The Wuppertal Historic Centre

Life and work in the early factories

Noise, heat, stress and stinking odours twelve hours a day, six days a week. That summed up life and work in the 19th century in the Wupper valley. The two museums in the Historic Centre make this only too clear.

The Museum of Early Industrialisation

On the ground floor of the museum you can get an immediate and very palpable idea of what it was like to work in a textile factory. When the old textile machines are set in motion, the noise is deafening and the floor shakes. The air is damp and hot, huge pistons pump up and down, the sounds of banging and hissing fill the room, flywheels rotate and spinning machines clatter.

In 1983 the first industrial history museum in the Rhineland was opened in a disused Wuppertal ribbon factory. In 2004 it was considerably enlarged and redesigned. Equipment and machines, illustrated displays, models and modern media stations tell visitors all about the early era of the factories, the changes in the working world and the everyday life of working people in all its many facets: what people ate, their living conditions, their schools, their religion, child labour and the poorhouses.

Engels’ house

The Engels House documents the life of Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), from the son of an entrepreneur to a politically committed journalist and co-founder of scientific socialism, to his active participation in the 1848/49 revolution and his leading role in the international working-class movement. His life was shaped by the social changes caused by industrialisation.

Engels was a child of Barmen, the son of a businessman living in what is now a central suburb of Wuppertal. His grandfather, a textile manufacturer by the name of Johann Caspar Engels had started life with very few financial resources but, thanks to thrift and hard work, he worked his way up the social ladder to prosperity. This is clear from the house he built in 1775, now known as the Engels House. It contains murals and furniture from the 18th and early 19th century.