German hatter in Denmark

A story about a man who came to Denmark in 1890; perhaps because he was a skilled hatter (it says the family chronicle), or perhaps because… there is no answer as to why he came. The answer blows in the wind. But in any case, it is this man who is “to blame” for my genealogy. I wanted to find out if the family chronicle was true.

My German great-grandfather Wilhelm Rudolf Stegemüller

You can not see it, because I have blonde hair, blue eyes and speak good Danish, but I am a 4th generation immigrant. Grandfather’s father Wilhelm Rudolf Stegemüller travelled to Denmark at the age of 28 in 1890 directly to Brede Fabrik (Brede Klædefabrik) to make hats in the clothing factory’s Hat Department.

The residence book with the police in Kongens Lyngby

Name: Rudolf Stegemüller
Place of birth: Frankfurt v. Oder Year of birth and date: 29/5-62
Signalement: small, medium. blond, blue, almdl., German
To which: Brede Fabrik

One lass sich integrieren

My great-grandfather knew something about integration and about how to become part of a foreign society! One marries one of them from the new country. As thought so done and the wedding took place in Kongens Lyngby Church on a cloudy day in July the year after he came to Denmark.

Wilhelm Rudolf Stegemüller and his wife Emilie Margrethe Nielsen

Wilhelm Rudolf Stegemüller and his wife Emilie Margrethe NielsenWilhelm Rudolf Stegemüller moved into Mesterlængen on Brede, because he was “Hattemagermester”. When you stand on the stairs with your back to Brede Hovedbygning, you have Mesterlængen as the left of the two long lengths. Often and often I have thought about how the couples in my pedigree have met each other – but Wilhelm Rudolf Stegemüller and Emilie Margrethe Nielsen could hardly avoid meeting. They were neighbors in Mesterlængen out in Brede. She was the daughter of manager Jens Nielsen, so it has probably been a marriage at the slightly nicer end of director Daverkosen’s factory community by Mølleåen.

The reason for the marriage must probably be sought partly in ordinary and banal love, partly in the fact that Emilie Margrethe Nielsen is 5½ months pregnant at the wedding with their first child: Rudolph Reinholdt Felix Stegemüller (who was to become my grandfather). Together they have nine children, all born on Brede. The eight of the children grow up, only the little Rigmor Margrethe dies 2 months old. Unfortunately, I only met one of the children (Kathe) at a wedding in 1972.

It is interesting to study the church book inscriptions at the children’s baptismal services. It is noted by all of them that they do not have a right of birth in Kongens Lyngby. Had Wilhelm Rudolf Stegemüller passed away before the children had reached puberty and age, or had he just not been able to support them, they would probably have been sent to Germany, where he came from.

In 1913, the hat factory moves from Brede Klædefabrik to Skodsborg and the couple Wilhelm Rudolf and Emilie Margrethe move with the children – however, I’m not sure if Rudolph Reinholdt Felix Stegemüller will move with them. I actually think he’s staying at Brede and finishing his education. But the rest make hats and make hats and make hats – and they all do.

In 1919, great-grandfather is the godfather of my aunt Kirsten Stegemüller in Kongens Lyngby; In 1922 he is the godfather of my father Jørgen Stegemüller in the same place.

About the hat factory

Robert Rickardt StegemüllerPerry Øie has worked at A/S Dansk Hattefabrik in Skodsborg from 1965 to 1971, and he has made a page with his own pictures from the hat factory. It appears from the page that production did not always take place in equally healthy conditions; heart and lungs were severely stressed by the chemicals required by production. On the page you will find some pictures of great-grandfather’s son Robert Rickardt Stegemüller, but the pictures also show the machines themselves and the work at the hat factory.

The hat factory moved from Brede Klædefabrik to Skodsborg in 1913 and it is said that the factory ushered in a new glorious era in Skodsborg’s industrial history. The factory was located on Strandvejen no. 151 and produced men’s hats and hat items (“pieces”) of felt for women’s hats.

Hat production started in 1890 – exactly the year great-grandfather came to Denmark – at Brede as a subdivision of the garment factory and the educated workforce was largely sourced in Germany. 15 years later in 1905 there were major labor battles between director Daverkosen and his staff under the Danish Textile Workers’ Union; most hat workers instead organized themselves in the newly started Danish Hat and Bundler Association, but it did not succeed in getting everyone into the union. It was especially the women who could not really see the purpose in organizing. They were used to small conditions and did not expect it to get better. The demand was higher wages and the trade union movement won the strike – Daverkosen responded again by putting a penny on the rent! The salary was just a small part of the exchange between workers and management at Brede.

1905 was also the year when the hat factory became a completely independent company such as the limited company “A/S Dansk Hattefabrik” under the leadership of Hans Cohn (1874-1947), who became managing director of the company. Cohn was educated in Berlin and had received his thorough education in Germany, England and France and he was the right man to boost production.

The hat production was extensive and the market was good; in the best years (1919 ff.) half a million hats were made annually. Hat production was mainly intended for the domestic market, where no man over the age of confirmation would show up on the streets without a hat. A woman could not walk the streets without a hat at all, because then she would be considered a prostitute or at least as “loose on the thread”. The market grew quietly and even during World War II – where the crisis was otherwise felt everywhere – there were good outlets throughout Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Contributing to the good situation during World War II was the cultivation of new products; it was almost impossible to obtain materials for the production, and therefore they temporarily switched to sewing older and outdated hats as well as receiving old hats for repair and cleaning.

Both in Brede and in Skodsborg, entire communities had been built up, so that the workers (almost) did not have to move outside the factory areas; a lot was done to link the workers closely to the company. Dining houses, children’s shelters/daycare centers, market stalls were run, there were independent sports associations, independent Samaritan associations, etc., and people lived in the factory’s homes. In Brede, this was partly due to the factory’s remote location. In Skodsborg, the factory had approx. 100 apartments for its workers, while the rest lived in the old working-class town of Nærum. The factory’s apartments were – according to the conditions of the time – good. One result of the close affiliation with the companies was that many never got to work elsewhere. It was not unusual with 50th anniversaries, just as many families worked on the companies for generations, as is the case with my family.

A small detour to Brede: At Brede, director Daverkosen was seen as a patriarch who almost “owned his workers” and provided great “care” – the consideration was, however, a relative security in employment, and this has been needed during the two world wars. The book “The cradle of industry. Brede – a factory community by the Mølleåen river 1800-1956” (published by the National Museum) looks very critically at the patriarch Daverkosen. This is based on interviews with former workers from the factory, who e.g. tells that if one did not take care of his garden properly, there could be a threat of firing. Another example is a rebellious work boy who was told that ‘you could always fire his father’ if he did not improve. It can thus be said both for and against the close connection to the company

Great-grandfather becomes Danish

In 1919, Wilhelm Rudolf Stegemüller became a Dane after almost 30 years in Denmark.

Citizenship case:

“Wilhelm Rudolf Stegemüller, Hatter of Søllerød Parish under the County of Copenhagen, born in Prussia.

Stegemüller, Wilhelm Rudolf, Hattemagermester of Søllerød Parish under the County of Copenhagen, born 1862 in Frankfurt an der Oder, came to this country in 1890, where he has since remained; from 1913 he has lived in Søllerød Parish. The petitioner, who is proficient in the Danish language, is married to a Danish woman, with whom he has 8 children who, insofar as they have reached compulsory school age, enjoy or have enjoyed Danish schooling. The petitioner is recommended by Søllerød Sogneraad ”.

In pencil it is noted on the cover: “The petitioner is in German “Ersatz-Reserve zweiter Klasse”. Since he is over 55 years old, and with his 31st year has been transferred to the Landstammen (?), This will probably not be an obstacle to his admission to the law. There are no school certificates for the 4 youngest children (b. 1908, 1910, 1911 and 1911). It is recommended that these be provided ”. Dated: 7/3-18.

Where on society’s ladder?

The granddaughter Aase Grethe Stegemüller (daughter of the son Valther Robert) grows up mostly with Wilhelm Rudolf and Emilie MargretheThe granddaughter Aase Grethe Stegemüller (daughter of the son Valther Robert) grows up mostly with Wilhelm Rudolf and Emilie Margrethe, because there is simply more money with them than at home in her own home. Aase says that Wilhelm Rudolf and Emilie Margrethe had chickens and pigeons, and that he himself killed them out in the yard in Skodsborg. Aase confirms that Emilie Margrethe had “a good kitchen” (you can see that in the pictures of her – where she looks like a wonderful grandmother). Aase Grethe also says that her parents often met with her grandparents to play cards.

I have a hard time assessing where on the social ladder Wilhelm Rudolf Stegemüller was. Master hatter/hat master sounds fine, he could have his granddaughter Aase Grethe with him and he paid for her brother Henning Poul Stegemüller’s boarding school stay at a school on Amager. It is my opinion that it may have gone better over the years! It appears from the following quote from Søllerødbogen: “After the first two years in preschool in Skodsborg, the children of the hat workers had to go to Vedbæk School or to Nærum School for the rest of their school time. If you had slightly greater ambitions on behalf of your children than just a regular schooling, but could not afford to pay for further schooling, you had to look for other paths. In the summer of 1920, one of the German hat masters sent the following petition to the School Commission in Søllerød: “Signed Hat Master Rud. Stegemüller, Skodsborg, hereby applies to the Honorable Parish Council that one of Nærum Boarding School’s Free Places must be given to my daughter Käthe Stegemüller. ”The then 12-year-old Käthe is judged by the head teacher at Vedbæk School as “Gifted, Diligent and Clever”, and as he assesses that she will “have a good result from a Course at a Real School”, he hereby recommends her. ”

A hatter’s life flows out

His wife Emilie Margrethe Nielsen died in 1934 at Gentofte County Hospital and is buried at Vedbæk Cemetery. Three years later, Wilhelm Rudolf Stegemüller was laid to rest next to her. The pastor writes in Vedbæk Kirkebog: “Widower Wilhelm Rudolph Stegemüller buried by Pastor Rasmussen at Vedbæk Cemetery 1937 10/6. Died at the County Hospital in Gjentofte.” The son Fritz gets the estate paid for the funeral costs: “22-06-1937: Request submitted by 17. sM from Hattemager Fritz Stegemüller to get the remains in the estate of former Hattemagermester Rudolph Wilhelm Stegemüller, Strandvej 141 (This should be Skodsborgvej 151 – ed. 2003), Skodsborg, died 3/6-1937, paid for the funeral expenses. The request was granted.”

Everyone is now dead, and it will hardly ever succeed to find out what made him leave his mother and his two sisters in Germany to become a hatmaker at Brede and later A/S Dansk Hattefabrik.

Kongens Lyngby Police: DC-031: Copenhagen County Nordre Birk, Dept. G Issued Residence Books for Foreign Nationals.
“Strandvejen før og nu” Volume 1, page 348
“Søllerød – as it once was” 6th collection by Gunnar Sandfeld
Collection of Reviews to the Trade Registers – 1905
“Brede Klædefabrik” by Jeppe Tønsberg
“The cradle of industry. Brede – a factory society by the mill river ”
Indfødsretssag: Indenrigsministeriet Ekspeditionskontor, 1917. J.No 62
Lovtidende A 1919 af 10.6., S. 655
Søllerødbogen 1992
Kirkebog, Vedbæk, 3-145-4 side 65 Skifteprotokol, Skiftebog
B, p. 608, Copenhagen County Nordre Birk 1935 26/5 – 1938 7/3

Hanne B. Stegemüller, August 2021