Karl Otto Schmidt & Paul Friedrich Schmidt

Carl Otto & Paul Friedrich Schmidt

„Carl Otto & Paul Friedrich Schmidt“

The First World War from 1914 to 1918, the era of the Weimar Republic, and finally the era of National Socialist rule, which plunged Germany and all of Europe into an infernal world war, became the most difficult phase in the company’s history for Gebrüder Schmidt. Over a period of more than 20 years, the company had to face its biggest challenges, mostly caused by politics. The First World War and its consequences put the company in acute danger. After the war-related collapse of Oberstein industry, from which no company emerged as a war profiteer, and the extensive loss of the position fought for on the world market during the founding years, the immediate consequences of the war, but also the French occupation that lasted until 1930 in Oberstein, paralysed economic development. In addition, the collapse of the German currency during the years of inflation and finally the global economic crisis of 1929-30, which brought Gebrüder Schmidt to the brink of ruin.

Siblings Paul Friedrich and Karl Otto Schmidt joined the company in 1920. Karl Otto Schmidt in particular kept the company on course at his father’s side. The company focussed on the production of beautifully designed collections of fashion accessories for women, office suites and smoking accessories, and increasingly also watch cases in the art deco style of the 1920s. In the mid-1920s, the company, which was still economically efficient, also planned for the period after the crisis: in 1928/29, the factory was ambitiously expanded. The Cologne architect Paul Pott was constructing a modern factory building with up to five storeys, with large window fronts, light-flooded, well-ventilated workspaces that point programmatically into the future and stand out from the ensemble of the old factory as a distinctive feature of the cityscape.

Karl Otto Schmidt assumed increasing responsibility for the management of the company while his father was still alive. After his father’s death in 1930, the year of the crisis, he succeeded in averting insolvency and rescuing the company, not least through his personal commitment. He survived the First World War, in which he was wounded several times, and the years of the global economic crisis had a lasting impact on him. Militarism and national chauvinism were foreign to him.

The Nazi regime with its rigid policy of closing Germany off from the world market and forced management of all foreign exchange ended the dream of the art industry for the time being for the company living from foreign business. In addition, the early steering of the economy also drove Gebrüder Schmidt into the production of military equipment already in the pre-war years. From the beginning of the war, the company became a manufacturer of ammunition boxes, parts of grenades and transportable antennas for war operations. French prisoners of war were also used as workers. In 1944 a bomb attack severely damaged large parts of the company building.

Karl Otto Schmidt mastered the reconstruction of the company after the collapse of the Nazi regime in 1945 with a core staff of returning war veterans. His brother Paul Friedrich, who was a political follower of the Nazis, left the company in 1939 and volunteered to join the Todt organisation. Johanna Schmidt, née Treibs, widow and heiress of Carl Ludwig Schmidt, who died in 1930, ran the company after a family conflict situation, which meant that the company was re-founded in 1948 for the German currency reform with Karl Otto Schmidt as managing partner. Karl Otto Schmidt, politically unencumbered, not only succeeded in rapidly rebuilding the company by producing wheelbarrows, tools, transformers and cigarette cases for members of the stationing forces in line with demand after the war. As Vice President and Chairman of the Examining Board for the Metal Professions, he also rendered great service in the reconstruction of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Koblenz. At the same time, as honorary head of the metal classes, he supported the reconstruction of the destroyed Oberstein vocational school “Auf der Au”. After returning from Russian captivity, his son Karl Wilhelm joined the company.

In the years of the “German Economic Miracle”, Gebrüder Schmidt also experienced a grandiose upswing. The business with fashion accessories and watch cases, which flourished mainly with exports to neighbouring European countries, employed up to 400 people and required the company to expand into a striking five-storey industrial building in the heart of Oberstein, which lasted until the 1990s.

Karl Otto Schmidt was omnipresent in the company until old age. Even in the 1970s, when plastic was increasingly replacing the traditional materials tombac and brass, he retained responsibility for the development and production of metal goods.

3rd Generation

5th Generation