The Steinbach Family, the German Erzgebirge and the Steinbach Nutcrackers
The Steinbach family
Originally from Austria, the Steinbach family history dates back to the 13th century. Family members worked as judges, merchants and architects. Erwin V. Steinbach was a famous architect and built the Muenster (Dome) in Strasbourg (France) during the 13th century. Because of many wars and religious persecution the family was forced to change their domicile and settled in the German Erzgebirge long before they thought about the first Steinbach Nutcracker. Life was rough during that time and people had to fight hard just to stay alive.
The German Erzgebirge
The Erzgebirge ("Ore Mountains") is a low mountain range in the east of Germany. It is located in the south of the German State Saxonia and nowadays is certainly one of most beautiful and most traditional regions in Germany. Altogether the mountains extend on a length of 90 miles and a width of 25 miles. The mining industry helped the Erzgebirge become very wealthy. Hundreds of magnificent castles and impressing churches are an interesting sight for tourists from around the world. Also the culture of the Ore Mountains was shaped considerably by the mining industry. During their daily work the miners were constantly confronted with wood and developed special talents to shape the wood. After the end of their workday the miners carved figures and scenes of their everyday life. When the mining industry lost importance the population had to find new ways to make a living. They decided to use their skills in woodworking to start a new trade. From these roots in the course of time all of today's variety of products (including the wonderful Steinbach Nutcrackers) was developed from. Today the skilled craftsmen manufacture Nutcrackers, Christmas Pyramids, Incense Smokers, Schwibbogen (Candle Arches), Music Boxes and many other wonderful wooden Figurines & Miniatures.
The Steinbach company
The Steinbach company (the full name is: Steinbach GmbH - Vereinigte Werkstätten Deutscher Volkskunst) used to have two production plants in Germany. One was located in Hohenhameln in northern Germany and the second was located in the heart of the German Erzgebirge in Marienberg. Since the area of the Erzgebirge lies in the former German Democratic Republic, the Marienberg workshop was built after the Communist occupation had finally ended.
For more of two centuries the Steinbach family had been producing fine wooden products such as Steinbach nutcrackers, incense smokers and wooden ornaments. In 2015, the family had to file for bankruptcy though and had to sell their workshops. Fortunately for the very large fan-base of Steinbach nutcrackers, a buyer for the company was found soon and the production could restart in 2016.
A nutcracker is a device used to break open the shells of hard, dry fruits, known commonly as nuts, produced by certain species of trees. The edible material within the shell is known as the kernel.
But this is not really the type of nutcracker that the Steinbach company produces.
The decorative nutcrackers were first developed around 1870 by Wilhelm Friedrich Fuechtner. Some of the nutcrackers from that time can still be seen in museums in the Ergebirge and already look quite similar to the modern nutcrackers. Often nutcrackers are the image of authorities from the past. Especially kings, soldiers and gendarmes are used as a model. In former times the population was dependent on the benevolence of the authorities and tried to express some protest by giving the Nutcrackers a grim look. His energetic face makes him look very powerful and helps you crack the toughest nuts in life.
The Nutcracker is usually standing on a base and sometimes is manufactured in over one hundred single work steps, generally out of fir wood. The chosen wood has to dry for several years before it is cut into the sizes needed for the production process or the part of the body it is used for. After the pieces are trimmed the automatic lathe shapes the different parts of the body. The next steps are painting the different body parts and then assembling them to a nutcracker.
Nutcrackers can be found on Christmas Markets and in stores around the world. Since most Erzgebirge workshops produce Nutcrackers there are hundreds of different models obtainable.
The Steinbach Nutcrackers
When Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Nutcracker Suite" premiered in 1892, the popularity of nutcrackers spurted tremendously. The Nutcracker Suite became very popular in many countries around the world and helped the Erzgebirge Nutcracker become just as famous. The strong following of this classic production greatly increased the popularity of collecting nutcrackers in many countries around the world. Outside Germany particularly in the United States the Nutcracker has many collectors and enthusiast and the Steinbach Nutcrackers are the most popular among them.
You might ask yourself why Steinbach Nutcrackers are the most popular ones among collectors. Especially if one looks at a worldwide perspective this is an interesting fact.
As we have mentioned above the Erzgebirge Nutcrackers in general have images of authorities like military, kings and police men. Mister Steinbach expanded his range of subjects and started to create nutcrackers with images of legends and German folklore and later introduced many new models with characters from around the globe. Steinbach Nutcrackers with Civil War Generals, American Presidents and characters from novels and motions pictures became so popular that the Steinbach Company had trouble meeting the demands. With his vast choice of subjects, superb quality and exceptional craftsmanship Mister Steinbach raised the Steinbach nutcrackers to a different level. Enthusiast started to collect the Steinbach Nutcrackers and the new models where eagerly waited for each year. Then Herr Steinbach had another great idea. He thought about the needs and wishes of collectors and decided that some of the Steinbach nutcrackers should be limited editions.
That made the Steinbach nutcrackers unique and increased the collectability and later on greatly increased the value of many items. By this enthusiasts of Steinbach nutcrackers had one more reason to collect his products. The first limited edition Steinbach nutcracker was King Ludwig II with 3000 pieces. It was a great success and the Steinbach nutcrackers fan club increased tremendously.
The Steinbach Nutcrackers Series
The Erzgebirge Palace offers a large variety of models of the following series and editions:
- Steinbach Nutcracker Limited Editions
- Steinbach Nutcracker Troll Series
- Steinbach Nutcracker King's Court Series
- Steinbach Nutcracker Big Series
- Steinbach Nutcracker Chubby Series
- Steinbach Nutcracker Elve Series
Check out all Steinbach nutcrackers here.