HISTORY OF MUHLE
The History of Muhle is an interesting one having been founded in East Germany shortly after World War 2 and over the decades becoming one of the world’s most reputable producers of double edged razors and shaving accessories. Founded in 1945 by Otto Johannes Muller in then East Germany, Muhle had a difficult initial few decades as it had to contend with post-war conditions and the control of the Socialist State. These days Muhle produce a range of high quality razors and shaving accessories including some unique and beautiful designs. Read on to discover the history of Muhle.
The Founding of Muhle
Muhle was founded in 1945 in Stutzengrun, Eastern Germany by Otto Johannes Muller who had recently returned to home after being held as a war captive. Stutzengrun was at the time located near the eastern German border with the newly formed Czechoslovakia and found itself under the control of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) which is more commonly referred to East Germany. The GDR was a small socialist republic and its leadership was dominated by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) and was a satellite state of the Soviet Union (USSR).
Post war conditions across Germany were dire as the country faced the daunting challenge of rebuilding after the destruction caused by World War 2. Things were made worse in Eastern Germany under the rule of the SED as socialist practices were put in place including the dismantling and centralization of manufacturing processes. This however did not deter Otto Johannes Muller who in 1945 founded his company, O.J. Muller, with almost no funds, no premise and no materials.
At the time Stutzengrun has already established itself as a producer of high quality brushes. Muller managed to set himself up in a small wash kitchen which allowed him to begin producing his own brushes, using the available equipment to boil bristles, process animal hair and produce other essential items including lights and lanterns which were in high demand due to constant power cuts after the war. Muller’s first products had to be shipped from Stutzengrun using horse drawn carts, again an indication of the situation in post war Germany.
The company expanded over the years, employing several workers and shifting focus to the production of shaving brushes. Badger hair was selected as the material of choice for O.J. Muller shaving brushes as its properties included soft but firm bristles that were ideal for use in a shaving brush and massaging shaving soap onto ones face. The company soon began to export to other countries including Greece, Russia and the Middle-East again with shipments taken by horse-drawn cart to the nearest railway station in the neighboring town where they loaded for export.
O.J. Muller suffered a setback in 1949 when a fire destroyed the entire companies stock, materials and manufacturing building which consisted of a wooden shed formerly occupied by the Reich Labour Service. This did not deter Muller and the company was able to relocate to a former textile manufacturing premise. It was in this setting the O.J. Muller continued to grow into the 1960’s eventually employing around 40 people and exporting their products to 36 countries around the world.
Sadly in 1965 Otto Johannes Muller passed away and the ownership of O.J. Muller passed to his young son, Hans-Jurgen, who had just completed his studies. Despite taking over control of the company at a young age O.J. Muller continued to prosper under the guidance of Hans-Jurgen and in 1970 they were able to relocate into a new production and administration facility that was located at the previous location. The majority of customers at this time were State trading companies that were located in the GDR and its neighboring Soviet Union States.
In the 1970’s the GDR began a crackdown of privately owned companies which were against the ideals of Socialist. Under pressure from the GDR leadership Hans-Jurgen was forced to sell O.J. Muller to the State at an extremely low price and on 17 April 1972 became a publically owned operation (VEB). In the years that followed more and more privately owned companies were absorbed into the VEB’s which became large units. The company formally became Production Facility 6 of the operating station for brush manufacturing of the VEB Flamingo-Bursten Schonheide which was a large scale operation focusing on the production of brushes within the GDR and employed over 3,000 staff.
Hans-Jurgen left Production Facility 6 in 1987 and was able to found a new craft enterprise manufacturing and selling brushes that was part of the Stutzengrun brush makers co-operative. The political climate within East Germany changed dramatically in the late 1990’s with a series of events leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989. Just under a year later in October 1990 the reunification of Germany occurred which brought with it the possibility of re-privatization of formerly GDP state owned facilities. Acting quickly and in November 1990 Production Facility 6 was privatized as the Hans-Jurgen Muller KG.
A New Beginning
The early days of Han-Jurgen Muller KG were difficult as all the previous customers were those within the GDR and controlled by the State. Hans-Jurgen recalled that he always expected the initial situation to be difficult but what he actually found was much worse. Of the 30 staff that transferred over during privatization only four could be kept in employment and even with this minimal level of staff the company fought to survive for the next three years. The situation gradually improved in the mid 1990’s allowing many of the former employees to be brought back into the company. A focus on quality products and flexibility meant that many new customers were acquired and in 1995 the company was able to celebrate its 50th Anniversary which given the circumstances and the political climate in East Germany was a great achievement.
The following years saw the company go from strength to strength with a focus on producing quality products and an ever expanding range. The production facility underwent modernization and expansion as the company grew and in 2005 the 60th Anniversary was celebrated with the achievement that 30% of products were being exported to other countries.
The Future of Muhle
In 2006 Muhle undertook a new classic modern design approach to all their products. Their updated facilities include a spacious manufacturing and office complex designed with high ecological and industrial standards in mind. It is here that Muhle continue to design and produce some of the most amazing razors available including classic double edged safety razors with a variety of handles and trims such as African Blackwood, Plum Wood and Polished Chrome. Muhle also produce a wide range of shaving accessories including Pure Badger Hair Brushes and Shaving Creams.
The History of Muhle is a unique story rising from the destruction of post World War 2 Germany, surviving the Soviet era and going on to become one of the most reputable razor manufacturing companies in the World.