Industrialisation of the town of Brugg

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For a long time, the town of Brugg was dominated by craftsmen and industrialisation came relatively late, but it picked up speed all the more quickly and made the town an important business location in the canton of Aargau.

Initial situation

For centuries, crafts and small trades formed the livelihood of Brugg’s population.[1] In the first half of the 19th century, the town had around 1000 inhabitants. Most of them worked in their own small businesses, for example as butchers, bakers, innkeepers, wainwrights, blacksmiths and carters. While a spinning mill was built in Aarau as early as 1810, providing work for over 3000 people, Brugg was still very rural at that time. Factory buildings were also erected in Windisch and Turgi between 1826 and 1829. Industrialisation was therefore rapid in the area around Brugg. But nothing happened in Brugg itself. Neither the town government nor the citizens were interested in industry. One of the main sources of income was the lively through traffic over the Bözberg Pass, from which many professions profited. To encourage traffic, most of the towers and gates of the town fortifications were demolished from the 1820s onwards.[2]

At first, no one in Brugg showed interest in the railway. In 1855, a commission considered the construction of a Bözberg railway. However, this project was quickly dropped – also because it represented competition to the flourishing road traffic over the Bözberg. In 1856, Brugg finally got a railway connection.[2] The Schweizerische Nordostbahn extended the Zurich-Baden line (the so-called “Spanischbrötlibahn”) to Brugg. Although the station was built on Windisch territory, it was called Brugg station because Windisch was not well known. Windisch demanded that the station should be called “Windisch bei Brugg”, but this was rejected. Later Windisch sold the station area to Brugg. With the arrival of the railway, however, traffic over the Bözberg collapsed and the innkeepers and carters lost their income. The town’s economy faltered and new recipes were required. A first factory project in Freudenstein, not far from the town, failed due to the resistance of the citizens. They considered factory workers to be a foreign body in the hitherto artisan and industrial town.[3]

Emergence of industry

A key event that promoted industrialisation in Brugg was the introduction of electricity. On 12 November 1892, electric lamps lit up the streets and households for the first time. This was made possible by the Brugg power station, the first municipally owned electricity plant in the canton of Aargau.

In the following years, numerous industries settled in Brugg:

  • Weber machine factory (later Müller & Co.) in Schorrer (1893)
  • Silk weaving mill Bodmer in Paradise and Fierz on the Silk Road (1893)
  • Brugg cable works on Industriestrasse (1896)
  • Wartmann company in Langacker (1896)
  • Valette & Cie in the Langacker (1869)
  • Finsterwald iron foundry in Windisch/Brugg (1911)[4]

This led to the strong growth of the population. From 1888 to 1890, the number of inhabitants rose from 1585 to 2345, an increase of 48 percent. New residential quarters were built in the area of Bodenackerstrasse and the chemical factory on Habsburgerstrasse. Surrounding communities such as Windisch, Umiken and Lauffohr also benefited from industrialisation. Their population also increased rapidly. The population of Altenburg, on the other hand, declined sharply.[5]

From 1872 to 1875, people from abroad came to Brugg in search of work. Among them were Italians from northern Italy and South Tyrol as well as Russians, most of whom found jobs in the machine factory and the foundry. Female workers were mainly to be found in the clothing industry, where they also found work at home. Later, the upswing of companies in the machine industry led to a reduced proportion of female workers.[6]

Another feature was the wage gap: women and children received lower wages than their male co-workers. Wages were only improved through strikes and threats. In 1877, the Federal Factory Act regulated that the working hours of adults would be limited to eleven hours per day. Child labour was brought under control by the introduction of the Factory Police Act (1862): work by children under 13 was now prohibited. Under-16s were only allowed to work twelve hours.[7]


The post-war crisis left its mark: in 1921, factory statistics counted 21 plants with just 692 employees. As early as 1924, employment increased by 30 percent. This upswing continued until 1929, and the employment figures of 1929 were not exceeded again until 1945.[8] The world economic crisis that began in 1930 also had an impact on Brugg. Year after year, more and more people lost their jobs. The metal and engineering industries were particularly hard hit. From 1929 to 1936, Brugg had to cope with a 38 percent drop in employment. 543 jobs were lost during these years.[9]

During the period of industrialization, residents of the town of Brugg complained about the noise, smoke and soot, and vibrations in the residential neighborhoods. The residents fought in court for their quality of living. At the same time, it was difficult for the factories to obtain raw materials because they were either no longer available or too expensive. Thus, several factories merged or gave up production altogether. For these reasons, the industries moved towards Birrfeld.[10] Only a few companies from the “founding period” from the end of the 19th century until the First World War still exist today, for example Kabelwerke Brugg. Other entrepreneurs from the early days of Brugg industry changed their ownership structure. The company “Hunziker Baustoffe AG” was sold to the Vigier Group in 1997, but the 130 jobs were retained.[11]

Individual references

  1. Baldinger Fuchs, Astrid et al.: Brugg erleben. Politics and society in transition. Volume 2. Brugg 2005, ISBN 3-03919-007-5, p. 537.
  2. a b Baldinger: Experience Brugg. Politics and society in transition. S. 538.
  3. Baldinger: Experience Brugg. Politics and society in transition. S. 539.
  4. Baldinger: Experience Brugg. Politics and society in transition. S. 542.
  5. Baldinger: Experience Brugg. Politics and society in transition. S. 546.
  6. Baldinger: Experience Brugg. Politics and society in transition. S. 549.
  7. Baldinger: Experience Brugg. Politics and society in transition. S. 550–551.
  8. Baldinger: Experience Brugg. Politics and society in transition. S. 554–555.
  9. Baldinger: Experience Brugg. Politics and society in transition. S. 555.
  10. Baldinger: Experience Brugg. Politics and society in transition. S. 561–562.
  11. Baldinger: Experience Brugg. Politics and society in transition. S. 564.