At the start of each new project, before heading down into the basement and getting stuck into the dusty files, every company historian is secretly hoping that they will stumble upon something unexpected. A piece of the puzzle that allows us to see a fuller picture of the past or even view it in another light. This wish came true for me at MANN+HUMMEL.
We were in the process of scanning the plethora of photos that we had found in the basement, including pictures of products, company celebrations and locations. We are talking about beautiful photos that were all very easy to classify. And then I came across a red poster depicting taps and featuring a logo for ‘MANN-ARMATUREN’. After a fleeting moment of confusion, I realised that what we had found was an exciting piece of history. We looked into the matter further and interviewed some of the employees who had been working for the company at the time. Soon after this, we found some other images from the post-war period. Little by little, the story surrounding the red poster was brought to life.
Necessity is the mother of invention
After the Second World War, MANN+HUMMEL, which had existed for just four years at this point, was facing ruin. The entire German economy had hit rock bottom and nobody was buying filters. Having said that, MANN+HUMMEL had at least been lucky enough to have not been bombed. This meant that its employees and the two Managing Directors had materials and tools at their disposal. Then something happened that continues to surprise me as someone who didn’t personally live through this period: While the rubble of destroyed houses still lay on the ground and memories of the horrors of war must have been ever-present, an optimistic thirst for action spread throughout companies. This was certainly the case at MANN+HUMMEL.
After all, there was definitely demand in post-war Germany – not so much for innovative filters, but for more banal commodities. So employees improvised, for instance, by making a saucepan out of an oil-bath air filter. Or by creating a ‘Rutscherle’ (a handcart) using the materials available – this went on to become a real best seller.
On the basis of the same economic drive to make products for the post-war market, MANN+HUMMEL also started to manufacture bathroom fittings. However, this was not a case of improvisation, as special manufacturing facilities were built for production. There was soon a very successful series called ‘MANN-ARMATUREN’ which became more than just a temporary solution. But with economic recovery, the demand for filters increased and the production of fittings deceased.
Yet something of this era remained. From today’s perspective, it is clear that the necessity during the post-war period sparked ingenuity in many companies. And MANN+HUMMEL even created a concept for success from their adversity. The story of the fittings shows the courage and innovative strength of the filter manufacturer, which started out as a textile company and successfully produced bathroom fittings for a while. The sky really is the limit. Incredible!