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In the canton of Schwyz, too, the textile industry set the pace for industrialization. However, the focus here was on processing silk and not cotton. This is schappe or floret silk, a silk thread made from raw silk waste and silk from damaged cocoons. Schappe processing has been able to hold its own in Gersau to this day. Most of the text comes from the communications of the Historical Association of the Canton of Schwyz, 100/2008, pp. 208-211, written by Dr. Erwin Horat.



Augustin Reding (1687–1772) founded a publishing house in Schwyz in 1728 for the manufacture of foil silk thread. This makes him the "forefather" of Schappe processing at the Schwyz stand. The first entry in the Schwyz council minutes, which deals with Augustin Reding's company, dates from 1729 and states that customs must also be paid for silk: «Before Landt Rhath sat on the 23rd of August 1729: Mayor Augustin appeared quoted Reding and Mr. Judge Frantz Xaveri Wüerner because of their side [...], which should also be paid a fair tariff, After the responsibility has been given, Mr. Landvogt Reding has thrown these sides out of the granary and is minded to put corn in it That this should only be cleaned within 14 days, prosecuting the toll, they found guilty and decent that the Siden, in turn, should pay a fair toll to the country, but one o'clock has to be written . "

On May 7, 1730, the then authorities of the Republic of Gersau granted the land clerk Sebastian Melchior Rigert permission to rot and wash silk on the Bachstatt by the lake. Rigert acted on behalf of Josef Augustin Reding from Schwyz, the actual founder of the Gersau silk industry. Reding had been refused permission by the Schwyz authorities. As a result, the foil silk industry in Gersau developed rapidly. 




In 1730 the council of Gersau Melchior Rigert, a Ferger from Augustin Reding, approved the construction of a silk rot in Gersau. Why Augustin Reding took this step in Gersau and not in Schwyz is unclear. Tradition has it that the Schwyz Council rejected a request to this effect because the silk rot was a "stinking" affair. In the minutes of the Schwyz council, however, there is no reference to the rejection of such a request. The convenient location on Lake Lucerne in terms of traffic may have played a decisive role. Because the raw material, which came from Italy, was transported from Flüelen by sea. The lake also offered the easiest transport connections for processing the raw silk.
Whatever the reason for the establishment of the silk rot in Gersau, the decision had a lasting effect on Gersau's economic development. As a result, up to seven Gersauers worked as Ferger (silk distributors) for external publishers such as Augustin Reding (Schwyz) or Heinrich Imbach (Lucerne). In doing so, they got to know the silk trade thoroughly and thus acquired the knowledge that enabled them to take the step to become an independent silk publisher.



Johann Anton Küttel (1725–1808) was the first from Gersau to become a publisher. In 1760 he founded the company "Johann Anton Küttel & Co.", which soon flourished. Johann Anton Küttel could count on the support of his stepbrother, the Einsiedeln monastery governor and later Prince Abbot Beat Küttel.
Landschreiber Andreas Camenzind (1706–1772) was the initiator of the second publishing house, the company "Andreas Camenzind & Son" (1771). After his untimely death, his son Josef Maria Anton Camenzind (1749–1829) continued the business and it flourished in a short time; he was the richest silk lord. When he died, he left a fortune of 442,786 guilders; during his lifetime he had already paid his children over 300,000 guilders.
Johann Melchior Camenzind (1730–1776) founded the company “Johann Melchior Camenzind & Son” in 1773. He had acquired the necessary knowledge as a partner in Johann Anton Küttel, with whom he fell out in 1773. This company, too, flourished under the management of the son Johann Caspar Camenzind (1754–1831) and was the largest publishing house in Central Switzerland at the end of the 18th century.
The Gersau silk gentlemen provided people with work and income in a larger geographical catchment area. These included Gersau, the old country of Schwyz, the Einsiedeln region, the Engelberg valley and villages in the cantons of Uri and Zug. Their number ranged from 9,000 to 10,000 in the late 18th century.
The publisher stood at the head of a silk house. He was responsible for purchasing the raw materials, commissioned the Ferger to process the silk and was responsible for the sale of the products. The entrepreneurial risk lay with him. For a successful job he was dependent on good trade relations. 



The three Gersau silk houses operated very successfully in the second half of the 18th century, which can be seen in their representative houses and the large inherited fortunes. Georg Küttel, co-owner of the company "Johann Küttel & Co." built the "Hof" in 1782, Johann Melchior Camenzind, the owner of the company "Johann Melchior Camenzind & Co." built the Grosslandammannhaus in 1776, and Josef Maria Camenzind, co-owner of the company "Andreas Camenzind & Son", was the builder of the villa "Minerva".
Enlightening is the late 18th century debate about the pros and cons of the home industry. Proponents emphasized the improved living conditions; thanks to the higher income, these could be improved. In the case of Gersau, a report on Gersau recorded in 1797: «... who amassed a considerable fortune and built beautiful houses without their old, frugal way of life having suffered as a result; and there is no doubt that it is these new sources of food that they have procured for their fellow citizens, which since then have increased the population by almost a third. "
Other voices were critical of the homework. Moral and moral motives came to the fore. Those who work from home would surrender to luxury and become more and more alienated from their original way of life. In doing so, they did not correspond to the ideal of the "unadulterated, pure" human being that many
Travelers in the 18th century hoped to discover the «Alpine idyll». This also resulted in their irritation, which the shepherds hoped to meet. Christoph Meiners, who traveled twice to the Swiss Confederation in the 1780s, said: «This coffee drinking and veal meal has spread from the apartments and workshops of the factory workers to the herdsmen's huts on the highest Alps, where the herdsmen instead of the goat and the Cheese milk, which used to be almost their only food, refreshed with the most delicious coffee and the most selected veal and even with baked goods. "


The emerging mechanization of silk production in the 1830s also hit the Gersau companies. In the end only one company survived, the one founded in 1771 by Josef Maria Anton Camenzind, known as the "Kleine Landammann" because of its small stature. He was just as successful in business as in politics, was elected mayor of the republic several times by the citizens and also sat in the Senate of the Helvetic government. In 1846/47 the first large silk factory was built in the "Eggi", which was followed by the one in the "Bläui" in 1859/60. In 1861 the third factory, the "Seefabrik", was built. Large factory buildings were the result of the rapidly developing mechanization of silk processing. However, the basis for the mechanization was water. All three factories were built on the Dorfbach. The water from Rigiberg was needed to drive the machines, and the raw material and silk products were delivered across the lake.


In the early 1870s, business was very bad because of the Franco-Prussian War, and there were internal difficulties. In 1875 bankruptcy had to be declared. This blow hit Gersau hard, because the village lived from and with the silk industry. Operations resumed in 1880, but had to be abandoned again in 1884. The easiest way to demonstrate the grave crisis that bankruptcy sparked is population figures. In 1870 it was 2270 people, in 1880 it had decreased to 1775 people; In 1900, after the silk processing started operating, it had increased to 1,887 people. The three once proud factories stood still for several years. From 1890 onwards, various banks took over the factories and tried to restart operations, with moderate success.



In 1892 Hermann Camenzind (1854–1916) and Caspar Josef Camenzind (1851–1911) acquired the three silk factories and their accessories from the bankruptcy estate and dared to restart silk processing in Gersau. They did not rush blindly into this risk, but as the owner of the Altdorf foil spinning mill (since 1887) they had the necessary commercial and technical knowledge. They got the company on track despite considerable difficulties. In 1898, for example, steam engine operation was replaced by electrical energy. In 1904 Hermann Camenzind left the company, which is now part of "Camenzind & Co." was renamed. After the death of Caspar Josef Camenzind, his sons Josef and Werner and later his sons, Walter and Otto Camenzind (1902-1965) took over the management of the spinning mill. The factory in "Eggi" burned down in 1926 and was not rebuilt. The third generation and their successors led the company through the difficult years of the two world wars and the upswing phase after 1945. In 1965, the fourth generation took over with Walter Camenzind-Auf der Maur, Richard Camenzind-Kühn and Theodor Beeler-Camenzind  the company. With Paula Camenzind-Rigert and Jeannette Camenzind-Hobi, women belonged to the company as shareholders for the first time. On March 28, 1994, the shareholders decided to found a public limited company. Theodor Beeler-Camenzind rose in 1996  out.

The big fire

The factory fire of 1926 was a decisive event. The upper / rear factory, the largest of the three factories at the time, burned down completely in the night of August 7th to 8th, 1926. Nobody was injured, but there was a lot of property damage. The processing of the raw materials into yarn had taken place in this factory building, which is why its destruction paralyzed production for a long time.6 Women workers in particular were affected by the fire. Most of them have been released. This was probably the reason why the workers' home was closed in the same year. Camenzind & Co. decided not to rebuild the upper factory and instead upgrade the two other locations for production.

Social facilities

Camenzind & Co. maintained various social institutions early on. However, the sources for this are rare. For example, from 1897 the company operated a workers' home in the middle factory, which was closed after the factory fire of 1926. From 1893 to the 1930s there is a list of women who have recently given birth and until around 1992 the company employed Italian nuns who looked after the children in their own after-school care center. In addition, Camenzind & Co. rented out numerous inexpensive apartments to their employees, including the staff house, which was inaugurated in 1969, with a daycare center and lounge.

In 1920 the company founded the employee welfare foundation of the Floret spinning mill Camenzind & Co., Gersau, with endowment capital of CHF 421,756.84, which grew to around CHF 2 million until the 1960s. This foundation formed, so to speak, the roof of all company-owned social institutions and, according to Art. II of the deed of foundation, pursued the following purposes: establishment and operation of "pension fund, health insurance, workers 'home, holiday home, day nursery, toddler school, advanced training school, maternity leave support, construction of workers' houses etc. etc." . In addition, according to the deed of foundation, “the support of employees and workers in need, as well as their families” as well as the “creation of opportunities for instruction, entertainment and activities of the employees and workers” belonged to their tasks. For most of the fields of activity no more sources have survived and so their work can hardly be traced.

Until 1960, the contributions were paid from the income of the foundation capital, which had been accumulated and expanded by the company. Only then did the insured persons pay contributions into the new pension fund, which was set up on January 1, 1961 in addition to the welfare foundation. The company's own pension fund existed until the Federal Law on Occupational Pensions (BVG) was finally introduced in 1987 and was then transferred to the VOSKA (pension foundation of the Swiss credit institution).




The "Seefabrik" was shut down in 1996 and the whole operation in the "Bläui" was merged into the so-called "Middle Factory". The necessary production area was created by extension buildings in 1939, 1946, 1954, 1989, 1996 and 2001. In 1994 the limited partnership became a stock corporation called Camenzind + Co. AG. Today the spinning mill is in the fifth generation of Nicole Camenzind and Mathias Camenzind  continued.

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