Nowadays the River Wupper would be useless for bleaching yarn. It is simply not clean enough. Not like the old days when it gave rise to one of the oldest industrial regions in Germany. How the economic, social and cultural upheavals between 1750 and 1850 in the Wuppertal region all hang together is explained in the Wuppertal Museum of Industrial Culture – the Engels House and the Museum of Early Industrialisation. Not forgetting the life and work of Friedrich Engels who was born in Wuppertal. Both aspects are intimately connected and in order to understand it fully you have to know a little about the pre-history. The Museum deals with this in some detail. First everything centres around the Wupper. Around 1400 local citizens realised that the river had great economic potential. The water was low in calcium and therefore ideally suited for bleaching yarn. The town of Wuppertal as we know it today did not exist at the time, but consisted of several small adjacent “towns”, two of which - Barmen and Elberfeld – were to become strongholds of the textile industry. Some time later yarn processing – dying, weaving and braiding - also took root in Wuppertal. Small non-mechanised factories and domestic workshops sprang up and the trade in yarn began to flourish. At the end of the 18th century there was a transformation in working methods. Machines and factories were introduced and home-workers and independent craftsmen were gradually lured away to work in the mills. There were many negative effects like mass poverty, child labour and hunger. These were met with uprisings, revolts and – especially after the 1848/49 revolution – Christian welfare initiatives and a rise in political awareness amongst the working-class. All this contributed to shape the consciousness of one of the leaders of the struggle for social reform, the son of a wealthy textile manufacturer by the name of Friedrich Engels.
The Wuppertal Museum of Industrial Culture is split into two sections: it consists of the Museum of Early Industrialisation and the Engels House. The documentation on Friedrich Engels has been located in his grandfather’s house which was built in 1775 in a late baroque style with many local elements, and furnished according to the tastes of the upper middle classes of the time. The permanent exhibition presents the life and work of Wuppertal's most famous son in all its facets and provides an insight into the bourgeois everyday culture of the Engels family of entrepreneurs.
The Museum of Early Industrialisation is currently closed for extensive renovation work and redesign.
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Tusday - Sunday 10am-6pm