Solingen, the “City of Blades”
How and why did Solingen become a centre of the blade industry?
It had a lot to do with the topography of the North Rhine-Westphalia region at the time. There were transportation routes along the Rhine to the west, coal supplies from the Ruhr to the north and ore mining from the Siegerland region to the south.
Solingen, however, had none of these things. Here there was nothing but forests, steep-sided valleys and fast-flowing streams due to high levels of precipitation. But these obvious disadvantages actually turned out to be beneficial. Streams and rivers were dammed so that the power of the water could be used to drive grinding stones, small mechanical hammers and other mechanical equipment. This is how the famous “Kotten” or small grinding workshops came about.
There are records of these grinding workshops going back to the 14th century. The trading of swords and daggers from Solingen, which had its heyday in the second half of the 16th century, spread all over Europe. These weapons gradually became less important over the following two centuries but at the same time the demand for scissors and knives increased.
Around 1814, Solingen had a population of about 3,200. About 16,000 people lived in the surrounding area. At that time, approximately 4,000 people were employed at 93 grinding stones known as “Kotten”, working on forging, hardening, grinding and polishing blades and making knives or shears.
Over time, up to 120 of these workshops sprang up in Solingen and the surrounding area. One of these was the small WÜSTHOF Kotten in the “Weinbergtal” or wine-growing valley – the birthplace of our company.
As well as our company, over the centuries many others have also helped to ensure that Solingen has become known worldwide as the “City of Blades”. Today, around 90% of all German knife and cutlery manufacturers are based in Solingen.
If you want to find out how this little “Kotten” became a company with over 350 employees, making products that are available in over 80 countries worldwide, read our “200 years of Wüsthof series of articles here in our blog.