The manufactures of Germany are of ancient standing. Already in the 6th century several towns had sprung up in Germany, which were soon after to become famous for their manufactures and trade. The introduction of Christianity was highly instrumental in advancing the commerce of the country. By the beginning of the 9th century a little progress had been made in general trade, and by the 11th century, Flanders and Brabant, and several German cities, had become important for their manufactures of Linen.
It is reported, on the authority of Helinoldus, that in the beginning of the 12th century (about 1109), Linen cloth was used as money in exchange for all other things in the Isle of Bugen, on the coast of Pomerania. Early in the 14th century the Emperors began to infranchise certain German towns; whereupon these cities found it necessary to enter into a confederacy to defend themselves against their feudal lords. This union gave security to traders, and assisted greatly in the extension of manufactures in and around these cities, as well as throughout Germany. The Linen trade is not only one of the oldest, but it is also one of the-most important branches of industry in Germany. It gives employment to an immense number of the inhabitants, and a vast capital is embarked in it Many of the articles made in the United Kingdom were at first imitations of German Linens, and some of them are still familiarly known by their German names, or by the district in Germany where they were manufactured. Dowlas, Tecklenburgs, Creas, Flatillas, Silesias, Osnaburgs, &c have all a German origin, and most of these fabrics are still made there. Some of the provinces of Prussia proper are integral parts of Germany, and its detached provinces are also German, the progress and present state of the Linen trade of Prussia will therefore be included in this chapter, as it will save repetitions which would otherwise be necessary. Prussia has been a Linen producing country from a very early period. In 1450 she exported Flax, thread of Cologne, and canvas, principally to Flanders, which was then the great emporium of trade. The Italians, Hanse merchants, and Flemings, did the chief of business at that period.
The Linens of Silesia and Saxony have been long celebrated for their fine and durable qualities. Westphalia, Wurtemberg, and several other of the sub-divisions of that great country have also been long deservedly famous for their Linen manufactures. Brandenburg had manufactures of canvas. Frankfort on the Oder had a tolerable Linen trade. Saxony had manufactures of fine and coarse linen and ticking canvas, and made large quantities of thread. The persecution of the Protestants in Bohemia and Silesia forced great numbers to withdraw and settle in Upper Lusatia, where they introduced the Linen manufacture, particularly table Linen and tickings. Lower Lusatia, Dresden, Leipzic and neighbourhood, Chemnitz, Hamburg, and other places manufactured Linens. Bremen made large quantities of Osnaburgs. Esenbach, Harburg, Saxe-Lauenburg, Hanover, Hameln, Magdeburg., all had their Linen manufactures. Munster was much engaged in the Linen trade. Osnaburg or Osnabruck made Linen yarn and thread, and manufactured Osnaburgs to the value of upwards of a million of six-dollars annually. Hamm was famous for its Linen bleacheries. Glatz had thread and Linen manufactures. Silesia manufactured twine and Linen of various kinds very extensively, including Linen printing canvas, buckram, and damask, and exported these goods largely, particularly to England. Indeed nearly all the places named exported their manufactures to some extent, in addition to supplying the home demand. In 1755 there were 248 Linen looms in Berlin. In 1764 Hemp and Flax and their seeds, and also Linens and thread were exported from Prussia, and from Dantzic Hemp, Flax, and Linens. Oddy, in his work on European commerce (1805), mentions that the produce exported from Prussia consisted of Flax, Hemp, chiefly from Memel and Konigsberg ; Linens from Silesia, either by the Elbe, or from Stettin. The value of Linen manufactures exported from Prussia, in 1799 was about £2,000,000, being fully a fourth part of all the exports from that country.
Sources: the Stoty of Textile Arts by Edith Very, 1912
Linen Trade, Ancient and Modern, Alex. J. Warden, 1864
History of Irish Linen: By Thomas Ferguson