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Story 119 – 1793 – People

"Principal", visionary and committed citizen

Philipp Jakob Wieland – a multi-faceted personality

The founder of the company not only experienced the transition from the "good old days" to the industrial age – he actively helped to shape it and showed vision. In his person, traditional values were combined in a fascinating way with the courage and ability to take new entrepreneurial paths.

When Philipp Jakob Wieland was born in Ulm on 3rd November 1793, the French Revolution was still in full swing, Goethe at the zenith of his work and Ulm still a free imperial city. Ulm's craftsmen – including many artisans – were organized in guilds, as were the numerous breweries. One of them was run by Philipp Jakob's parents, who later expanded the business through acquisitions into a large brewery.

One may therefore assume that Philipp Jakob Wieland was not only taught guild values such as honesty, a sense of duty and responsibility in his parents' house, but also the entrepreneurial thinking – and acting – going far beyond the traditional craft business. This became clear, for example, in his travels as a bell founder's journeyman, which took him through half of Europe. Or in the many trips to important exhibitions and trade fairs, which served to familiarise him with new technologies.

It was impressive how quickly and consistently Philipp Jakob Wieland transformed his bell foundry, which he had taken over from his uncle, into an early industrial company for brass sheets and wires – a novelty in the Kingdom of Württemberg. The fact that the entrepreneur was intensively involved in various committees such as the trade association, the municipal council as well as in initiatives for railway construction and steam navigation was in keeping with his self-image.

The same goes for the matter-of-course manner in which he described himself as a "principal". Nevertheless, he was a liberal, humanistically influenced man who owned the complete works of Goethe, Herder and Schiller as well as the poems of the former enemy of the state, Daniel Schubart. What is more, he took up the pen himself and wrote numerous poems under the title "My Poetic Experiments".

His lifestyle was upscale bourgeois, but not ostentatious; for decades the family lived in the old, cramped house in Rosengasse. At best, "P.J.W." allowed himself a certain luxury with his exquisite riding and carriage horses – and in his old age with the construction of his villa.

The "principal" had clear ideas about economic policy: He rejected alms for the poor as well as the idle living of the wealthy from their accrued interest. In his testament he therefore immortalized his credo: "Only the zeal of the industriousness chases away the poverty, alms-giving increases it".

Bust P. J. Wieland

"P.J.W." had this bust made from white marble in Florence in 1853, where he sent his son with a daguerreotype (Photography process of the 19th century). But he did not like it and it soon disappeared in a box.

Wieland retouched in group of employees

The "principal", shown as the caring and respected centre of the business. Although the photo is an idealising montage, it corresponded with Philipp Jakob Wieland's self-image.