Story of the Goebel Porcelain Factory
In 1871 Franz Detleff Göbel (FDG) and his son William (WG) lived in the ancient town of Öslau, situated in the german Thuringia-region - famous for its exquisite porcelain. FDG was a wholesaler in porcelain, pursuing ambitions to start his own production. By 1871 he founded the company together with his son.
Slate pencils and childrens marbles was the starting point, as FDG could not yet finance a proper porcelain-production. Furthermore, the Duke of Coburg refused to permit a porcelain factory in town, since he had a big fear of a great fire in town. Nevertheless Franz D. Göbel was determined on creating a new porcelain factory.
Wisely he found Öslau, choosing it for its position by the Röden river, the surplus of labour and for the riches in natural resources of clay. Within a few years, FDG, now with the marble and slate pencil money to back him up, insisted that the Duke gave permission to build.
The Duke could hardly persist to refuse, and by 1876 the first building was raised.
Göbel's first porcelain burning took place in 1876. From the start most of the production included distinguished figurines and table service. As FG grew older, his son William took over.
William, born with the talent of trend-spotting, expanded the production and sent his 16-year old son Max Louis to America. WG was convinced about a significant potential in exports to the USA, and Max Louis was sent to spot the trends and report back to the factory, in order to start producing series of American products.
Due to William Göbel, a figurine production was started - this is now the main line of business. Max Louis (ML) was an energetic and dymanic young man, who managed on his own in America. He worked with Marshall Field and other big american companies.
By 1911 ML was back in Öslau. Upon his fathers death, ML took over the family company with enough business know-how and energy to send the company into the 20th century.
Following the start of the 20th century, Europe was urbanized and the industrialization soared. ML was determined to produce to the taste and income of a new working class. Some of the finest sculptors of Europe was engaged by the Göbel studios, and Max Louis established friendships with contemporary artists. Popular artwork was used as the basis of producing decorative figurines.
During the first world war many German companies were forced to close due to the enormous inflation. Göbel's however, survived, and the crisis never prevented the company from creating and innovating. By 1926 fine-grained earthenware was added to the repertoire.
The sudden death of Max Louis Göbel after 18 years of leadership and the simultaneous crash of the American stock market however rocked the Goebel Factory to the core. ML's death marked the end of a highly innovative era. Luckily Max Louis' son and son-in-law Franz Göbel and Dr. Eugen Stocke - two capeable businessmen, were ready to receive the baton.
With the crash of the American stock market, the whole world plunged into an economic crisis of proportions, and with the world, Germany - already badly hit by the roaring inflation. Goebel's tried his best to carry on business as usual, and their survival solely depended upon their innovation. Ôslau is renamed Rödental.
Just like his grandfather William Göbel, Franz Göbel was born with the talent of sensing the desires of his market. By the mid thirties FG felt that the factory needed a new product. By coincidence he came upon artcards with sweet little children in the most wonderful impression.
He thought and felt, that making these small characters as figurines, the sweetness, joy and innocense of the little children might bring a touch of comfort and encouragement to the needy German population - strugling with the crisis of the thirties in pre-war-Germany.
The cards were based on the drawings of the young franciscan Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel. Franz visited the Sister and started negotiations with the Convent of Siessen. An agreement was made and an exciting period followed developing the Hummel figurines.
In cooperation with the artists at Göbel, Sister Hummel evolved a new colour-palette of glazes, suitable for the figurines. On January 9th 1935 an agreement was signed, granting Göbel monopol of production and sale of the Hummel-figurines.
This date was later determined as the Hummel-figurines' official birthday. During the Leipzig Spring Fair in March 1935, the figurines were presented for the first time, with immediate success.
Following the beginning of Hitler's war in 1939 all production of decoratives and artware was restricted, and Goebels were allowed to produce the figurines for export only - in order to guarantee Hitler foreign currencies. Simultaneously the factory was ordered to produce dinner sets for the German army. A lot of German factories were bombed during the war, but luckily nothing happened to Göbels.
The production of figurines for the homemarket was of course resumed immediately after the end of the war. The popularity never ceased during the war. In the war-settlement for Germany Göbel Porzellanfabrik ended up in the US zone. Now the American G.I.'s fell in love with the sweet children's figurines, and a lot were sold to American soldiers in Germany or exported to the United States.
A tragedy hit the factory when Maria Innocentia Hummel passed away at only 37 in 1946. Luckily she left behind a treasure-trove of drawings - the basis of new figurines. The production never ceased. A new agreement was signed with the Convent of Siessen. The convent now had the right to refuse production of a figurine, if, in their opinion, the figurine did not radiate the style and quality of Sister Hummel's work.
The Göbel factory enjoyed considerable expansion and evolution during the post-war years, but the traditional handcrafting and handpainting was strictly maintained.
By 1971 a totally new collectible was born, when Göbel launched their M.I. Hummel annual plate, depicting the wonderful little characters of the Hummel-drawings. The plate won instant popularity by the people already loving the little figurines.
The Göbel Collector's Club was founded in the United States in 1977. By 1989 the name was changed to The M.I. Hummel Club. By then the number of members were more than 300.000. From the 1970's the porcelain figurines became a more important part of the production of W. Göbel Porzellanfabrik.
Yet another novelty was introduced in 1993, when Göbel introduced the M.I.Hummel Christmas Bell. Due to the big demand, Göbel created the Nina & Marco figurines - two little friends - introduced in 1999.
By the turn of the millennium the future was looking bright, and the artists still had plenty of ideas for new figurines. The sixth generation of Göbel's is in charge of the company, represented by Wilhelm and Christian Göbel as well as Ulrich and Detlev Stocke.
Goebel's is a company of great versatility. For example the company was contacted by Daimler-Chrysler in 2003. The commission was to create a statue of "The Woman and the Two Eagles" originally the prize of "The Atlantic Crossing" in 1905. Now to be the prize of the "NewYork - Cuxhaven/Hamburg Race" in July 2003. The biggest regatta ever to hit Hamburg.
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