Germany 100 years ago: This was a time of economic instability, inflation, growing unemployment and political unrest. By 1919, industrial production in Germany had fallen to the level of 1888. Major industrial cities such as Berlin, Hamburg and Stuttgart were preoccupied with reconstruction, meaning that agriculture became one of the most important sectors of the Germany economy. After all the years of hardship, what people wanted most of all was normality and a cosy home.
This proved to be an auspicious year for founding a business. Carl Leuthäusser had high hopes for himself and his family as he launched his fledgling joinery business. However, he certainly could not have dreamed that his small family firm would develop into an entire furniture manufacturing company within 100 years.
The furniture which Carl Leuthäusser made by hand was produced to order and presumably encompassed the whole range of wooden furnishings which his customers required or simply wished to buy out of nostalgia. We can assume that he was unaware of the ideas of the Bauhaus movement and Walter Gropius’ famous principle that technology, art and craft should be reconciled with each other. The war years (1939–1945) that followed had minimal effect on the little rural joinery. To prevent social unrest and damage to wartime morale, everyday “normality” was to be maintained for the German population. For this reason, the economy was not put on a total war footing until 1943. However, shortly before the end of the war, Leuthäusser’s son Hilmar was drafted to the front, at just 18 years of age.
After Hilmar Leuthäusser, who had been a prisoner of war, returned home in 1948, he supported his father in the family business. During work on a major order (30 drawing tables for the Post Office in Nuremberg), he developed a ground-breaking idea for an angle adjustment mechanism. This was the starting point for his own range of tables – to be followed by additions such as plan chests and further drawing table models.
With the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany and the establishment of its new constitution and currency, the country entered the decade which would go down in history as the era of the “economic miracle”.
In 1953, the company registered the trademark LEUWICO (LEU=Leuthäusser, WI=Wiesenfeld and CO=Coburg). Under this name, the company participated in the industrial fair in Hanover for the first time, presenting its range of drafting furniture. From then on, Liesel Leuthäusser, Hilmar Leuthäusser’s wife, kept things on a tight rein and took over the book-keeping and sales.
The cost of living stagnated in 1956, meaning that people had more money to spend and private purchasing power grew. The German population started spending like mad! This played into the hands of the LEUWICO furniture factory: its workforce grew, and an in-house metal workshop was added to the site. By the end of the 1950s, sales routes had been established for the company’s range of drafting furniture. Customers included specialist dealers in office furniture and drafting tables, architects, construction companies, building authorities and increasing numbers of schools.
The adjustment settings for drafting workstations were optimised and transposed onto standard office workstations. During the development and design process for office workstations, the issue of ergonomics came increasingly to the fore. The firm introduced its idea of a changing working position to the public. Its sit-stand desk for office work set new standards in the sector. It was LEUWICO’s first desk with a purely mechanical height adjustment. Its continuous and quiet height-adjustable desktop made it possible to work either sitting down or standing up.
By 1972, the order books were so full that the existing premises were no longer sufficient for production requirements. The subsequent construction of the large woodworking hall marked an important moment in LEUWICO’s development. The company benefited from economic growth and rapid changes in the world of work. With Studiosus 1 and 2, LEUWICO increasingly had an eye on school furniture. The firm extended its product portfolio with school furniture ranges and various cabinet systems, establishing itself as a complete supplier and an expert for specialist dealers and customers.
In 1980, the computer conquered the world of the office, and in turn fundamentally altered our expectations of an office workstation. LEUWICO developed the first CAD desk “m2er” – an absolute best-seller. “Human beings as the measure, adaptation as the principle and progress as the aim” has been our constant motto, leadingus to focus ever more firmly on ergonomic workstations.
„We can no longer view office furniture in detachment from its working environment, but need to understand it as a component in a complex system and optimise it from this perspective.” Hilmar Leuthäusser (1983)“ Hilmar Leuthäusser (1983)
By 1989, the factory had grown to occupy an area of 38,000 m², with 1,400 m² of display space and 305 members of staff, including 26 apprentices. The m2er range was put into use across the full spectrum of office environments, and the company created its first control room workstations – Industrie-m2er.