The decisive moment has arrived. The children gaze wide-eyed at the shape. Will it be a success? Yes, the young visitors have just cast a brass coin with the help of one of the museum workers, and after it has been polished, it will shine like gold. Brass and zinc dominate a large part of the exhibition in the Zinkhütter Hof in Stolberg. The name of the plant says it all: zinc! But now zinc is no longer produced here. Instead the history of zinc and its "golden brother" brass are vividly presented in the museum on the site. Above all, the commonplace metal zinc can be seen in a whole range of uses, for example in the shape of a finely decorated cup, a plate, a cockerel on the top of a church tower or a bath tub, a small crucifix or a complete wall covering. In 1900 this metal was still in common use everywhere.
Copper, brass and zinc played a decisive part in the economic rise of the town of Stolberg, on the edge of the Eifel. Even today you can still see beautiful old copper works, most of which were built in the 17th and 18th century, in the old part of Stolberg. The majority are closed-in square buildings made of quarry stone: they were used as dwellings and production sites. By 1700 there were already around 40 master copper makers in Stolberg. On average each of them would run six to eight smelting furnaces, and process around 20,000 metric hundredweights of copper. By mixing the copper with zinc-rich calamine ore, mined in the area nearby, they could produce brass, which was Stolberg´s number one export. Nowadays there are still successors to the old metalworking plants in the town using state-of-the-art technology, like cable works. Another branch of business, which developed directly from wire production in Stolberg, has made the town well-known around the world: the needle and haberdashery industry.
The Zinkhütter Hof Museum looks back from today´s modern production methods to the old days of inadequate working conditions. The arduous process of making needles from wire is vividly presented here on original 19th century machines. And anybody who doesn´t know already, will be sure to find out about the "Klenkes", a form of greeting used by people in Aachen, by stretching out their little finger. It arose from the work of needle-makers, who used to check the symmetry of the needles they had made, by stretching out their little finger.