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150 years of Schaffhausen Wool A woolly tale of everyday Swiss culture

When a Swiss wool mill in Schaffhausen, northern Switzerland, spun an innovative advertising strategy into being 150 years ago, it put the company Schaffhauser Wolle on the map and made sure wool became entwined in Swiss culture.

In 1867, Rudolph Schoeller founded the first worsted (a spinning technique that produces fine yarn) spinning mill near the River Rhine in Schaffhausen. The production of knitting yarn began the following year. Schaffhauser Wolle established itself as a leader in hand knitting yarns in Switzerland and many of its subsidiaries succeeded in selling its wool worldwide. Until 1974 it was exporting to 26 countries in over five continents.  

But soon afterwards a slump in wool sales caused serious problems for the industry. Machine-knitted textiles and cheap imports from the Far East were beginning to boom, and demand for yarns to use in hand knitting dropped dramatically in the mid-1980s. Colourful advertising posters, designed by renowned Swiss graphic artists, couldn’t revive sales and the company turned to television advertising.

The business was unravelling, and finally a decision was made to close the Schaffhausen factory and move production to the sister company in Bregenz, Austria. Production in Schaffhausen was discontinued in April 1991.

An exhibition keeps the yarn spinning

To mark the company’s 150th anniversary, the Museum zu Allerheiligen in Schaffhausen is showing a selection of over 100 advertising posters created by Swiss graphic artists between 1924 and 1989 .

The exhibition Schaffhauser Wolle. Ein Marke macht Geschichteexternal link (Schaffhausen Wool. A brand makes history) documents everyday factory life with historical photographs reflecting the spirit and the aesthetics of the time.

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