Anniversary Karl Schmidt

The 150th Birthday of Karl Schmidt

A Portrait of our Company Founder

On 1 February 1873 - exactly 150 years ago - in Zschopau, Saxony, a boy was born, whose energy and ideas left their mark: Karl Camillo Schmidt. He was very significant for us. In 1898 he founded Deutsche Werkstätten in Dresden. If it had been up to his family, the young Schmidt would have taken a completely different path. His father was a weaver, and the family, like many craftsmen of the time, suffered from the consequences of industrialisation.

Schmidt wanted to become a woodworker, although his teachers would have preferred to see the bright boy at a teacher training college. After a few years of travelling as a journeyman through Scandinavia and England, he came to Dresden and worked at first as a foreman.

But the insights and inspirations of his travelling years did not leave him alone. In October 1898, he founded Deutsche Werkstätten and from then on was able to implement his ideas of a new handcraftsmanship, modern working methods and completely new forms of social interaction. Schmidt was far ahead of his time in these respects.

Karl Schmidt, Mitte vorn, um 1900, Firmenarchiv im SHStA Dresden, © DW, 104_09_05, Repro Lothar Sprenger

He also established a network throughout Germany, attracting leading architects and designers to Dresden. He redefined furnishings, thinking not only in terms of furniture, but also fine wallpaper, fabrics and even wooden toys. He was also successful with his wooden houses, which are similar to today's prefabricated houses. One reason for this was his high quality standards, which still drive and distinguish Deutsche Werkstätten today.

Karl Schmidt was a full-blooded entrepreneur, but also a reformer and founder of a town. He knew the garden city as a solution to the housing shortage in Germany not only from literature but also from his journeyman days in England. So, without further ado, he founded one himself.

Karl Schmidt laid the foundation stone for the historic company building in Dresden-Hellerau in 1908. Photo: © Lothar Sprenger

From 1908 onwards, he developed Hellerau - as a combination of a new factory building and housing for his workers. Again, so modern and pioneering that the listed site still inspires visitors today.

Karl Schmidt lived and worked in Hellerau until the end of his life in 1948. We gratefully accept his legacy and in so doing, know that, like Schmidt, it is not a matter of looking at things but of actually carrying them out. We will be presenting his work in more detail here in the coming weeks.

Anniversary Karl Schmidt