The Rheinisches Industriemuseum
is an example of historic preservation at it's best. The main museum is an interactive working forge. Founded in 1886, the Hendrichs drop forge was a vital part of the Solingen cutlery industry. In the 1980s Dr. Jochem Putsch organized a group to purchase the declining business in order to preserve it as a "living" museum.
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The factory premises encompass 3500 square meters of exhibition space including the machine house, boiler house and the exquisite family mansion.
In addition to the Hendrichs drop forge facility there are several satellite sites in and around Solingen. The Wipper Kotten for example is on the Wipper river and is a renovated water powered grinding mill from the 17th century. It is an excellent example of the real nexus of the modern cutlery manufacturing industry.
The Kottens (or cottages) were small and mostly independent family businesses employing a small group of skilled craftsmen. These small grinding mills would often work cooperatively each making a certain part of what would become a complete product. In fact one of the primary factors that has unified the industry in Solingen and has been the consistent reason for its success is the infrastructure of cooperative subcontracting. This has been an aspect of the cutlery industry since the very beginning and can still be found on some level even today.
Above a worker at the Rheinisches Industriemuseum uses the drop forge to pound out some scissor blanks.