In 1858, Bernhard Stoewer aged 24 (b. 16/4/1834 d.4/7/1908) founded a business in the Baltic port city of Stettin (now Szczecin) in the then Prussian State of Pomerania (Pommern). This business commenced manufacturing sewing machines and was just the second in Germany to do so, Clems Muller having first established a factory in Dresden just three years before. It was a successful enterprise and grew rapidly occupying a large, inner city block in the Grunhof district of Stettin with an impressive, three story, brick building. Bernhard was an innovative engineer and with the advent of electricity was quick to install a steam powered, electric generating plant in the 1880's and to electrify his manufacturing plant.
In 1893 Bernhard added bicycles to his production. It is not recorded whether this diversification influenced or was influenced by his two sons, 20 year old Emil (b. 18/1/1873, d. 7/1/1942) and 18 year old Bernhard jnr (b.18/10/1875, d. 27/2/1937) who very soon afterwards were to pioneer motorised transport.
On the 1st of March 1896, Bernhard restructured his business into a public limited liability company of the name: "Sewing Machine and Bicycle Mfg. Bernhard Stoewer AG".
In 1903 Bernhard diversified again adding typewriters to his product range. Sewing machine manufacture continued to grow at this time and it is recorded that in the year 1905 some 70,000 sewing machines were made. The combined business employed over 1600 people. (Photo 1)
Bernhard passed away in 1908 aged 74 and was buried in a modest grave in the Stettin cemetery. A large, unostentatious granite boulder marks the site and is engraved simply: "Bernhard Stoewer and Family, 1908". (Photo 2).
After the death of Bernhard, the Company continued to manufacture sewing machines, typewriters and bicycles until the Depression years saw a severe decline in business. The Company finally closed on 21st March 1933. After the closing of the business, the sewing machine Department was sold to the company Adolf Knoch in Saalfeld (about 400 km southwest of Stettin). In total, 32 railway wagons filled with sewing machine parts left Stettin for Saalfeld. Knoch continued to make Stoewer sewing machines under the double name: "Stoewer made by Adolf Knoch" until this business also closed at the beginning of WWII . The bicycle manufacturing operation was licensed to Falter-Fahrzeug Werke in Bielefeld. They were mainly interested in the name "Stoewer Greif" and commenced making bicycles using this name in 1937. In parallel, after 1933 Emil Stoewer also tried to make "Stoewer" brand bicycles in Berlin. However, after Falter-Werke commenced production he stopped doing this. After WW2 Falter-Fahrzeug also made bicycles for children as well as light motor bikes. They used the Stoewer Greif brand until 1999 at which time they decided to change the name to Bismarck. This decision was a failure as nobody bought Bismarck bicycles and after 2 years the company became bankrupt. Part of the typewriter business involving the improved version of the portable model was sold to the Rheinmetall-Werke at Soemmerda.
Today, the grand building that was the heart of Bernhard Stoewer's manufacturing empire remains as a legacy to his ingenuity. It has been converted now to residential apartments and commercial occupation.
Photo 1. The Bernhard Stoewer factory in 1908 with its employees
Photo 2. The grave-stone of Bernhard Stoewer