The history of matchmaking in Sušice

Matches – an object of daily use, at first rare, gradually more and more commonplace, recently rarely used.

Sušice, a town above Otavou, was recognized by the public as the "cradle" of Czech matchmaking.

The production of matches in Sušice was started by the joiner Vojtěch Scheinost, who was apprenticed as a joiner in Vienna from 1826 and, after his apprenticeship, took a job with the pharmacist Röhmer to make matchstick "wire" (formerly matches) that he needed to make matches in his factory. There he met Maria Urbancová, Röhmer's domestic helper, and with her help he gained knowledge about the chemical preparation of an incendiary phosphorus mixture, because, according to tradition, Urbancová sometimes helped with this otherwise secret manipulation in the Röhmer family.

In the autumn of 1839, together with Urbancová, they said goodbye to Vienna for good and moved to Sušice, where shortly afterwards, in October tr, Vojtěch Scheinost submitted an application for permission to manufacture matches. As tradition from the family tells, Scheinost soon ran out of funds, and as is often the case, he was forced to turn to a stranger to help him with a loan. That person was a wealthy grocer in Sušice, Bernard Fürth. With the agreement of December 5, 1840, he confirmed the supply of raw materials for the production of matches to Fürth. This is how Bernard Fürtha began to supply the needy Scheinost with raw materials on credit and cash, and Scheinost paid with matches. The enterprising and business-savvy Fürth sensed a profitable business from this connection and supported the striving manufacturer. This support obliged Scheinost to such an extent that he was finally forced to offer Fürth the position of partner and later the entire factory property. Only Scheinost had the right to manufacture matches, and therefore Fürth did not delay and applied for it in September 1842, also with the request that it be allowed to manufacture phosphorus, which until now had been imported from abroad.

Sušice's rented premises were not enough to satisfactorily address the operational potential of the flourishing market, so Fürth decided to build a new factory. He received permission to do so in 1844.

Bernard Fürth died on September 26, 1849, leaving a company in full swing, without the slightest sign of faltering, a company whose products were known throughout Europe.

The production of matches was undoubtedly an advantageous source of livelihood for the population of Sušick and its surroundings and created the possibility of higher earnings. The development of the match industry in Sušice continued to have favorable conditions after the death of Bernard Fürth.

The heirs insisted on the contractual obligation, at one time agreed with Vojtěch Scheinost, and continued to prohibit him from allowing family members free access to the factory. When he was unsuccessful in his resolution to cancel this contractual restriction with the Fürths, he saw no other way out than to leave the factory. In 1865, Bernard Fürth resigned from the company and during 1867 he was already thinking about building his own factory for the production of matches. He applied for a production permit on July 10, 1868, and secured 20 workers at the start of operation. Thus Sušica was born the second so-called Upper Matchbox of Vojtěch Scheinost (VS brand)

In the nineties of the 18th century, the overproduction of match goods was gradually manifested not only in the Austrian monarchy, but also in other countries producing matches, a downward trend was noted. The sales crisis in this industry was particularly noticeable in the Czech Republic, where at the time there were 20 larger match factories, alongside a number of small operations whose production was of poor quality and also cheaper than the goods of large companies, which depended to a large extent on exports.

The well-established matchmaking factories, especially the lower BF factory, which although unexpectedly stopped operations in the leased factory in Zlatá Koruna, tirelessly continued and expanded the production and storage areas by constructing new factory buildings and installing the latest machinery to expediently rationalize and increase capacity, preparing for ruthless competition fight.

The Bernard Fürth company underwent a generational change in 1890 with the entry of Bernard Fürth, the son of the company's current owner, Daniel Fürth. The second son of Dr. Arnošt Fürth then joined in 1892. These people were not only good and experienced housekeepers, but also excelled as connoisseurs and experts in the match industry, and as it turned out later, they also occupied important positions in international economic activity.

The meeting of the hard-working craftsman, inventive and experienced Vojtěch Scheinost with the energetic and very capable businessman Bernard Fürth was certainly lucky for the drying match industry, but the worldliness of drying matches and the unprecedented growth of technology and economy in the match industry must be attributed to the exceptional qualities of the grandsons of co-founder Bernard Fürth and Dr. Arnošt Fürth.

Due to the concentration of capital and the implemented rationalization changes in the production of matches, the sale of matches reaches a stage of critical sales stagnation at the end of the 19th century. The rapid growth in the number of newly established match factories caused confusion in the world markets, the result of an unbound, extremely stiff struggle, and these conditions again brought the big export companies to the negotiating table. The ongoing dialogue between the partners was finally completed by the merger of the six largest Austrian match factories into a joint-stock company.

In the proposal of companies:


submitted to the Ministry of the Interior in Vienna on October 17, 1903 under no. 10.509 it is stated that he intends to establish a joint-stock company with the name:

"SOLO" match and polish factories, a joint-stock company based in Vienna

for cost-saving reasons consisting of high overhead in regaining lost markets, which are supplied with cheaper goods in the power of foreign competitors. The modernization of the factories' technical equipment was also an influential motive for the merger. The started path of production concentration continued with the financial support of "Landerbanka".

Increasing changes in machine technology in match production significantly replaced hand-made work and led to a sharp rationalization with a view to better application in the export of match goods. Sušické matches, whose products had a world reputation, became a domain in the community of the concern with traditional exports.

The continued concentration of the SOLA group's resources also gained ground in Hungary. In addition, this capital concentration combined with a massive rationalization program eliminated a number of medium-sized and small matchmaking enterprises within a few years.

At the proposal of the founding banks, on December 11, 1912, the Ministry of the Interior granted permission for the establishment of a second major joint-stock company with the corporate name "Akciová společnost pro spolky wareho "Hélios"/German: Zündwaren-Aktiengesellschaft "Hélios"/ with its seat in Vienna, where the other matchmakers on territory of the monarchy not incorporated into SOLO. For trade on the internal market, "Hélios" and "SOLO" have agreed on a definitive adjustment of the domestic contingent with 56% participation for Hélios and 44% for SOLO. At that time, the need for matches on the territory of the monarchy was calculated at 6 matches per inhabitant per day.

SOLO factories, especially drying factories, mainly exported their goods before the war. During the war, SOLO had the opportunity to use these goods advantageously and with good price conditions on the internal market. Hélios did not have this advantage.

With the creation of an independent Czechoslovak state, the question of buying out SOLO factories in Czechoslovakia came to the fore of the Hélios concern. It was an offer with a good production-commercial perspective and with the possibility of foreign participation in the match industry. The proposal to change the name of the company Hélios to SOLO also had far-reaching significance.

The entire approval procedure for the merger was completed by the decree of the Ministry of the Interior of January 11, 1922, no. 2642/22/17, by which, with the approval of the Ministry of Trade and Finance, an increase in the share capital of Helios was authorized for the purpose of taking over the domestic assets of the Vienna-based SOLA, and the corresponding nostrification decree.

According to the official certificate of the commercial court in Prague dated April 29, 1922, No. 1684/22, it was entered into the commercial register by Sec. B volume X, page 125, a new company was entered in place of the Hélios company:

"SOLO" United joint-stock Czechoslovak matchmaking and bow factories with the headquarters of the main plant in Prague.

The old company with the new company at the head had many worries at the very beginning in the new relations with the sister Austrian company, now bound together by a fixed production-technical and economic-financial program with the participation of the banking groups of Czechoslovakia and Austria.

In addition to the dry match factories, Prague's SOLO got a factory in Bernartice and Třešt and an apartment building in Královské Vinohrady in Prague. In the new composition of the board of directors, there was a predominant participation of Czech capital represented mainly by Živnostenská banka in Prague. During the difficult deflationary crisis, Czechoslovak SOLO struggled with internal and foreign competition, tried to reach a contingent agreement with the company Schell and Nevec from Stará Dlouhá Ves near Sušice, which stood aside, which constantly disrupted business relations on the domestic market with cheaper goods. This was compounded by unclear sales issues with Slovak manufacturers of matches, united in a cartel shop in Ružomberok. The board of directors wanted to solve the problem to its own advantage by acquiring some Slovak companies or equity assets and in this way tried to penetrate Slovakia and Subcarpathian Rus. This was finally achieved. The law on the concentration of production and capital required application even in cartel companies abroad. SOLO was involved in the Hungarian "Szikra" and the Yugoslav match company "DRAVA" in Osijek.

In connection with the crisis situation of sales on the world markets, the predatory efforts of the powerful Swedish-American trust "Svenska Tändsticks Aktiebolaget" (STAB) to maintain a monopoly position in the world were clearly manifested. The representatives of both SOLO concerns in Vienna and Prague watched with admiration the business acumen of STAB CEO Ivar Kreuger immediately after the end of the war, when he sought to seize most of the world's match markets. At the time, Kreuger controlled 150-160 match factories in 35 states.

In order for the management of the company to be able to develop better and more effectively, in 1935, on the recommendation of the Commercial Bank, she sought out an experienced ally, the Society for Chemical and Metallurgical Production in Ústí nad Labem, with whom she intended to cooperate by means of a long-term joint venture agreement. The cooperation with the Association created a powerful penetration of SOLA into the chemical industry with an obvious deviation from the dependency of the Viennese SOLA. Political events with Adolf Hitler's rise to power hastened the relaxation of relations between the two concerns, as well as the Association.

Prague SOLO firmly attached itself to the Association, seeing in it a more permanent guarantee of effective cooperation in connection with an important perspective of international trade. Political circumstances hastened the new union of SOLA with the Association, to which the general assembly gave its approval on December 27, 1938. The merger with Spolek created a massive group of concerns, whose potential influenced not only the industry in the rest of Czechoslovakia, but later became a key wartime enterprise in which drying factories played a significant role in the production of chemicals.

And so, in the wake of national misfortune, at that time the world-famous match concern SOLO, united joint-stock Czechoslovak matchmaking and matchmaking factories in Prague, came to an end, whose production program included, in addition to the traditional production of matches, a wide range of paper goods for the consumer industry, including packaging goods and other products, falling to the chemical, paper and wood processing industries. Several years of cooperation with the Society for Chemical and Metallurgical Production, whose headquarters were previously in Ústí nad Labem, should not have remained just a friendly service for technical and commercial assistance, but rather connected the two companies into one massive enterprise, controlled by the Czech-German financial oligarchy under the hegemony of Živnostenská banka in Prague headed by the well-known industrial capitalist Dr. Jaroslav Preiss.

The establishment of drying plants in the community of the Spolk concern had a distinct character of factory production of matches and paper objects, while the commercial and administrative agenda was handled by the general directorate in Prague. At the end of September 1942, the Sušické factories employed 817 workers in the lower factory and 678 in the upper factory.

After the end of the war, at the end of 1945, at a joint meeting of the race councils in Sušice and Lipník n. Bečvou, a proposal was born to separate the matchmaking plants from the nationalized association and to establish a separate national enterprise with its own administration as part of the planning of separate organizations of nationalized enterprises. An important factor in supporting the proposed action and a significant step for the future construction and modernization of the drying plant is the decision of the Council of Ministers of January 28, 1946 on the inclusion of match factories in the Czechoslovak Republic into the competence of the Central Directorate of the Wood Processing Industry. The organizational plan envisaged the headquarters of the company in Sušice, the establishment of a representative office in Prague and a special "SOLA" office for the Slovak region. Slovak representatives of matchmakers, however, did not speak out for the SOLO joint venture and established their own national enterprise.

According to the nationalization regulations, the Czech match factories were excluded from the property of the nationalized Association, and by Decree of the Minister of Industry No. 1202 of March 7, 1946, published in volume 80 of May 9, 1946, a national enterprise was created in agreement with the Minister of Finance

SOLO, matches for matches, a national company based in Sušice

The plant in Lipník nad Bečvou and the matchbox in the lower BF factory in Sušice were incorporated into the assets of the new national enterprise.

During the further development of the national enterprise SOLO Sušice involved in the wood processing industry, the direction of development was determined by wood, even though matches remained the most famous product for Sušice. Within a few years, the traditional product was displaced by the production of fiberboards and their modification and production of honeycomb boards. The production of matches in the period until 1969 remained in the form of manual production on semi-automatic machines acquired in the years 1903-1922. The matchbox itself remained unchanged, the wooden surround and the drawer were covered with blue paper, the surround of the box was provided with a sticker. Packages, most often 10 boxes, continued to be wrapped in single-colored wrapping paper and covered with a package sticker. Group packages, most often 10 packages, were wrapped in wrapping paper and covered with a large so-called poster sticker. Even in these conditions, the production and technology of matches is rationalized by small investments, mainly in-house. The matchmakers saw real modernization in 1970, when the first fully automatic Hering 313 machine was purchased, later upgraded to the Hering 317. In a short time, the installation of the fully automatic Arenco line for the production of matches followed. There is an ever-increasing share of paper – cardboard for the production of drawers and surrounds. For this, new high-capacity machines are purchased. Ten years later in 1979, the top ARENCO KL-4 matchmaking line is purchased and installed. The packaging undergoes significant changes with the use of polypropylene and shrink film. The chemical part of production was also modernized by the reconstruction of equipment for the preparation of incendiary mixtures. Everything was subordinated to the unequivocal effort to maintain SOLO matches on world markets. Gradually, the production of all drawers and surrounds is transformed into a paper design with high-quality direct wet offset printing. There was also a change in the method of applying the scratch surface. Since 1958, labor productivity per worker has doubled, and over 2 million boxes of nearly 100 million matches leave the production lines daily.

The share of matches in the company's total production in 1988 represented 1/4 of the company's production. The share of matches in corporate exports was still significant. Also, the share of matches in company deliveries to the internal market represented more than 3/4.

Supplies of matches to the internal market were carried out through a number of business organizations of the food industry and Jednota consumer cooperatives. The export of matches was provided by PZO Ligna Praha. The sale of SOLO matches on the English market was carried out by the company Samaco LTD London. Over the past thirty years, matches have been exported from Sušice to the following countries:

Aden, Afghanistan, Australia, Bahrain, Benin, Ceylon, Dubai, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Raj, Finland, Gambia, Ghana, Gibraltar, Grenada, Guinea, Haiti, Iceland, Jamaica, Yemen, Canada, Canary Islands, Qatar, Kenya, Kuwait, Cyprus, Lebanon, Liberia, Madagascar, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Senegal, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Togo, Tunisia, USA, United Kingdom, Zambia. So it was true, drying matches to the whole world.

Another change in the organization was on 1 January 1989, when SOLO, a state-owned enterprise, was founded in Sušice. This was followed by the unsuccessful privatization of the state-owned company, from which the production of matches was launched in 1996 as an independent joint-stock company called SOLO SIRKÁRNA, a.s. Since then, the modernization of match production has continued unabated. Other lines were added, the third fully automatic line ARENCO KL-4, the semi-automatic line for the production of household matches DZ 240, the semi-automatic line for the production of household matches DZ 100/250. The company's export sales rose to a full 400 million boxes in 2006. Sales to the domestic market, on the other hand, fell to 50 million boxes. In 2007, the first drop in export sales was recorded. On the one hand due to the decrease in the general consumption of matches in the world and on the other hand due to the loss of some markets. At the end of 2008, the in-house production of matches in Sušice was terminated and the company was transformed into a trading company of matches and other objects based on flames. Thus, after 170 years, the production of matches in Sušice ended.

Trade and export of matches

Export matters and their conditions were closely related to production possibilities and the immediate ability to supply the required matches in the shortest possible time and of first-class quality. Such demanding requirements have traditionally been dealt with by drying match shops, which have employed workers and capable experts for generations, caring and guarding the proven quality of the world-famous "SOLO" matches. Matches are trademarked very popular and sought after matches in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

The oldest trademark was and is considered to be the key depiction mark (Schlüssel in German), which was registered by the firm "Bernard Fürth, Zündwaren, Schüttenhofen und Bergreichenstein" (in Sušice and Kašperské Hory) on July 14, 1895 under No. 261 in Pilsen. Based on an amendment to the Trademark Act of January 6, 1890, the key image was supplemented with the word mark "SOLO SCHLÜSSEL", which meant "one key". This word mark SOLO became very popular among the public, so Bernard Fürth's company decided to protect it with a registration dated September 19, 1903 under No. 664 in Pilsen.

The trade in matches requires specific knowledge of market conditions, as the type and brand of imported matches were adapted to the habits of the customer. In addition, it was necessary to legally secure the exported goods, bearing the stamp, against unfair competition in the country of import.

At the time of the founding of the match company Hélios /1912/, it agreed with SOLE in Vienna to establish a joint store of matches with the company name "IGNIS". After the end of the First World War, the sales organization of the match industry of the former Austria-Hungary had to adapt to new conditions, and so an independent sales company was established on the territory of the Czechoslovak Republic with the cooperation of the Austrian store "IGNIS", when the first agreement on the division of world markets and price adjustments was concluded . According to this agreement, the Prague-based SOLU was ordered to handle all outlets shipped from the port of Trieste for the entire Mediterranean region, the ports of the Red Sea, East Africa and the former British India, the Far East, and among others, those outlets in which certain signs of drying production (The Scissors) were introduced in West Africa. The contract guaranteed SOLU a 10% share in STAB's exports, and Austrian SOLO participated in this share with an 11% quota.

On the internal market, Prague's SOLO was concerned about equal contingent adjustments for Slovak producers and with the firm Schell and Nevevec from Stará Dlouhá Ves near Sušice, which particularly stubbornly refused to cooperate in the creation of domestic prices. It was only with the help of government authorities that it started selling matches in a cartel in Prague. On July 1, 1919, the new sales company was registered in the commercial register of the commercial court in Prague under the name "Central store of match factories, spol. sro in Prague". The store was authorized to sell and buy other goods as well.

During World War I, the Swedish match trust occupied the best outlet for the Austrian match industry on world markets. It was only in 1921 that both SOLO concerns managed to break into the former pre-war outlets and restore the interrupted business relations. The match with the Swedish match giant STAB was not easy, costing both SOLO companies many financial sacrifices, but the final success forced the Swedish competitor to negotiate the division of world markets.

In November of the previous year, the store changed the name of its company to "PLAMA" central store of match factories, company with rúc. vol. and moved to the headquarters building of the SOLO concern in Prague, Štěpánská 22. "PLAMA" exported matches on its own account with the close cooperation of the Viennese store "IGNIS", whose managing director was the experienced, well-known in international business circles, matchmaking industrialist Bernard Fürth, former a matchmaker's associate. Perhaps it is due to his contribution and business acumen that in the post-war period it was possible to push the Swedish STAB out of the former SOLO markets and, moreover, negotiations were reached on the price level of matches in the world. After 1922, permanent arrangements of the Prague and Vienna SOLA communities were made every year without financial obligations. They founded a new shop "LUMA", a matchmaker shop SOLO, as and Schell a synovec, spol. s.r.o. vol. in Prague. "LUMĚ" was entrusted with the commission sale of matches in historical countries, while in Slovakia the matches were sold by the cartel company "ISKRA", match dealer, participation. Company in Ružomberok. The export of matches has been in steady decline since 1928.

The largest quantity of matches exported from Czechoslovakia was achieved in 1925 with an amount of over 7 million Kg. According to the agreement, she was in permanent business relations with STAB and its English outlet "THE ALSING TRADING Co." Ltd. in London, with which she performed the billing of balanced matches by average value.

Her competence included contact with customers in individual outlets, and she used her sales representatives for that purpose. Sales in countries where STAB had an established monopoly were not included in the calculation of the average price. These were Gdańsk, Yugoslavia, Guatemala, France, Greece, Venezuela, Peru, Iceland, Albania, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Bolivia. In the contract from October 1936 concluded for the next 15 years, the Prague store guaranteed with a 30% export share that it would not allow the export of matches from any other factory in the territory of the Czechoslovak Republic than on its account.

At that time, only a drying factory produced goods for export. BF, on four automated lines for 48 hours a week. The output of one line was 150 to 160 thousand on average. box a day. The matches were delivered in boxes in different packages according to the customer's wishes (5,000 boxes, 30, 50 or 75 dozen; in boxes with different contents of 20-100 matches and with different stickers). In West Africa, next to The Scissors stamp, The Key stamp was the best introduced, stamps were delivered to England according to the customers' wishes.

Under the pressure of the development of political transformations in the fall of 1938, the commission contract with the firm Schell and Synovec was canceled and LUMA continued to procure the sale of matches produced in Sušice for the rest of the territory of Bohemia and Moravia. Out of the average annual sales in the years 1932-1937 of 72,000 boxes of 5,000 boxes, about 26,000 boxes went to occupied border areas. After the merger of Prague's SOLA with Spolek in 1939, the LUMA store lost its original character of commercial controller in the internal market of the match industry, but continued to act as an intermediary based on price policy with the Slovak cartel centered in ISKRA in Ružomberok. From January 1, 1941, the sale of matches in the so-called Protectorate was taken over by the German Monopoly Company in Berlin, its branch in Prague.

In April 1941, he took over all agenda related to matches in connection with the German match monopoly company Spolek as the legal successor of the Czechoslovak SOLA company. After the imposition of national administration on the Association's concern companies in October 1945, by Decree of the Minister of Industry of March 7, 1946 No. 783, Úř. year no. 44, the assets of the LUMA store were incorporated into the Czechoslovak woodworking plant in Prague.

On the basis of a detailed analysis of export matters with STAB, the results of the arrangement were summarized in a memorandum dated November 1, 1938, according to which the two companies undertook, among other things, that until December 31, 1951, STAB would have the exclusive sale and distribution of matches for all SOLO production on all markets, except the territory of Czechoslovakia

World War II prompted the suspension of the STAB contract from 1940 to 1945. PLAMA exported matches to Holland in 1940, to France and Greece in 1941 and to Bulgaria in the following years, and provided a forced contingent to Germany as well.

Like LUMA, the PLAMA store was incorporated in 1946 into the Czechoslovak woodworking plants of the national enterprise in Prague, which took over business affairs and the purchase of industrial products and raw materials and the exercise of trade licenses of the national woodworking enterprises.

Source: Solo Sušice