To start from scratch is hard. But if we think about it, isn’t it more difficult to take over something that is already built and functional? It is hard to step out of the shadows of a father and nurture the family business. This was a fate of young Josef Pfeiffer, who was born on the dry November day in 1808. He was born on a riverbank of Lužická Nisa in a mill located in Brandl. Josef, now called senior, knew, as most of the millers, much about the world, travelled a lot and most of all, was an enterprising man. Now, he is sitting on the porch, listening to his son´s cry and deciding. He has a family now, and more children will surely come. The mill is nice, but might not be enough. He has been thinking for some time, asked around, got information and now he has decided – he is going to start trading with Jablonec jewellery. This industry seemed promising. Brandl was close to Jablonec (today is a part of Jablonec), hence Josef was in the centre of the current boom. He established contacts with Antonínov and Kristiánov glassworks. He started to take their goods and established the trade. He started big. From our current point of view, we could say that he was the co-founder of long-distance trade with Jablonec goods.
Josef junior was getting older, and it was obvious that his future lies in his father´s company. He completed his general education in Prague because the town Jablonec, at that time Gablonz, was too small to have an exemplary high school. When he completed his general education, his father immediately started to teach his son business. When he turned seventeen, Josef was sent to Frankfurt am Main, where he started as a trainee in banking and department store. At that time, Josef Pfeiffer senior held the post of magistrate. He had no idea that his son will one day follow his footsteps. He knew, however, that his son will become a good businessman and big addition to the company. After four years of Frankfurt experience, Josef returned home and was very surprised. His father´s business added the third part – in Brandl, there started the construction of the cotton spinning mill, one of the first textile factories in the Jizera Mountains. Five years later, the next cotton spinning mill was established.
The family business flourished, and when was Josef twenty-seven years old, he became his father´s partner and shareholder. Sales stores were in Jablonec, as well as Frankfurt. They traded Jewellery stones, pearls and beads, buttons, devotional items, chandelier trimmings and metal jewellery and all around the Europe – Austrian Empire, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, France and England, and also in fart Rio de Janeiro. When his father died, Josef was thirty-one years old and became the oldest partner. He travelled a lot – visited, in fact, most of the places they traded with. His vision and the ability to negotiate good business terms and business strategies were very successful. The company Josef Pfeiffer & Co. became one of the most important export houses and metal jewellery exporter in the Jizera Mountains. One of the reasons was that Josef paid attention to the quality and development of the business portfolio.
Josef with his brothers followed their father´s footsteps and further expanded the scoop of the company, as its activity. They added composition distillery, and the Pfeiffers started to produce their glass. And they were great! They invested large sums in the research to find or take over new technologies. Soon after, the success came at exhibitions. The company presented at the industrial exhibition in Vienna in 1845 their collection of imitations gems. As contemporary newsletter put it: “They attracted attention for their richness, colours, the purity of the cut and low prices.” The textile production also developed, the production modernized and rationalized. Besides, Josef Pfeiffer started real estate investments, especially the purchase of land. The company flourished.
But the fate had other plans, very significant plans. As is often the case of successful businessmen, the politics awaited Josef. It was a difficult journey, but it led to the title “the father of Jablonec”. That is an interesting thing - the human mind. People easily and quickly forget that someone built a large company with hundreds or thousands of people, that he worked hard, travelled a lot, overcame the crisis and explored new ways. However, fleeting participation in politics is enough for immortality. Not everybody deserves that, but Josef Pfeiffer did.
Before we embark on his politic journey, let´s look at his private and family life. In the beginning, Josef did not have much luck in this part of his life. He got married while his father was still alive. Soon after, his son was born but did not live longer than five months. In addition to all this, Josef´s wife died soon after their son. Nevertheless, he had no time for mourning, because the company was about to open the second spinning mill in Brandl. We shouldn´t forget it was just the first half of the 19th century, and at that time, male descendants were the only certainty of the family company´s future. Therefore, two years later, Josef married again. And they had children, but all girls. They had five girls and still no heir. Finally, in 1846 Bruno, his son was born and later other three male descendants. In 1860, the Pfeiffers welcomed their thirteenth and last child. Seven daughters, four sons. The future. But how will the future look? Skilful and gifted businessman Josef Pfeiffer refuses to sit and wait.
In 1845, he started to fight for the construction of the new imperial road, and thanks to him, this vital rad finally went through Jablonec. Like his father before him, he also becomes the head of Jablonec sharpshooter corps. Then a storm of revolution starts in 1848 and democratization processes awaken. Josef Pfeiffer is the first to bring news about Vienna´s march revolution, and soon after he is appointed to lead quickly assembled National Guard. It is only natural that Josef stood for the head of the town. There was a dual power for some time when there were old reeve and new chairman of the municipal council holding power at the same time. Two years later, Josef Pfeiffer gets appointed the mayor of Jablonec. He immediately gives up his salary for the charitable purposes – and that was the case for all of the seventeen years of him holding office. Most of the town residents had no idea good was that decision. The head of the town is now a visionary and great businessman. He manages very quickly to increase and multiply the property of the town. He can very well use the boom and world interest in Jablonec goods. Under his control, Jablonec becomes “Austrian California”. The number of citizens grows as the number of job opportunities. The mayor focuses mainly on transport. As a businessman, he knows that transport accessibility is a key thing for success and prosperity. Hence, roads are built, as well as the new hospital. A savings bank is established, and Josef Pfeiffer takes the lead once more. Thanks to him, local businessmen can easily get a loan. Josef Pfeiffer enforces and implements the construction of second Jablonec square with representative neo-renaissance town hall building (today it is a Municipal Library). The city obtains the urbanistic order.
The rise of the mayor of Jablonec – Pfeiffer is unstoppable – he gets appointed the member of “Landtag” in Prague and then goes to Imperial Congress in Vienna. Later, in the last days of 1866, comes to the culmination of the influence of mayor Pfeiffer - Jablonec is solemnly promoted to city status. A few months later, when the Prussian invade North, the mayor Pfeiffer shows his balance and courage and stop the tendency to display white flags. The city does not give up. Emperor Francis Joseph rewards him with a knight´s cross. The mayor Pfeiffer protects the city interests in the district council and Liberec Chamber of Commerce and Trade…
No tree grows to reach heaven. The last day of January in 1869, Josef Pfeiffer fells sick. He decides not to go to the office and stays in bed. Four days later, he dies. The city is grieving. Everyone knew that it would not be possible to find another person like Pfeiffer. The very next day, the obituary came out, in which people could read: “There is no useful institution in Jablonec, which wasn’t established by Josef Pfeiffer or at least selflessly supported by him.” We, contemporaries, we should be sad as well. For our ancestors was only logical that successful people, who managed to work their way among the elite, then financially supported public life and were not scared to direct it for the public good and prosperity. Today, this is a rarity. Jablonec was lucky to have a man who knew what he was doing. The city continued to flourish, boomed and went through a recession of interest in the most vibrant local article – jewellery. What Josef Pfeiffer senior started was then expanded by his sons. It was still the top interest for local people – to get the highest sales possible in foreign markets, and then search for new markets.
Not long after Josef´s death, one new market appeared. And it was gigantic. British India. It started with blown metallized beads and most of all “bangles” - bracelets, which had a ritual as well as fashion importance for Indian women. The success was overwhelming - the export was increasing significantly. New means of transport were discussed. In 1912, came a break with the Indian market. In San Rocco di Trieste in Terst, the biggest modern speedboat of Austrian-Hungarian merchant fleet was officially launched on water. It was 137 metres long, which with a displacement of over 8,000 tons was able to develop a speed of 30 kilometres per hour. One of the guests at the baptism of the ship was the current mayor of Jablonec, Adolf Posselt. Why? The main reason was that the ship was named – “Gablonz”. This name was logical. Thou, the speedboat was ready to transport 180 passengers in first, second, and third-class cabins, the main purpose was to transport Jablonec jewellery to an Indian port. It travelled through the Mediterranean, Red and Arabian Sea to Calcutta, or Bombay, or other Indian port. It is a shame, Josef Pfeiffer did not live long enough to witness it. He deserved it. Without him, the Jablonec export would never have such success that we can see still today.