Łódź is still known in Poland for its textile industry. One of the most important people who developed the Lodz industry is a German, Karol Wilhelm Scheibler. How did he become the Lodz cotton king?
From childhood, Karol Wilhelm Scheibler had a lot to do with the textile industry. In the Rhineland, a cloth factory was managed by his father. When he was 18, Karol became director of his uncle’s spinning mill. He visited textile-related companies all over Europe. This brought him incredible experience and contacts. In addition, he had a flair for business.
As an adult, he first settled near Vienna, but after the Spring of Nations in 1848, he moved to Poland’s Ozorkow, which was under Russian occupation. Poland had lost its independence in 1795 because of the attack of its neighbours. There, he ran his uncle’s textile factory and was quickly promoted to the position of director. He carried out the expansion and modernisation of the factory, working there until 1854.
Building a textile empire
Earlier, in 1853, he signed a contract with the city of Lodz (a Polish city then undergoing intensive development in the Russian partition). It provided for the construction within two years of a factory with, among other things, a spinning and weaving mill at Lodz’s Water Square. The undertaking was very costly. Scheibler obtained part of the money for it after his marriage to Anna, née Werner, whose dowry amounted to twice as much as the entrepreneur’s savings. He also supported the financing of the factory’s construction with his own money and loans. This brought him success. In 1855, a fully mechanised cotton spinning mill was erected in Lodz. Warehouses and further spinning and weaving mills were built in succession.
Scheibler expanded his enterprise. He bought up more buildings and created an industrial city within the city. In the 1870s he built spinning mills with 70,000 spindles (by comparison the first one had 5740 spindles), weaving mills with 1200 looms (the first weaving mill had 100). Another spinning mill was also built, a slightly smaller one with 54,000 spindles. The entrepreneur also developed a railway siding to his factory to provide better transport for his goods.
The US Civil War caused a crisis in the cotton market. However, not for Scheibler. He anticipated the shaky market situation and bought up huge quantities of cotton in advance. When others were closing factories, he kept producing and sold three times as much.
All this brought him the status of the richest industrialist of the Polish lands at that time.