Zurich's silk industry


Category:
Traditional craftsmanship
Canton:

Description

The textile industry, and in particular the silk industry, has been instrumental to the historical development of the Canton of Zurich. Established as early as the 14th century, the industry enjoyed a boom in the 17th century, and in the 19th century silk factories sprang up in rural areas, particularly on the left bank of the Lake of Zurich. From 1840 to 1900 the trade was the most important processing industry in the Canton of Zurich. In the 1850s and 1860s Zurich grew into the second largest silk producer in the world, famous all over the globe for black taffeta and bolting cloths for sifting flour. After 1930 the textile industry began a steady decline, and many silk companies closed their businesses. In 2011 there were only two silk weaving companies left in Switzerland, both Zurich firms (Gessner AG and Weisbrod-Zürrer AG). Indirectly, the silk industry still contributes to the economy through the buildings it occupied and the companies that grew from it such as banks, property companies and machinery plants. A few years ago efforts began to draw attention to the importance of the Zurich silk industry and to ensuring that the remaining textile archives are properly stored.

Image gallery

  • Gessner & Co. AG factory in Wädenswil between 1910 and 1920 © Gessner AG
  • The mechanical weaving mill in Adliswil (MSA) was a joint venture between Zürrer and Schwarzenbach from 1860 to 1930
  • Haute couture: “Marcel Guillemin Paris” for Givenchy using material from the Zurich silk industry, Paris ca 1992 © Gessner AG
  • Silk fabric and a weaving machine in the Zurich silk industry, Wädenswil between 2000 and 2005 © Gessner AG
  • Decor from the Zurich silk industry, “Living Collection”, Création Baumann 2003 © Gessner AG
  • Gessner & Co. AG factory in Wädenswil between 1910 and 1920 © Gessner AG
  • The mechanical weaving mill in Adliswil (MSA) was a joint venture between Zürrer and Schwarzenbach from 1860 to 1930
  • Haute couture: “Marcel Guillemin Paris” for Givenchy using material from the Zurich silk industry, Paris ca 1992 © Gessner AG
  • Silk fabric and a weaving machine in the Zurich silk industry, Wädenswil between 2000 and 2005 © Gessner AG
  • Decor from the Zurich silk industry, “Living Collection”, Création Baumann 2003 © Gessner AG

References and documentation

Publications
  • Hans-Peter Bärtschi: Industriekultur im Kanton Zürich. Zürich, 1994

  • Commission Européenne Promotion Soie (CEPS), Barbara Messerli (Ed.): Seide. Zur Geschichte eines edlen Gewebes. Zürich, 1985

  • Anne-Marie Dubler: Textilindustrie. In: Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz. 2012

  • Robert U. Vogler: Der Finanzplatz Zürich. Eine Erfolgsgeschichte. 2009

  • Liliane Mottu-Weber: Seide. In: Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz. 2011

  • Martin Widmer: Sieben x Seide. Die Zürcher Seidenindustrie 1954–2003. Baden, 2004

  • Zürcher Kantonalbank (Ed.): Seide. Stoff für Zürcher Geschichte und Geschichten (Die «Züri-Reihe» der Zürcher Kantonalbank). Zürich, 1999

Documentation