Sewing Machine Research
ISMACS International
International Sewing Machine Collectors' Society

Bruno Naumann -- a Portrait

Issue No. 8

KARL ROBERT BRUNO NAUMANN, later councilor and Saxon person of rank, was a typical representative of the beginning of the industrial age, when a number of imaginative, spirited and risk-taking members of the middle classes pushed themselves into the upper classes by economic success.

These men commonly stem from the second or later-born sons from the peasantry, who owned a living as retail traders. The Naumann family comes from the Saxon town, Hartha, and can be traced down to 1621. Records before that were incomplete because of the 30-year war.

They had been independent farmers, often mayors or councilors of their town. The grandfather of Bruno Naumann, Karl Sigismund (1759 to 1821) became a hosier, settled in Limbach/Saxony, married Christiane Hoyer and owned a reputation as Mayor and Master of his guild.

His son, Maritz Ferdinand (1803 to 1882) called himself a stocking manufacturer and lived in solid prosperity. But shortly after his marriage with Juliane Christine Haustein in 1831 he left his wife and unborn child in 1844 and went to North America. After many years he returned a wealthy man, but his wife divorced him.

Bruno Naumann was born 10 October 1844 in Dresden. At school he was brilliant in mathematics. He took up an apprenticeship with Hugo Schuckert, a master in precision engineering and the director of the Dresden Office of Weights and Measures, where he stayed as journeyman up to 1862.

After a few months of special education with Moritz Lindig, a clock-maker master, he traveled to Vienna, Berlin and Frankfurt/Main. Then he took up a job at the mechanician master Kleeber, attended evening classes and even learned Greek to read classical literature in its original language.

In 1868 he opened a workshop for engine fitting in Dresden, which fortunately flourished. Here he began to produce sewing machines of the Wheeler & Wilson system, after purchasing a license. Soon he had more than enough orders. At that time American patents ruled the market.

That Bruno Naumann succeeded spoke for the quality of his pro-ducts and development of his own ideas. He had not enough capital, however, and in 1869 the Dresden merchant Seidel helped him with 25,000 Thalers. This is how the firm Seidel and Naumann was born.

Although Seidel demanded his capital back in 1876, the name stayed the same. Bruno became more and more successful after he became the first in Germany to take up the high-armed Singer system, and then improved on it.

In 1883 Bruno Naumann purchased a large area in Hamburg Street where he built a large factory, which is still used today by the "public firm" Robotron-Electronic, Dresden. In 1873 he married Hermine Hoffmann (born 1854), daughter of a reputed chemist in Dresden, but she died in 1880. Their only son, Dr Robert Bruno Walther Naumann zu Konigsbruck (1874 to 1944) continued the family tradition.

In 1886 the firm was changed into a joint-stock corporation, Bruno Naumann keeping the shares. This procedure saw the firm through the First World War and inflation by its possibility of further taking up capital. By this time 1000 workers were employed, producing 80,000 sewing machines per annum.

The new building also offered space for other branches of production, including the "Germania" bicycle which was used by the army and postal service, and by 1890 another 200 workers were employed. The company went on to produce typewriters and speedometers for locomotives.

The construction of motor-cars was prevented by Bruno Naumann's early death of a stroke in 1903, aged 58. His firm was then employing 2500, eventually reaching 8000 when expropriated after the war in 1945/6.

Bruno Naumann's aim was always the highest perfection and quality, and he did not fail to notice the slightest negligence. He often worked as a foreman to demonstrate the right way of working.

Singleness of purpose, economy and spirit of enterprise combined excellently with a solid craftsman's training and with excellent technical understanding. All this lead to the admirable economic rise through which Bruno Naumann acquired an enormous fortune in little more than 30 years.

He was one of the first Saxon industrialists who established a social service as well as an institution for the children and for his workers in need of a rest. He also lent his capital and experience to other Saxon firms.

In 1893 he took over the reign of Konigsbruck, which on the one hand served as an investment of capital, on the other he was tempted to raise the neglected agriculture and forestry to its former heights.

Bruno Naumann always remained a simple man. He preferred to avoid honours conferred on him. He never actually lived in the grand Konigsbruck Palace, but fulfilled all the duties connected with its possession. He appeared only seldom and reluctantly at court, although he could not completely avoid his responsibilities.

He still found time for several hobbies such as hunting, music and horse-breeding, all of which he pursued with great success.

His life's work is still continuing, supplying jobs for about 3500 workers. Even famous trademarks such as Ideal, Erika and Naumann are still on the market.

Carol Head reports that Seidel & Naumann introduced a footrest for use on treadle sewing machines in January 1890. It had no springs or wearing parts and with the slightest touch could be lowered to act as a plat-form for the foot.

Carol wonders at the advertised statement that "it's simplicity of useful-ness is beyond question". It cost only a shilling or two to the trade.

The Naumann advertisement conflicts with the above report on the number of workers employed in the Dresden factory.

The advertisement claims over 2000 employees in 1890, whereas the Bavarian Academy states 1200 -- though they both agree on the yearly production of 80,000 sewing machines during that period.