WMF first opened in 1853 when Daniel Straub combined forces with the Schweizer brothers to form the Metallwarenfabrik Straub und Schweizer. The factory produced a wide variety of silver products and was located in Geislingen, Germany. In 1862, the company won a gold medal at the “World Exhibition” in London. Despite the fledgling company’s success, Louis and Fredrich Schweizer left. The metalworks factory was renamed Straub und Sohn. In 1868, Straub und Sohn opened its first showroom in Berlin. Over the course of the next few years, the company grew to include 200 employees and 960 different products. During 1880, the company again changed names and became the Wurttembergische Metallwarenfabrik or “WMF.”
During the late 18th and 19th centuries, Germany was considered the world’s most intellectual and highly advanced society. After the unification of Germany under Otto von Bismarck, the country quickly industrialized and implemented one of Europe’s first welfare systems. WMF became a leader in the field of employee care. In 1887, the WMF Welfare Association was formed. This program provided benefits such as company health insurance, a hardship fund, company housing, distribution of subsidized foods, a company bathhouse, and a company sponsored savings account. Also, the WMF Welfare Association launched Germany’s first home journal – Die Feierstunde or “The Leisure Hour.” This magazine is still published today using the title WMF Spiegel or “WMF Mirror.”
One way in which WMF remained so successful was to continually seek opportunities of profit and diversification. In 1894, WMF acquired the Galvanoplastischen Kunstantalt or the “Galvonoplasty Art Institute.” The company used the facilities for manufacturing burial memorials, ornamental statues, and replicas of art. The most famous product to ever come out of this venture was a replica of Ghiberti’s “The Gate of Paradise.” These famous doors opened to the Baptistery at Florence. A replica of the famous work is now used as the entryway at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.
By 1910, WMF employed more than 4,000 workers. The company’s sales catalogues were printed in 12 languages. Subsidiary companies were acquired in London, Warsaw, and Vienna. Despite its many successes, WMF would soon face the challenges of two world wars, a devastating economic depression, and European reconstruction. This resulted in the loss of many of WMF’s retail outlets, factories, and its foreign markets.
Following the Second World War, the company had to build from nothing. WMF saw this as an opportunity to build an entirely new business. The company reconstructed its personnel, organizational structure, and its factories. A network of retail shops was reopened. Soon following the company’s reorganization, WMF acquired subsidiaries in Holland, Canada, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. By 1950, the company had returned to its pre-war production levels and increased its export market. During this time, WMF acquired its American distributor, Fraser’s, Inc. For this reason, some WMF manufactured patterns were known as “Fraser” patterns or “WMF-Fraser” patterns.
Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, WMF has focused on production of easier living products, including its line of cromargan stainless flatware. Replacements, Ltd. carries many of your favorite WMF patterns.