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Pewterware factory

The historic pewterware factory Arrenberg

As early as 3000 years before Christ pewter ore was a popular raw material which was used to produce bronze. With this metal made of 90 % copper and 10 % pewter people at the end of the stone age developed a material of up to then unknown endurance. Bronze was so important that its name was used to describe a whole era.
But pewter was not only of importance as a constituent of bronze. Thanks to its useful characteristics – it was easily molten and poured into moulds – from the early Middle Ages onwards it was used to make simple as well as elaborate crockery. Besides pots, jugs and tankards, spoons and candelabras were the most popular objects made by the pewterers, who had been organising themselves in guilds since the 13th century.
For more than 200 years members of the Arrenberg family have been working as pewterers in the Bergisches Land, but it is not known when exactly the pewter factory Arrenberg was founded. The first two pewterers we know of are the brothers Johann Wilhelm (1720 – 1789) and Johann Henrich (1723 – -1789) Arrenberg, born in Wupptertal-Elberfeld. It can be expected that also their father before them had been a pewterer. A speciality of the Arrenberg factory was the production of the big-bellied pewter coffee pot with a small tap for the coffee to be poured with. Its characteristic shape came from the Netherlands to the Bergisches Land. Since drinking coffee became less expensive and ever more popular, the coffee pot became the centre of every nicely laid table. But these coffee pots had one big disadvantage: the coffee grounds would remain inside the pot – filters at that time were not yet known – and after using the tap for the first time it would soon be blocked up. The coffee would no longer “flow” into the cup, it just came out in drops. Because of this fact as well as the pot’s well-rounded shape that reminds one of a well-meaning housekeeper, this kind of pot was lovingly called a "Dröppelminna" or "Dröppelmina".
The pewter factory Arrenberg was founded in a time which was not easy for this trade. Since the middle of the 18th century pewter, "the simple man’s silver", was more and more replaced by porcelain, earthenware and emaille. In 1830 the factory moved from Elberfeld to Solingen. Besides the usual range of pewter products there were also made articles for the Solingen steelware industry like for example spoon- and knifehandles.
After World War I there was no longer a market for pewter products. Carl Arrenberg, the last pewterer from the Arrenberg family, died in 1940. The city of Solingen was able to preserve the memory of this traditional craft by buying the equipment and furniture of the former workshop as well as the business accounts. In 1999 the historic pewter factory Arrenberg was reconstructed at the Deutsches Klingenmuseum. Visitors can now not only have a look at the great variety of moulds, they can also learn a lot about the secrets of working with pewter by means of the monthly live demonstrations at the museum.