A company with a tradition

The “Johann Wülfing & Sohn” firm was one of the oldest textile businesses in the world. It was set up in 1674 by Gottfried Wülfing (1651 – 1721) who came from an old Lennep clothmaking family. Johann Wülfing (1719 – 1793) started industrial production of fine cloth under the company name “Johann Wülfing & Sohn”. After his death his son-in-law Johann Arnold Hardt (1740 – 1815) took over the company and subsequently passed it on to his own children.

The first crisis to hit the company was at the start of the 19th century when Napoleon imposed trade restrictions. As a result the company, like many others, was forced to move elsewhere. In the Belgian town of Eupen members of the company became acquainted with modern spinning and weaving machines which made it possible to produce much larger amounts of cloth in a much shorter time. In 1814 “Johann Wülfing & Sohn” returned to Lennep with the new machines. What was missing, however, was the necessary power. The solution was to move to the nearby River Wupper. In Dahlerau the company was able to take over the old “Buschhämmer” works, a water driven production line for scythes. Here it built a textile fabric in the old hammer house and its ancillary buildings. The cloth produced in Dahlerau was then dispatched for finishing at the company headquarters in Lennep before being packed and sent out into the world.

The factory was completely rebuilt after a major fire destroyed the old hammer and the new buildings. Today’s building was built from quarry stone in 1836. Ten years later 450 people were employed by “J. Wülfing & Sohn”, and a small town gradually grew up around the textile factory. Around 1900 Dahlerau contained several shops, a post office, a station, a girls’ home, a kindergarten and a doctor’s practice. Throned high above the town stood the church. As early as 1827 the company had a road built through the remote valley. In 1890 a railway line was completed to link the factory to the rest of the world. A trading house by the name of Hardt & Co was responsible for merchandising the products from Dahlerau all over the world.

The crisis in the German textile industry deepened continually between 1960 and 1980. During this time the number of workers employed by the company sank from 1000 to 360. Finally the old-established company was forced into bankruptcy in 1996.