Karl Wilhelm Scheibler (1820–1881)

Karl (or Karol) Scheibler learned about the mechanised textile industries in several parts of Europe and took his knowledge to Łodz in Poland. The factory he built there in 1855 was one of the biggest in the world, covering 168 hectares. The population of Łodz as an industrial city grew from 18,000 in 1851 to 100,000 in 1878. It became one of the most important textile manufacturing cities in Europe.

Łodz was a traditional area for hand-made textiles. From the 1820s mechanised mills for the woollen and flax industries were built, notably by Wendisch in 1827 and Gayers in 1835. However, tariffs between Poland and Russia caused the industries to decline. When tariffs were removed in 1851 it was an opportunity for the cheaper production of cotton to expand.

Scheibler grew up in Moschau in the Rhineland. His family for several generations were entrepreneurs in the textile industry. He took an apprenticeship in Belgium at a textile factory at Vervier. Then, at the age of 19, he went to work at the Cockerill iron foundry and engineering works at Seraing in Belgium and began travelling to study textile businesses in Britain, France and Germany. After the European revolutions of 1848 he decided to look towards the more stable conditions in Russia and Poland where his uncle had a factory at Ozorków, 20 kilometres from Łodz. When his uncle died, he took over the factory. In 1852, he began to develop a series of cotton factories in the city of Łodz. By 1870, his company was the largest of its kind in Poland and employed nearly 2,000 people. He continued to acquire other businesses and converted them all into a joint stock company in 1880.

Scheibler was a pioneer in the social support of the workforce. He built a large workers’ settlement in Łodz called Księży Młyn, which provided houses and apartments, hospitals, kindergartens and schools, churches, a bakery, restaurants and a fire station.

The weaving mill, fire station and workers’ settlement at Księży Młyn are preserved. Schiebler’s mansion there is now the museum of cinematography. His wife built a massive gothic mausoleum for him at Łodz.