Jason Clarke Antiques

Cased Mid-Victorian Silk Twisting Machine by Fritz Hillenhagen of Crefeld Germany


For sale, a cased nineteenth century silk twisting machine by Fritz Hillenhagen of Crefeld Germany.

This rare and unusual instrument is comprised of a mahogany hinged case with green velvet to the lid interior and ebonised interior base. The left side has a spring loaded bar incorporated into a solid brass decorative base to which silk strands may be attached. The right side has a similar brass attachment to secure the other end of the silk but it is attached to a clockwork winding mechanism housed in brass case with chamfered edge detailing. The top of the winding mechanism contains two numeric scales marked from 10 to 300, both engraved in Italian to either side, the first stating “filato” and other “torto” and a circular plate with small bone knob which allows for the scales to be reset after use. The right hand side of the mechanism is provided with a small handle to operate the twist mechanism once the silk is attached. The top is further engraved to “F. Hillenhagen, Crefeld” and the space between the left and right hand stations has a cushioned velvet covered bar running its length.

The town of Crefeld (now Krefeld) in Germany has a long history associated with the silk trade which grew up in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Its early religious freedom under The House of Orange attracted a large immigrant population which brought its skills to the town and eventually turned it into the centre for the German textile industry. This association remained through the nineteenth century and it is of little surprise that Fritz Hillenhagen, an optician and scientific instrument maker, would have strived to create an association with the trade through his output.

The firm was set up in 1867 whilst Crefeld was under Prussian rule and although little is known of the company’s early history it is understood that it departed from family ownership after the founder’s death in the late part of the century. The company seems to have focused primarily on the optical side of the business, refashioning itself under the name “Optik Hillenhagen” during the founder’s life and so it remains to this day. It weathered two World Wars and survived the total destruction of its premises during the latter, it now counts itself as one of the oldest opticians in Germany.

Given the later change of name and specialisation, the engraving to “F. Hillenhagen” would point to an early manufacture period in this company’s history.

Circa 1870

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