How advanced was the old china

History of the porcelain industry

The Medicip porcelain, the French frit porcelain, the Réamur porcelain, the faience porcelain and many others were not porcelains because they did not have all the properties. It is therefore very difficult to determine which “porcelain factories” really produced the porcelain. When the Italian majolica went out of fashion, the faience ware with white glaze and blue color took its place.

The fact that the Upper Palatinate companies that were established in the 19th century also liked to sell faience porcelain as porcelain could not be ruled out due to sales difficulties, lack of capital / mobility and other factors.

The company name “Porzellanfabrik” was only too happy to be preferred to the name “faience”, as the production of porcelain was highly regarded by the population.


The desire to own porcelain was triggered by bowls, vases and jars that Marko Polo brought back from China from his travels in the 13th century. The history of European porcelain begins with the discovery of the manufacturing method by Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus (1651-1708) and Johann Friedrich Böttger. After years of trying, von Tschirnhaus succeeded in producing the first piece of white hard-paste porcelain in his melting pot. This was preceded by Böttger's efforts at the Albrechtsburg near Meißen at the behest of August the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, to produce gold.

Instead of inventing gold, porcelain was born. Tschirnhaus developed some burning mirrors for this purpose, which were used to achieve the high temperatures. In October 1708 he made another porcelain mug. After von Tschirnhaus's death (October 11, 1708), Böttger continued his porcelain research. In 1709 he succeeded in producing red stoneware, which was named "Böttger stoneware" after him.


The new porcelain, the hard-paste porcelain, is constantly being improved in terms of fire resistance (for GV hobs), edge break resistance, surface hardness, stackability and dishwasher resistance.

Only then is it possible to use it in system crockery and large kitchens. The product groups “system crockery” and “GV porcelain” are created. The development of the porcelain industry up to the end of the 19th century took place in three steps.
If you look at these with consideration of the products, so in the first period mainly “luxury porcelains”, luxury articles and hand-painted figures were produced.
Simple shapes and relatively thick shards marked the introduction of the "utensils" in the second period.
The increase in quality in the third period, which was characterized by a fine body, gave rise to the “fine tableware”.
Today the term utensils is also used under the latter.

The porcelain and the Upper Palatinate

Because of the complicated and expensive production, the porcelain could not be manufactured in large quantities. The production was exclusively in the hands of the ruling princes and was tied to them: On the one hand, the business, which was integrated in the castle, served as a source of income, and on the other hand, the table culture was to distinguish it.

The raw materials quartz and feldspar were easy to obtain, but kaolin was initially rare and valuable. In the second (mercantilistic period) the location theory was primarily decisive for founding a company. The company could now also be outside the castles.

The porcelain factories were usually located where fuel and workers were available. These two factors had a stronger impact on the choice of location than the relatively high-quality raw materials.

On the one hand, the choice of buyers was no longer prescribed; on the other hand, the entrepreneur had to forego financial support from the prince. In the third period after the war (1870) most of the factories were built where the porcelain industry was already located or where the transport links made it possible.

The development of the porcelain industry made its greatest advances from now on.

The first operation

The porcelain industry was most widespread in terms of the number of factories in Thuringia, followed by Silesia, Saargemünd and Upper Franconia.

As in the entire Upper Palatinate, there were only a few companies in this branch in Regensburg. Various circumstances led to the introduction of porcelain production in the Upper Palatinate: The northern part of the Upper Palatinate lies between the raw material deposits in Bohemia and the first factories in Thuringia.

It was only a matter of time (and capital) before the first porcelain makers settled in this region. The reason that no businesses were established in the 18th century is due to the fact that, on the one hand, the guild shackles of the old imperial city were only thrown off at the beginning of the 19th century and, on the other hand, there was a lack of capital. The entrepreneur Koch founded the first Upper Palatinate porcelain company in Regensburg in 1803, which later became known as Schwerdtner. The financial problem could only be solved after the arrival of Prince C.Th. be solved by Dalberg, as he was very benevolent and financially strong towards the project. Establishing a company outside of Regensburg was therefore impossible in the Upper Palatinate.

The question of location

Further reasons for the establishment of the porcelain production were the wealth of fuels, the found kaolin stores in Amberg, Pressath, Kemnath and Mitterteich as well as the cheap labor. The local glass industry brought the workers trained by similar manipulations to the porcelain industry.

For the porcelain industry in particular, it was important that the manufactory was never subject to the compulsory guild. (The fact that the establishment of the Regensburg porcelain factory should have seen the guild system as a hindrance may be due to the fact that this company was not recognized as a manufacture, because the apartment and the business premises were in a rather modest property).

The porcelain industry resembled a modern branch of trade in which handicrafts could never gain a firm foothold. However, it was still a long way from mass production.

First sales difficulties

The main sales area of ​​the porcelain industry around 1806 was the Orient, while local demand was satisfied with faience and earthenware products. In the case of porcelain, one can see how an exclusive product became a general need for a few through industrial development and the gradual reduction in production costs.

As soon as production started, it became apparent until the middle of the century that there was no demand. In addition to the novelty of the product, the causes were the initially quite high prices, the low purchasing power of large groups and their lack of need.

The Regensburg porcelain and earthenware factory under the management of Koch had to switch production to earthenware after 7 years after starting operations, as this area experienced an unexpected boom.

The combination of porcelain and earthenware factory, which can easily be recognized by the company name, made it possible for the company to address a wider range of customers. The advantages of porcelain over pottery shards were quickly recognized:
The appearance and durability of the porcelain triggered an increased demand from the general population from the 1950s onwards. It created the basis for starting new companies.

The new source of energy

The forests no longer gave as much wood as the factories with their stoves would need. Right from the start, the factories made themselves independent of water (lack of water in the summer months) and wood from the forests.

The long-flame brown coal became the basic fuel for the porcelain industry. The Heinrich Waffler stoneware and porcelain factory was established around this time and existed from the end of the 1850s to the turn of the century.

At the same time (from 1856) the extraction of china clay and the Schlemme had experienced an extraordinary expansion. In the area between Amberg, Schnaittenbach and Freihung, 10,000 tons were shipped annually, partly as raw materials and partly as finished products from the factories in Marberg and Hirschau.

An expansion of the processing operations, as the rest of the porcelain industry demands, would only have been possible through an inexpensive purchase of charcoal. However, these feasts later had to increasingly compete with the very good, i.e. pure and white-burning kaolins from Bohemia.

After all, at the beginning of the 20th century they were left behind when it came to delivering to Upper Palatinate porcelain manufacturers.

Art becomes design

Towards the end of the 19th century, both the qualitatively and quantitatively efficient porcelain industry emerged. This brought the products of the ceramic industry into the area of ​​mass consumption, since the latter was the precondition for large-scale industry.

The porcelain industry was placed on a sound basis, because the material, which was so versatile, lost its previous character as a pure luxury good. It was no longer the art ceramist but the designer who thought in terms of mass production who designed the porcelain:

A contemporary shape for young and old, usable in every living space, at the same time usable, which at the same time reflected more than the value of the material (and purchase price) and "was not allowed to cost anything" in production.

The design is no longer solely dependent on the beauty, but directly on the manufacturing capabilities of the systems. "Artistic elements must be producible". By the middle of the century, a house industry in porcelain painting developed. Such porcelain painters dealt with decorating cheap stacking dishes as well as painting high-quality luxury porcelain.

They either worked in the factory building or in their homes. The painted china was either sold to the factories or to the china dealers. Such independent businesses were not only viewed as free commercial activity, but since they represented a part of the porcelain production, they were recorded in the statistics (if not shown separately) as porcelain factories.

The number of employees in such companies was negligible compared to the porcelain painters in the factory.

First porcelain colors

The decisive advance in painting came from 1720 by J.G. Hörold. He developed colors with an enamel-like sheen. Until the 1950s, the porcelain manufacturers produced their own colors.

They mostly resorted to metal ores that were found in the vicinity. The transfer printing process, invented by the Irish engraver John Brooks and patented by Sadler & Green in Liverpool in 1752, spread from England to Berlin (1810) and Meißen (1814).

Together with the cheaper gold decoration, this enabled the porcelain factories to effectively counter the competition from earthenware.

The founding period

After the end of the Franco-German war in 1870 and at the beginning of the third period, the so-called "founder period" began with the general industrialization of Germany, which also spread to the Upper Palatinate porcelain industry.

The effect of industrialization was that factories developed out of small porcelain painting companies on the one hand, and former porcelain workers on the other hand became self-employed, founded painting companies first or were able to set up larger companies right from the start with the financing of third parties.

The interests of entrepreneurs were represented from 1880 by merging in associations. While the technological process basically remained the same in industrial development, the types of drive were strongly influenced. Typical driving forces were horse clapboard, water power, and at the end of the 19th century the steam engine.

This made it possible for the porcelain industry to alienate the soil, as it was no longer tied to the raw and operating material stores (fuel) in the Upper Palatinate in connection with the meanwhile good transport links.

A development in wood, coal and gas can also be seen in the furnaces of the furnaces.

From the IHK reports

The lifespan of such operations under one management was usually not long. The lack of capital of the shareholders, the poor infrastructure and the lack of awareness of such companies located in the border region then led to closings if investors with insufficient capital could be found:
In contrast to the porcelain factories in Northern Upper Palatinate and Upper Franconia, the Schwerdtner'sche porcelain and stoneware factory in Regensburg was the second factory in Bavaria (next to Nymphenburg) that mainly produced tableware. The 'sanitary porcelain' and refractory bricks as well as the melting pots for the Upper Palatinate iron and steel works were also sold.

Despite the extensive product range within the porcelain and clays and the combination of porcelain and clay processing factory, the economic decline gradually paved the way.

Anton Schwerdtner got into financial difficulties in 1850, although he still had orders in advance. Even after the takeover of Otto Schwerdtner, the imminent end of the company was inevitable. The reasons lay in the increasing competition from the Waffler stoneware factory, which had moved to Regensburg, and in the fact that production was made more difficult due to a lack of capital, which was now completely outdated and almost unusable. In addition to the poor structural substance, there was also a lack of the necessary conversion from wood to hard coal firing.

The Saxon ovens, which were only installed later, required an adjustment of the dimensions, so that a large part of the production was again rejected.

The earnings situation and the purchase of a steam engine worsened the company's financial situation. Even a loan from the 'industrial support fund' set up by King Ludwig 1. in the amount of 4,286 marks could no longer help.

The impending bankruptcy could only be averted by a sale, so that Hauser & Co were the company's last shareholders. However, the subsequent decline cannot be explained: While the IHK report in 1869 pointed to the three-fold enlargement of the company and its successful prospects, neither the official survey 1870 'Subject the state of industry in the Upper Palatinate' nor the Regensburg address book of the same year indications of the existence of the company.

New means of transport

The purchase of raw materials and sales of the Heinrich Waffler stoneware and porcelain factory show that the improvement in traffic conditions through the railroad was fundamental to the growth of the factory: In 1869, Waffler purchased around 750 tons of hard coal and 400 tons of clay.

The company's products went to other parts of Bavaria by rail, among other things. During this period from 1860 to 1895, the plant was able to increase the number of employees from 70-80 to 101.

The expansion of the railway system also promoted the traffic situation in the city of Weiden through the Berlin-Munich line. In addition to this infrastructural connection, the Bauscher brothers recognized the favorable location to the raw material stores of the Upper Palatinate, which are important for porcelain production.

In 1881 the foundation stone was laid for the first plant. The company was able to develop rapidly through the exclusive production of hotel chinaware.

Cheap imports

Sales could be increased slightly by lowering prices around 1882. Bilateral protective tariffs prevented foreign trade with Austria, but the effect on French or English imports is rather questionable.

A good sales area, albeit at extremely low prices, was Serbia for a long time. Danube shipping makes this possible. In 1886 there was a significant drop in sales of earthenware and porcelain.

The prices had fallen almost below the manufacturing costs, as the overpowering and overproducing competition from England and Bohemia continued to flood the domestic market with cheaper products.

As in other industries in these countries, the advantage was the lower transport costs for fuels. To improve competitiveness, the freight cost rate had to be reduced by 25%.

From 1889 the products of the expanding porcelain industry could be completely taken up from the market. The growing competition guaranteed low or falling prices, so that although unit profit decreased, sales remained constant due to increased output, including more distant sales areas.

This results from the fact that efficient industrial companies emerged, but older and smaller companies were able to show a constant turnover.

The Johann Reiner porcelain factory in Tirschenreuth, which had only been in existence since 1886 and previously produced pottery, was able to gain ground thanks to the upswing as a result of increased demand in all German and overseas locations.

First weak purchasing power

If the uptake of the market decreased, as around 1892, due to the increased weakness in purchasing power, this had fatal consequences for the domestic industry.

The resulting oversupply was able to lower prices to such an extent that only rational, i.e. industrially advanced companies that could produce cheaply survived.

The porcelain manufacturer of the Bauscher brothers, which had grown into a large operation, had had sales difficulties since 1891 and had to work short-time until 1893.

In contrast to other comparable events, the survival of the porcelain industry was successful because, on the one hand, in addition to the continuous industrial development, the production costs remained the same and, on the other hand, through the integration of raw material extraction and processing into the company, the intermediate trade could be eliminated.

In addition, the parts required for maintenance were manufactured in-house as far as possible. Many companies in the porcelain industry produced most of the fireclay materials they needed for repairs to their ovens and capsules in their own factories.

They made themselves independent from other companies. The negative impact of industrial development was noticeable in that small, formerly successful companies such as the Thenn pottery factory in Regensburg had to stop their production.

At the turn of the century

The increase in demand from 1895 onwards resulted in constant turnover with increased output and good utilization of the factories. The prices fell as the output grew. The subsequent rise in raw material prices had to be further compensated for by improving production technologies.

More rational processes and a mechanization of the processing only succeeded in the 20th century. In 1897 the porcelain industry was at full capacity at low prices. While a plate cost 2.80 marks in mid-1880, the price fell to 2.60 marks and in 1897 was only 2.40 marks. The increased demand made it necessary to expand the company. The technology has meanwhile been improved, but the saved production costs have been offset by higher raw material prices, so that the production costs remained the same. That diminished the profit. Profitability decreased by 15% in those years.

Due to the urgent need to expand the sales area abroad, companies had to accept additional services that did not have to be provided before the tough competition emerged: the companies had to bear the freight costs for the return of goods that were not justified and the costs for the replacement shipment become.

If one looks at the last increases in exports at the turn of the century, it can be seen as proven that the German fine ceramics industry, due to its industrial development, was dependent on the world market for at least half of its entire production and that especially the high-quality products without exports were almost sufficient Would not find a paragraph.