkstätten are always good for a surprise: We recently received a request from the Victoria & Albert Museum in London where currently an exhibition on the design of the large luxury ships in the early 20th century is being prepared. We knew that at that time Deutsche Werkstätten contributed to the interior outfitting of some passenger ships, however, we completely underestimated the scope and the extraordinary quality of the projects we previously did, as a closer look at the relevant literature and various historical journals has now revealed.

The first orders for ship interiors were acquired 1902/03 in Kiel by the company's founder, Karl Schmidt, himself. In subsequent years, Deutsche Werkstätten fitted out officers’ messes and control rooms of several warships for the Naval Authorities including the battleship "Prince Adalbert" and on the cruisers "Berlin" and "Danzig". Richard Riemerschmid supplied the designs.

This was followed, in 1907, by the not only opulent, but also partly very modern interior design of the twin-screw express steamer "Crown Princess Cecilie" which received a great deal of attention from the public and also in the trade press. The designs were created by Bruno Paul, Joseph Maria Olbrich and Richard Riemerschmid amongst others.

With Hermann Muthesius liaising, Deutsche Werkstätten soon began to fitout several large passenger ships for Hapag (Hamburg America Line); the cooperation was interrupted temporarily by the First World War. "Johann Heinrich Burchard" (1914) was followed by "Deutschland" (1924), "Hamburg" (1926), "New York" (1927) and Cordillera "(1933). Many of the designs came from Karl Bertsch, Adelbert Niemeyer and Richard Riemerschmid.

Deutsche Werkstätten were also active for the Norddeutscher Lloyd, working on, the luxury liner "Bremen" (1929), for example. The designs were from Fritz August Breuhaus de Groot and Bruno Paul. Deutsche Werkstätten were also responsible for the technically sophisticated interior design of the East India steamer "Boissevain" (1938). The designs again came from Bruno Paul.

Various documents suggest, moreover, that there were further involvements on large transatlantic ships. In addition to this, Deutsche Werkstätten worked on the outfitting of several steamers for the civil inland water transport.

In our historic company archive that has been stored in the Saxon Central State Archive since 1999, we have found numerous excellently preserved and sometimes beautiful plans and designs that show how impressive the former ship interiors were. Many of the drawings were produced by hand by the designers mentioned above.

However, some questions still remain unanswered. During the investigation we encountered other exciting topics from the past. In short, we will stay on the ball and look forward to more surprises.