Founding Period:
The Swabian Liverpool

Heil­bronn in the 19th century. What made the city, with its priv­ileged loca­tion on the Neckar so attractive for young entre­pren­eurs like Louis Brügge­mann? A look back at the begin­nings of today’s busi­ness.

In 1868, all is ready. The first alcohol runs from the distil­la­tion appar­atus through the condenser. Louis Brügge­mann had fulfilled himself a great dream: The north Hessian miller’s son was now a Swabian alcohol manu­fac­turer. A long journey and a golden oppor­tunity. In the middle of the 19th century, Heil­bronn offered everything that a cour­ageous entre­preneur’s heart could desire. A look back shows that daring and faith in progress are closely linked to Heil­bronn’s story.

Cour­ageous Heil­bronn

Well into the 18th century, Heil­bronn was above all an important trading city.  Numerous whole­sale and long-distance busi­nesses were located there because the loca­tion of city on the Neckar offered consid­er­able advant­ages. The Neckar priv­ilege ensured that the people of Heil­bronn could build dams on “their” Neckar at their own discre­tion so there was no way around the city for merchant ships. As an imperial city, Heil­bronn also had important priv­ileges: The stacking right ensured that export traders who wanted to trans­port their goods past Heil­bronn could not move on without unloading their merchandise. Heil­bronn based inter­na­tional trading companies knew how to make clever use of this and were increas­ingly investing in mills in order not only sell raw mater­ials, but also to enhance their value with the help of water-powered equip­ment. The trading center of Heil­bronn flour­ished.

The mills on the Neckar island of Hefen­weiler were fore­run­ners of indus­tri­al­iz­a­tion. In 1800, however, in most parts of Württem­berg there was stag­na­tion and economic decline. The threshold to the 19th century also caused Heil­bronn to stumble: The end of the Old Reich brought the loss of imperial freedom along with cher­ished priv­ileges, Napo­leon’s contin­ental blockade limited the long-distance trade and the Congress of Vienna finally began the construc­tion of the Wilhelm Canal. Now ships just sailed past Heil­bronn. People had money, but no future prospects. So the Heil­bronn trading companies began to rein­vent them­selves.

They proved their courage, exper­i­mented, started early indus­trial produc­tions and thus increased the level of indus­tri­al­iz­a­tion in Heil­bronn. At the end of the 1840s, Heil­bronn boasted the most modern means of trans­port at the time, the steam engine and steam­boat. In the middle of the 19th century, the young indus­trial site flour­ished more and more. The good infra­struc­ture and the innov­a­tion-friendly atmo­sphere allowed a wide range of indus­tries to grow. In partic­ular, the food, chem­ical, paper produc­tion, textile and metal­working indus­tries became increas­ingly diver­si­fied. In many branches of industry, Heil­bronn companies led in the markets. “Swabian Liver­pool” – the compar­ison is apt: Since 1830, Heil­bronn was already one of the cities with the most factories in Württem­berg. There was general prosperity.  Their good repu­ta­tion precedes the city. Heil­bronn attracts many indus­tri­al­ists and founders from outside as well. Among them Louis Bügge­mann, who in 1860 stretched his feelers into the Swabian region and sensed his future there.

In 1868 Louis Brügge­mann lays the found­a­tions for the enter­prise of today.

Cour­ageous Founder

He came from the North Hessian town of Trendel­burg, bringing with him both an educa­tion from the local Latin school and exper­i­ence in agri­cul­ture. At Kasseler Hof, the young miller’s son worked as a farmer where he first discovered distilling – and developed an enthu­siasm for it. Louis Brügge­mann believed in the future of alcohol produc­tion from molasses, a byproduct of sugar produc­tion. He continued to develop the previous produc­tion process – and was successful. In 1865 he took part in founding the brewery Cluss, Brügge­mann & Co, which would have a longer history of success in Heil­bronn under the brand name Cluss. For Louis Brügge­mann himself, it was only a stop­over. He had other plans and Heil­bronn offered him everything he needed. Louis Brügge­mann acquired a building site in 1867 near Bad Straße, located directly on the Neckar. The city admin­is­tra­tion made the road  pass­able, gave it the name Holz Straße and the future Brügge­mann alcohol factory

received the address of number 5. The blue­print for his factory also included a resid­en­tial building next to the produc­tion build­ings. After setting up the steam boiler, the grist mill and other equip­ment, Brügge­mann finally received permis­sion to manu­fac­ture alcohol in his new factory building on the Neckar.

Louis Brügge­mann had reached his goal but his company had only just begun. At the begin­ning, he employed ten to twelve workers. About half of them were housed in apart­ments within the factory. Busi­ness was going well: Louis Brügge­mann expanded in the same year with a one-story depot and the install­a­tion of a second steam boiler. His employees received free coal, petro­leum and a piece of farm­land from the entre­preneur. It is said that they were not left in want of an occa­sional glass of spirits.

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