Josef Riedel (Polubne, North Bohemia)

Josef Riedel (Polubne, North Bohemia)


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The glassmaking tradition of the Riedel family reaches as far back as to the 18th century, to Johann Christoph Riedel from the city of Zahrádky (Neuschloss) in the Česká Lípa region. It is known that Johann Christoph traded in glass and, according to the family tradition, was robbed and murdered on his trip to Poland. His son, Johann Karl Riedel (1701–1781) was a painter and gilder of glass and trained his own son, Johann Leopold, in the craft. Johann, however, eventually became a copyist in glassworks. He began to work in this position in the so-called Zenkner’s glassworks in the city of Antonínov in the Jizerské Mountains. He nevertheless soon made his way from the job of a copyist up to a managing position and rented the so-called Karlova glassworks and later also the glassworks at Nová louka. He was immensely successful in his business, and since he was no more able to manage several prosperous companies on his own, he summoned his father Johann Karl to the Nová louka glassworks and his brother Franz Anton to the Karlova glassworks. Later also son of Johann Leopold, Anton, came to work at Nová louka, bringing it to an unprecedented prime.

Their products became highly sought-for merchandise and, from the early 19th century, they preferentially satisfied the increasing demand of the Jablonec industry for bar glass as well as glass stones and pipes. The wide selection of products and the vast number of customers moreover helped Anton survive the difficult period of the Napoleonic wars, but his desire to keep up with the Nový svět glassworks remained unfulfilled and neither his sons – Franz, who was a good engraver, and Josef, who became a painter and gilder of glass – did not meet his expectations.

Josef Riedel (1816–1894) was invited to Zenkner’s glassworks in Antonínov by his uncle Franz Riedel. He was an enterprising and courageous person and, in 1849, bought the glassworks in Dolní Polubné from Ignác Friedrich. Here he also laid the foundations to an enormous glassworks complex. He even bought several brown-coal mines in order to provide enough fuel for the enterprise. The Polubné glassworks soon gained fame for its massive production and wide range of products. Further boom came with Josef’s oldest son, Hugo, who launched the production of the so-called big luxurious glass for refineries in the cities of Šenov and Bor and in Silesia. Josef’s younger son, Wilhelm, in turn deserves credit for the modernization of the production. He improved glass melting and introduced the production of the selenium ruby, the glaring garnet glass and other color hues.

In 1886, the Riedels acquired the internationally respected refinery in Nový Svět but were unfortunately unable to keep it on such a high level and soon transferred the most qualified painters to Polubné.

The enormous upswing of the Riedel family in the glassmaking industry was long-lasting and was only halted by the First World War. Sad to say, the Riedels failed to follow up with their previous successes in the post-war period.