G. Löwensohn – Children's Books – Fürth -A story of Triumph and Tragedy
By: Jo Tisinger at Vintagepopupbooks.com last edited 06/07/2023
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For those of us interested in the historical details of movable books, we owe a great deal to the legacy of G. Löwensohn and his family. Theirs is a complex and memorable story of Triumph and Tragedy – a story that deserves to be told….
The G. Löwensohn company of Fürth was a prolific publisher, printer, and lithographer that operated in Bavaria during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. German chromolithographers, mostly based in Bavaria, came to dominate the trade with their low-cost high-volume quality productions. Löwensohn was the largest and most prolific.
The company was founded by Gerson Löwensohn (1817-1871) in 1844 on Schwabacher Str. in Fürth Bavaria, Germany. He started out as a one-man copper plate printer producing picture sheets, coloring, and picture books. He added lithography in 1859. There is evidence, however, from earlier references, that he and his Father Isaac (1777 – 1884) were doing copper plate printings as early as 1838 - before Gerson opened his shop on Star Road. Gerson had 5 brothers and sisters, none of whom were involved in owning the business. Löwensohn opened his first store on Schwabacher Str. in 1844 after he needed more space to produce his own work and began offering his own and others' products. The information suggests that this store was opened after he had completed an apprenticeship as a Kupfer- und Stahlstecher (copper and steel engraver) and had acquired the necessary license to operate his own business.
Gerson Löwensohn opened his store at Sterngasse 175 on September 14, 1850, where he offered a range of products, including school atlases, steel engravings of personalities and city views, coat of arms and motto prints, letterheads, and forms of all kinds.
Books came later, and movables even later. In 1860, Löwensohn was offering 40 books for sale (reference, an old ad posted on https://past-childrens-books.de/Loewensohn-Verlag1...
Löwensohn began with lithographic color printing around 1869. This innovation replaced hand coloring and allowed for increased production, with up to 400 prints per color per workday becoming possible.
Gerson and his wife Helene (nee Zenner) (1821 – 1914) had two sons, Bernhard (1849-1910) and Theodore (1853 -1931), and one daughter Clementine (1847-1923). Although the boys helped out in the shop while growing up, Gerson did not bring his sons full-time into the business until each had graduated from high school. Gerson died when his boys were only 22 and 18. His widow Helene ran the family business along with Theodore until Bernhard returned from a 5-year stay in the U.S.A. Helene’s great-granddaughter Anne Marie described her later as “A woman with strong morals”. The boys were smart, educated, and had learned a hard work ethic and those strong morals from their parents. In 1876 they moved from their smaller location in Sterngasse to a larger one at the Blumenstrabe. They were now fully running the company and bought a steam-powered Schnellpresse “Quick Press*,“ a lithographic press, to print by machine rather than by hand. They were very proud of the new machine and felt that it would allow them to expand. That they did, in 1882 the two brothers built a large factory on the Summer Road at 16-18/Ecke Birch Street. Gerson’s sons added a third partner, their cousin Albert Rosenfeld (1864 – killed in 1916) who joined in 1890. They dramatically grew the business and added a bookstore to what became known as the Fürth Storybook Factory at Sommerstraße (Summer Street) 16-18. At its peak, hundreds of workers were employed there. By 1894 they were using the Quick Press to produce 3,000 prints per day. Before Quick Press, they could only print 400 per day – all by hand. Having joined the industrial revolution, the family’s social status as well as their wealth climbed. The letterhead of the company at that time showed the Factory building on “The Summer” with a smoking chimney, the proud symbol of the industrial age at the time. The logo’s slogan read "Picture Books in all languages." Also by 1894 Löwensohn was producing over 700 titles in 11 different languages. They published children’s books in German, French, French, English, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Russian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian and Spanish. In 1894 Bernhard said that images from England were the most beautiful of all and they were spending thousands of guilders annually to purchase images from English printers. The company promoted the fact that they could deliver picture books in any language as long as the text was provided by the buyer. This helps to explain why books with the same movables sometimes have different text in different language editions. Löwensohn successfully found buyers among publishers in all these foreign countries. They also sold books in other countries without another publisher’s participation
G. Löwensohn Letterhead – late nineteenth century (image from The Historical Society Fuerth)
Exports were critical to Löwensohn. Their massive growth was largely attributable to exporting. The Löwensohn family prospered. The brothers built mirror-image mansions in the Hornschuchpromenade, the main avenue of the upper class in late 19th Century Fürth to show off their wealth and success. The Löwensohn mansions were designed in the neo-renaissance style, and they were adorned with ornate decorations and luxurious furnishings.
The brothers and cousin Albert were well liked, respected, and they treated their workers very well. Löwensohn even set up foundations to financially assist their workers whether they were sick, old, or bereaved. Several foundations were started by the two generous families. These included charitable foundations for infant feeding, for children suffering from tuberculosis, for disabled veterans and their widows and orphans. They donated to the Maternity Hospital, the Municipal Theater, and others. Due to their generosity a street in Fürth was named after them - Löwensohn Fürth-Westvorstadt. In July of 1891 Theodor, on behalf of his wife Rosie, gifted Fürth with “The Forest School and Colony; Waldschule’ in Cadolzburg.” It was for weak and convalescent children. On the flip side, hours at Löwensohn were long- 12 to 14 hours daily except Sundays. There were also inclined to inflict payroll deductions if a worker was late or broke something.
Theodore Löwensohn, the primary force behind the growth of G. Löwensohn
Houses of the brothers Theodore and Bernard, Hornschuchpromenade 3 and 4 (image from The Historical Society Fürth)
Wages in Germany at the time were much lower than wages in the United States. We often talk about American publishers having their work done in Germany because the German print technology and lithographic quality was the best. That may have been true, but we suspect that lower cost was a primary incentive to “print in Bavaria.” In 1908, The Löwensohn lithographers, like other German company lithographers, were paid $5.50 - $8.25 per week, depending on ability. The average weekly pay for lithographers in the United States that same year was $25 per week – or about 340% higher. High quality and low cost, it’s no wonder that so much printing work came out of Germany.
While Bernhard had only daughters, younger brother Theodore and his wife Rosie (vee Stockheim) ( 1862-1934) had three children, Gustav Ernst (1883 – 1945), Johanna (1886 - 1934), and Robert (1895 – 1945). Their oldest son Gustav served as an interpreter during the First World War 1914- 1918. He entered the family business in 1919 as a third-generation owner, eventually joined by his younger brother Robert. Gustav started out as an editor and printer. Like his father and Uncle, Gustav was an exceedingly kind man. He married a beautiful woman named Emmy (nee Mannheimer) who carried on the Löwensohn wives' tradition of energetic volunteer and social work. For the next 18 years, the company continued to grow under the leadership of Gustov (President), and Robert. As the company prospered so did their families, their workers, and the community of Fürth. It is interesting to note that the brothers had a third partner, Ernst Rosenfeld (1894-1976), who was the only son of Albert who had been a partner and first cousin of their father Theodore’s wife, Rosie.
Note that in the aftermath of World War I, Germany's toy and children's book industry confronted an array of challenges. Continual restrictions on raw materials, coupled with a reduction in workforce, added layers of complexity to the industry. The unsettled political climate and societal upheaval following the fall of the previous regime engendered an environment of instability, exacerbated by rampant inflation. Numerous countries, particularly the United States - its economic prowess significantly bolstered by the war - attempted to shield their nascent toy and publishing industries by implementing high import tariffs. Germany, with its export-focused toy manufacturing sector, struggled to surmount these commercial obstacles throughout the 1920s. Facing intense competition, German producers endeavored to penetrate new domestic and international markets. This led to a phase of streamlining and consolidation, with larger corporations - such as Loewenon doing much better. Their hard won success through his period howerver wouldbe short lived........
Enter the Nazi Third Reich – The end of the Löwensohn Dynasty
The rise of the Nazi Third Reich marked the end of the Löwensohn dynasty and the devastating loss of their business, wealth, and community.Sadly, the Löwensohn family was forced to sell the company in 1937, two years after Nazi Law prohibited Jews from being in the printing/publishing business in Germany. The forced sale of the G. Löwensohn company in 1937 was a tragic consequence of the Nazi regime's anti-Semitic policies. As you noted, the Nazi government prohibited Jews from owning or working in the printing and publishing industries in Germany, effectively forcing the Löwensohn family to sell their business. 95% of the money derived from the sale of the business went straight to the Nazi state. The centerpiece of the family’s generosity “the Forest School and Colony” was turned into a Nazi Training Camp. In 1937 Gustov fled with his family to The Netherlands and later to Belgium. Unfortunately, In 1943, Gustov was caught by the Nazis and sent to the worst of Hitler’s concentration camps - Auschwitz.- one of the most notorious concentration camps of the Holocaust. It is a tragic reminder of the brutal realities of life for Jews and other targeted groups under the Nazi regime. While there he was forced to use his foreign language skills to be an interpreter for the commander. He then lost his life there two years later. His brother Robert and wife Ella Ruth (vee Muendheim) (1895 – 1944) had escaped to France with their children but were deported back to Germany to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp where they also perished at the hands of the Nazis. The third partner, Ernst Rosenfeld, survived in exile.
Gustov’s wife Emmy and one of their two daughters, Dora (1911 – 1976) survived the war and immigrated to the United States as soon as it was over. The second daughter Lilli (1908 – 1940) was killed in London during “The Blitz” air raids by the Germans which were a devastating series of bombings carried out by the German Luftwaffe during World War II. All of Gustav’s descendants are from Dora and live in the United States.
Robert and Ella Ruth’s children Anne -Marie (1920-1998) and Gerard (1926 - ?) were not deported back to Germany. They survived and spent the rest of their long lives in France. According to the autobiography of Anne-Marie, posted online in 2002 - Gerhard, as the only male heir, had been destined to take over the firm… had Hitler not intervened.
In 1937 the G. Löwensohn family sold the business to Pestalozzi Verlag (PV).
While PV's success in the children's book publishing industry is noteworthy, it is important to remember the circumstances that allowed them to acquire the G. Löwensohn business in the first place.
PV was founded in 1920 in Nuremberg. In the 1950s and 60s PV become a leading children's book publisher. In 1972 PV production moved from Fürth to Erlangen. This move ended the decades-long tradition of picture-book production in Fürth. PV went on to become the market leader in the field of picture books. They later merged with the corporations VEMAG Publishing and Media AG out of Cologne. In 1998 Pestalozzi Verlag went under the umbrella of - guess who – the huge Danish media company, Egmont. Egmont is one of the leading children’s book companies in the world and the same company that now owns the “Dean & Son” imprint.
According to an article in the German newspaper "Nürnberger Nachrichten" from December 2017, PV had been in financial difficulties for several years and had filed for insolvency. However, the article also noted that the company was continuing to operate while it worked to restructure and find a way to remain in business.Today, the old Löwensohn Storybook Factory in Fürth remains on Löwensohn Road. It is being converted into a 31-unit luxury apartment building scheduled to finish renovations by the end of 2014. They promote themselves as “Summer Lofts Fürth - Living in the former picture book factory Löwensohn”. Summer Lofts Fürth - Living in the former picture book factory Löwensohn" is a luxury apartment complex located in the former G. Löwensohn storybook factory in Fürth, Germany. The building has been renovated and repurposed to offer modern, high-end living spaces while preserving the historic character of the building.
Overall, the story of the G. Löwensohn business and the Löwensohn family is a complex one, marked by both innovation and success as well as tragedy and loss. It serves as a reminder of the importance of recognizing the historical context in which businesses and industries operate, and of the need to remember and honor the legacy of those who have been impacted by discrimination and persecution.
Notes on identifying Löwensohn produced books:
Finding a number on the cover of a Bavarian printed movable book often means a German mass-market edition, and that most often means a Löwensohn. According to Klingberg, books in other countries sold without the participation of a foreign publisher are always undated. This makes them extra difficult to date because we can’t research publisher catalogs. Löwensohn was the printer and sometimes publisher of many movables, including most likely the Moving Picture Books series by The Pictorial Color Book Company. Most of these books were printed for other publishers in various countries and usually did not bear a Löwensohn mark. “Printed in Bavaria” without a printer indicated often means it’s a Löwensohn. One reason that we know that Löwensohn was behind many of these movables because French copies, for whatever reason, often had a small “G. Löwensohn Impr. Fuerth.” When no publisher mark or date appears on printed in Bavaria movables it likely that Löwensohn marketed these books directly from Germany. During and after World War 1 the prejudice of Americans toward Germany required Löwensohn to sell their books to that market without identifying that the books came from Germany. A great example is the “publishing front” Löwensohn set up in New York called The Pictorial Color Book Company. Through PCBC, they were able to successfully sell and distribute The Pictorial Moving Picture Books in America. (We will present further research on the publisher relationships for those books including the publisher George Sully soon.) There are also Moving Picture Books without any publisher information that were likely a first attempt to sell the books on Löwensohn‘s own before the war prior to 1914. Brilliant Gustav could speak several languages. Learning to be multi-lingual undoubtedly arose from his families expansive export business. We have records from the Ellis Island passenger archives that Gustov visited the United States in 1905 at the age of 22 and again in 1909 at the age of 26.
It is difficult to find non-French movables published before 1900 that have the Löwensohn imprint. An example of a French Movable with the Löwensohn imprint is an 1890 Capendu title, Le Baron de Montauciel with six movable pages. Another example of a Löwensohn Capendu movable is Grand Théâtre Féerique.
We have found the Löwensohn imprint on many Raphael Tuck movables and other movables as well. Frederick Warne has at least one, The Magic Lantern Struwwelpeter, printed by G. Löwensohn stating, "Designed in England and printed by G. Löwensohn at Fürth, Bavaria.”
The oldest book reference we could find for a German movable book with a Loewensohn imprint was for Bewegliche Bilder für artige Kinder (Movable Book for Like Children) – 1866. We also Found a movable Lustiges Biderbuch ( Funny Picture Book) – 1871.
We have a couple of unusual Löwensohn English titles in our collection. One is an 1883 Löwensohn slot movable entitled, Fairy Tales For Children. The title page says “Transform Pictures” The tab pulls the slots to reveal a different image within the picture.
According to the August 2007 Movable Book Society Newsletter, another series published by Löwensohn was the Theatrical Picture Books published in several languages. They are relatively rare. Below are images from our copy of Too Much Talking is Hurtful (Little Red Riding Hood). It was published in 1883 along with 3 others, A Rare Cat (Puss in Boots), Awake ( Sleeping Beauty) and Poor Robinson ( Robinson Crusoe). Our English copy has what looks like a Löwensohn imprint, but it is too small and faded for us to read.
Below are images for Löwensohn's Circ: 1880 grand first edition Theater Bilderbuch with all 4 scenes in one book:
The 4 scenes are "Robinson Crusoe", "Puss in Boots", "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Sleeping Beauty"
(Der arme Robinson , Der gestiefelte Kater , Rothkäppchen und Dornröschen)
*Ries cites from Russell (1881, vol. 4, col. 542 and 1894, vol. 16, col. 5318)
(Thanks you Cherie, a collector from South Africa, for providing these images)
We also have seen several copies of Löwensohn movables from the 20s and 30s in various languages that include books with vovelles as well as pop-up type books where a child can cut out pictures and stand them up. Some of these include The Traffic Light Book ( Vovelle, cut-outs) and The Home Farm and Around The World which include tabbed cut-outs that you can stand up to make scenes, and La Ronde Des Saisons Almanach des tout petits a( book with a turning vovelle cover showing scenes for each month – circa 1920) (shown below).
Other Movable Books:
Here are some entries from the German National Library catalog mentioning Löwensohn and movable books:
"Ziehbilderbuch für artige Kinder : Weihnachtsgabe für das Jahr 1882" (Movable book for good children: Christmas gift for the year 1882) by G. Löwensohn.
"Ein Ziehbilderbuch für Kinder" (A movable book for children) by G. Löwensohn.
"Kinderbücher mit beweglichen Bildern von G. Löwensohn in Fürth i. Bay" (Children's books with movable pictures from G. Löwensohn in Fürth i. Bay) published in 1895.
"Die Tiere : ein Ziehbilderbuch für Kinder" (The Animals: A Movable Book for Children) by G. Löwensohn.
"Bilderbogen zum Aufziehen und Sprechen" (Picture sheet to pull and speak) by G. Löwensohn
"Ziehbilderbuch 'Der Zirkus'" (Movable picture book 'The Circus') by G. Löwensohn
"Bilderbogen zum Aufziehen und Sprechen" (Picture sheet to pull and speak) by G. Löwensohn
"Der Zirkus: ein Ziehbilderbuch von G. Löwensohn" (The Circus: A Movable Picture Book by G. Löwensohn)
"Die Schlittenfahrt: ein Ziehbilderbuch" (The Sleigh Ride: A Movable Book) by G. Löwensohn, published in the late 19th century.
Der Fuchs: ein Ziehbilderbuch" (The Fox: A Movable Book) by G. Löwensohn, published in the late 19th century.
"Die Tante und der schwarze Kater: ein Ziehbilderbuch" (The Aunt and the Black Cat: A Movable Book) by G. Löwensohn, published in the early 20th century.
"Das Krokodil: ein Ziehbilderbuch" (The Crocodile: A Movable Book) by G. Löwensohn, published in the early 20th century.
"Die drei kleinen Schweinchen: ein Ziehbilderbuch" (The Three Little Pigs: A Movable Book) by G. Löwensohn, published in the early 20th century.
"Der Wolf und die sieben Geißlein: ein Ziehbilderbuch" (The Wolf and the Seven Young Goats: A Movable Book) by G. Löwensohn, published in the early 20th century.
"Die geheimnisvolle Schachtel: ein Ziehbilderbuch" (The Mysterious Box: A Movable Book) by G. Löwensohn, published in the early 20th century.
"Das Ferkelchen und der Wolf: ein Ziehbilderbuch" (The Little Piglet and the Wolf: A Movable Book) by G. Löwensohn, published in the early 20th century.
*About the “Quick Press” – The Löwensohn brothers added their quick press in 1876. They were not the first German printer to do so, however. In 1832, Schreiber bought its first letterpress printing machine and in 1864, Ferdinand Schreiber, the older of J.F. Schreiber's two sons, imported the first high-speed lithographic press in Germany from France. Schreiber is best known as Meggendorfer’s publisher. The term quick press was originally used for one type of machine, and eventually all types of flatbed press. We know from an old ad testimonial written by Löwensohn that the company that manufactured at least one of their quick presses was "Steinmesse & Stollberg" and the model was “The Noris”. In the ad, they stated “I hereby like that the machine delivered to me, The " Noris," works to my complete satisfaction and gives rise to no complaints. Fürth i / B, 9 März, 1901. G. Löwensohn.
If you would like to find out a lot of details about this press see Google book Allgemeiner Anzeiger für Buchbindereien, Volumes 17-18, pages 473-477. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for the link.
Below is a drawing of an actual press Löwensohn owned in 1903:
Artists - We are still working on a list of artists that worked for Löwensohn. We will update the list on our website as we find them. One prominent one was Paul Otto Engelhard. Engelhard was a German illustrator who is best known for his work in children's literature. He created illustrations for several G. Löwensohn publications, including a movable book entitled "Kinderfreuden" (Children's Joys).
Emil Weiss was an illustrator who worked with G. Löwensohn and he did illustrate several movable books for the company, including "Tiere und ihre Jungen" (Animals and Their Young), which was published in the early 20th century.
Heinrich Leutemann: Leutemann was a German artist and illustrator who worked on several movable books for G. Löwensohn in the late 19th century, including "Der Fuchs" (The Fox) and "Die Schlittenfahrt" (The Sleigh Ride).
"Kinderbücher, Bilderbücher, Jugendbücher: Eine Ausstellung der Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel 1840-1950," published by Harrassowitz Verlag in 2002. This book is a catalog of an exhibition on children's books held at the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, and includes a section on G. Löwensohn's movable books featuring illustrations by Heinrich Leutemann.
Many counties had extreme prejudice against anything made in Germany once World War 1 started. Below is a 1914 article, which appeared in the London Standard August 27, 1914, urging people not to buy cards and other printed matter “from our enemies” in evil Germany. Other interesting notes from the article include that 90% of color printing sold in England was printed at the time in Germany and that paper cardboard and goods exported out of Germany in 1913 totaled over 13 million pounds.
Other - Below is a Löwensohn puzzle from 1900:
Jewish Museum of Franconia 89 King Street 90762 Fürth
Holocost Museum, Washington DC, United States - List of Holocaust Victims from Fuerth
Historical Society Fürth Germany eV 2/2005 • 55 Jg • • B5129F
Geneology information shared online in many places including archive.org by Löwensohn descendants http://fuerthwiki.de
Jews in German culture: Collective Works Siegmund Kaznelson 1962
Tariff hearings before the Committee ...: Sixtieth Congress 1908-1909 Committee on Ways and Means Congressional edition United States. Congress – 1909 page 6174 (wages)
Göte Klingberg - Svenska barnboksinstitutet
Jewish (Orthodox) records of births
Fürth historical sheets, 55.2005, No. 2, pp. 50 – 54http://fuerthwiki.de/wiki/index.php/Bilderbücherfa...
Adolf Berger sponge : Fuerth A to Z A Historical Encyclopedia.. Fürth published by the city of Fürth, 1968, p 250
Monika Berthold Hilpert, Jutta Fleckenstein: Jewish foundations in Fürth. Invitation to a tour. Publisher: Jewish Museum of Franconia Fuerth & Schnaittach. Haigerloch: Media and dialogue, Schubert, 2003, 22 pp.http://www.bay-bezirke.de/downloads/046a0da7156dc3...
geht uns heute das Leben im Industriezeitalter an.pdf
Picturing Childhood (Illustrated Children's Books from University of California Collections, 1550-1990)
American Electrician, Volume 10 edited by William Dixon Weaver, Jonathan E. Woodbridge, Cecil Percy Poole (press photo)
Rio Research , "Histoire de la famille Löwensohn" by Gérard Langloi
Lillian Goldman Reading Room, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street New York, New York 10011 - Charles P. Stanton Collection, 1802-2001, 1980-2000 Archival materials - See more at: http://access.cjh.org/query.php?term=loewensohn&q..."The German firm G. Löwensohn was one of the leading producers of movable books in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They produced numerous examples of 'Bilderbogen zum Aufziehen' (picture sheets to pull), 'Ziehbilderbuch' (pull picture books), and 'Ziehharmonika' (harmonica pulls), among others." (Source: "Movable Books" by Peter Haining, page 84)
The Paper culture .Creativity with paper page 6 on voith.com (Schreiber).
Halbjahrsverzeichnis der neuerscheinungen des deutschen Buchhandels:mit Voranzeigen, Verlags- und Preisänderungen, Stich- und Schlagwortregiste (1866 movable Loewnsohn)http://www.baybezirke.de/downloads/046a0da7156dc3c...
( hours and more) http://books.google.com/books?pg=PA475&lpg=PA475&d...
( about the quick press)