Nobility and industry in Silesia The beginning of coal mining on the Moravian-Silesian border in the Ostrava and Karviná regions dates back to the second half of the 18th century. After the Napoleonic Wars, the region started to change into one of great industrial centres of Europe. Mining “black gold” went hand in hand with iron production and chemical industry. The importance of the Ostrava-Karviná coal mining district was highlighted by its location on the borders of Czech lands, Hungary, Galicia, and Prussia. It made the transportation of goods and the migration of workers easy, therefore the region offered many attractive opportunities. The nobility played an important role, mainly during the first phase of industrialisation. Only noble families had the necessary means and contacts. The first major investors included members of the ruling Habsburg family. Archduke Rudolf Johann, the archbishop of Olomouc, recognized the importance of the Ostrava region, and decided to concentrate the ironworks close to the coal mines. In 1828, he founded the ironworks in Vítkovice. The Habsburgs of Těšín were also active. Archduke Friedrich turned the Duchy of Těšín into a prosperous industrial dominion during the last third of the 19th century. The holder of four honorary university degrees in economics, he was the first businessman in the coal district to adopt the eight-hour working day in his mines. His factory in Ustron, Poland became the first European producer of steam-powered ploughs. The local lower nobility, like the Larisch-Mönich family, soon started to profit from the industrial boom, as well. Descendants of the Larysches of Lhota and Karviná were involved in many fields of business, from coal mining to sugar mills. In 1945, the family owned six black-coal mines, a coking plant, three chateaus and a spa in Karviná region.
also took part in the industrialization. Prince Karel owned factories which produced linen, tobacco and ammunition in Chuchelná. After the Great War, his business started to decline; Chuchelná became part of Czechoslovakia, and exporting to Germany became complicated due to taxes and customs fees. The transformation of the Region of Ostrava into the industrial centre of European importance was supported by “traditional” noble dynasties as well as by many families who gained their noble titles thanks to their business achievements. The Rothschilds ranked among the most progressive representatives of the so-called entrepreneurial aristocracy. Salomon Mayer Rothschild, who became a baron in 1822, bought the ironworks in Vítkovice from Archduke Rudolf Johann in 1835. Among the business partners of the Rothschilds were the Gutmanns, an ennobled family from Lipník nad Bečvou. The growing importance of the family was proved when the daughter of Wilhelm Gutmann Elsa married Prince Franz I of Lichtenstein in 1929. The era of noble businessmen ended – in and out the region of Ostrava – with the onset of World War II and mainly by the events of 1948.
Text: Ondřej Kolář, Slezské zemské muzeum, Opava Foto: archiv Slezského zemského muzea
The Lichnovský family of Voštice, who owned vast land on both sides of the Austrian-Prussian border,
Interiér tabákové továrny Lichnovských v Chuchelné
Továrna v Chuchelné
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