Höfner String Instruments - the beginning.

1887 was in many ways an ordinary year. Some slightly momentous events occurred but are now largely forgotten.

  • January 28 – Arthur Rubinstein, Polish-born pianist and conductor is born.
  • March 4 - Gottlieb Daimler unveiled his first automobile on March 4th 1887 and we have never looked back.
  • April 21 – The Schnaebele Incident, a French/German border incident nearly leads to war between the two countries.
  • June 21 - The British Empire celebrates Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.
  • July 1 - Construction of the Eiffel Tower begins.
  • September 8 - Höfner business begins.

 
The last one in the list is of course significant to us, if not to everybody.

 

 

Karl Höfner had been apprenticed to master violin maker Anton Schaller and then set himself up to make violins.
He sold the first of these on the 8 September 1887 and so began the Höfner company. 
We know this because we still have Karl Höfner's diary from that year.

His business became very successful, due to the high quality of the instruments he produced, these being much sought after throughout Europe. Karl had his workshop in Schönbach, then in Bohemia now in the Czech Republic, a centre for string instrument making. The town had many small companies and hundreds of "homeworkers" all involved in making parts or completed instruments. The business would remain in Schönbach until 1948. Karl married Rosalia, the daughter of a master violin maker, they had five children; Marie, Josef, Rose, Rudolph and Walter. 

Just after the First World War Karl Höfner brought two of his sons into the business. Josef and Walter were the perfect team as Josef was a brilliant adminstrator while Walter was a gifted craftsman. Together they transformed Höfner from a successful but small business into one of the largest string instrument manufacturers in Europe. The business grew as exports were sent worldwide and demand for the quality produced by Höfner was everywhere.

 

 

  
Karl Höfner (seated) in his workshop around 1895.