Company History of the Pewter Figure Manufacturer Ernst Heinrichsen, Nürnberg.
From 1839 to 1938, 3 generations of the Heinrichsen Family (Ernst, Wilhelm, and Ernst Wilhelm) created an inventory of about 16,000 molds for pewter figures, half of which were done after 1900 for "culture historical" 30 mm / 1-3/16" figures. It is a special stroke of luck to consider that not only (almost!) all of the molds but also complete documentation survived all of the wars in the company's archives and are still accessible to us today.
The company founder Ernst Carl Peter Heinrichsen was born in 1808 in Silesia and began an apprenticeship there as a pewter smith. In 1822, he went tramping with his certificate of apprenticeship and came in 1826 or 1827 to Nürnberg. Here he first found work with the pewter smith Ammon, where he chiefly made slate molds for pewter figures. Starting in 1832 Ernst Heinrichsen worked as an independent engraver and produced steel dies for goldsmiths, all kinds of tools for pressing knife handles and fruit baskets as well as brass plates for bookbinders, who used them to decorate wallets, albums, or song books. In addition, he engraved signet rings. Although he was successful in this profession, Ernst Heinrichsen once again went back to the profession for which he had studied. He was granted a license on September 6, 1839 from the municipal council in Nürnberg for the "casting of leaden children's toys made of so-called fast Rose'schen liquid metals".
Wilhelm Heinrichsen was born as his first child in 1834. He was less artistically minded, but with a certain business flair, he brought the company to an economic high point after he had taken over responsibility for the business in 1869 from his father.
While Ernst Heinrichsen mainly developed molds for pewter figures that illustrated current events, Wilhelm Heinrichsen took up the representation of historic events in the Eighties of the 19th century. He engaged renowned artists for the designs for these series such as Theodor von Kramer (Battle of the Huns), Paul Ritter (The Brave Troopers, Wallensteins Camp, Prinz Eugen, Andreas Hofer), Wilhelm Camphausen (The Thirty Years War), Professor Friedrich Wanderer (The Trojan War, Battles from the Roman Period).
At the start of the 20th century Wilhelm's son Ernst Wilhelm (1867-1938) took over the company. At this time pewter figures changed from toys to collector items, whereby production was concentrated almost exclusively on the 30 mm / 1-3/16" size figure. In the process, other requirements were placed on the accuracy of the representation. Ernst Wilhelm Heinrichsen engaged famous artists to work for him in order to be able to offer so-called "culture-historical figures". He hired as illustrators for example the costumer artist Alexander Wilke and for the French soldiers the illustrator Bombled.
With the death of Ernst Wilhelm Heinrichsen in December of 1938, no more new molds were engraved. Since Wilhelm (1898-1916), the only son of Ernst Wilhelms, had passed away very young during World War I, the two daughters Hermine (1896-1976) and Luise (1902-1987) took over the firm and produced more figures until the death of Hermine in 1976. Descendants of Ernst Wilhelms third daughter Maja (1897-1987, married name Grobe) took over the firm and are still running it in the 6th generatiion of the family.
In 1979, all of the molds were moved from the property on Johannis Street 19, that was the company's location for over 100 years, into new quarters and – over the course of 2 years – were inventoried. In 1981, the first "new editions" from the historic molds appeared under the management of the 6th generation of the family.
The figures were sold directly by mail order by Ernst Heinrichsen. The Hofmann shop (formerly Schiller Pewter Models) that had been in Nürnberg since 1979 and that had sold Heinrichsen figures, closed in December of 2010. However you can still pick up pre-ordered figures in Nürnberg.