Engel-Puppen Doll History
is one important fact that all our dolls have in common - they are
all made in Germany and meet the quality-standard that German products
are known for all over the world.
(Eines jedoch haben alle unsere Puppen gemeinsam:
alle werden in Deutschland hergestellt und entsprechen der Qualität
für die deutsche Produkte in aller Welt bekannt sind.)
Markus Engel, President
The history is as follows...
During the 19th century, in a small town named Sonneberg (the city of toys), home-workers used to collect materials from their contractors in baskets. They would then go home and make doll parts from the materials. Usually by the end of the week, they would bring the finished doll parts back and collect their wages. By the end of the 19th century, doll manufacturing had greatly expanded in Mönchröden/Coburg which is now part of the city of Rödental.
The first doll factory in Mönchröden was founded in October/November of 1896 by the 1866 born book-keeper Edmund Knoch and his wife, Emilie who was born in Lipfert. They worked in her father's house, Rothinestr. 33, which was only a one room house. Soon, this location became too small and they had to move to another house in Rothinestr. 7. They also rented a small stock at this time.
Their business continued to grow and in 1908, they moved into their own factory building in Lange Wiesen 6, which still exists today. Here they produced small porcelain dolls, papier-mâché dolls and dolls with fabric bodies, which were stuffed with wooden wool. All these dolls had porcelain heads, mostly branded with the trade mark "A.M.", which stands for Armand Marseille in Köppelsdorf, who's name and models are well known and liked by the American doll collectors.
The first big success of the Edmund Knoch company were the small princess dolls, which were sold mostly by exporters from Hamburg. Besides the exporters from Hamburg, the export companies from Sonneberg (the oldest toy city in the world) were also among some of their biggest customers.
When World War I came, the production of dolls stopped and the workers were raised to make bullet baskets instead.
Once the war ended, the doll business basically had to start all over from the beginning. Contacts for toy customers had to once again be established.
The Edmund Knoch company worked hard to establish customers in Great Britain, Argentina, Switzerland and Sweden. Showrooms were setup in London, Glasgow, Buenos Aires, Zug and Stockholm. Later on, showrooms even appeared in New york and Los Angeles. Since 1921, Edmund Knoch had been showing his dolls twice a year at the fair in Leipzig and several times at the St. Eriks fair in Stockholm. At this time about 70 percent of the production were exported.
Death of the founder - accession of Otto Knoch
After Edmund Knoch died in 1934, his son, Otto, born in 1895 came into the company and directed it together with his mother Emilie. By this time, the company had 30 employees and home-workers.
During the second world war, the production stopped again for years, and instead of dolls being produced in the factory, uniforms were made.
After the war, Otto Knoch and his wife Helga Hutschgau, born in 1910 (they married in 1935) restarted the doll production. Their trade mark was the letters "E.K." with a crown over the letters.
Up until 1948 most of their production went to the wholesalers and exporters in Sonneberg, but along with the splitting of Germany came new problems. Trade channels which had been built up over the decades were being cut. Otto Knoch had no choice but to find new channels for distribution.
With the growing impact of Mönchröden in doll manufacturing, three more important doll factories had been founded. They were:
- E. Maar & Sohn in 1910
- Drei-M in 1920
- Zapf in 1931
By now, Mönchröden had obtained the surname “Bavarian Doll Village”. Today, Rödental (which includes Mönchröden) is named the “City of Ceramics and Dolls”.
The materials have changed over the years from pressing compo, papier-mâché, casting compo, porcelain and rubber to hard plastic and vinyl, which is now the mostly used material for doll production.
When Helga Knoch died in 1975, Otto decided to retire, because his only son Lothar, who had become a lawyer, was not interested in the doll business. Otto Knoch died in 1985.
Acquisition of the Knoch company by Helmut Engel
On January 1st, 1976, Helmut Engel came into the company and rented it for three years.
Helmut Engel, who was born in 1936, had already worked with dolls all his life. His first experiences in the doll business were as a child, when he had to help his mother make paper doll shoes and doll dresses at home.
After Helmut finished first and secondary school, he entered into the "Drei-M" doll company, who was at the time one of the biggest doll-companies in Germany. He worked there for 25 years before he decided to run his own company.
Helmut Engel married his wife Inge in 1958. They had three children during the years 1959 to 1962 and another son followed in 1970.
When Helmut Engel took over the Knoch-company in 1976, a new trade-mark was designed: an angel with a crown, placed in an oval.
In 1979, when the rental contract with Knoch expired, Helmut Engel bought the Knoch company, but without the building. He then moved to a larger building at Mönchrödener Str. 55, which is on the main road in Rödental and located very close to the old factory. Helmut
Engel bought this new building from the Emaso-E. Maar & Sohn doll-company, which had closed some years before. At the same time, the company's name was changed from "Edmund Knoch" to "Helmut Engel".
In 1983, Helmut Engel's daughter Susanne entered into the company and learned everything she could about the manufacturing of doll dresses. Since 1988, she supported Mrs. Gerda Völk, the dress designer, who had followed Helmut Engel from the "Drei-M"-company to the Knoch company, and later to his own company. By 1992, Susanne Engel had already created a large part of the Engel outfit collection on her own.
Markus Engel enters the company’s succession
When Markus Engel, the youngest child of Helmut and Inge Engel and designated successor of Helmut Engel, entered into the factory in 1989, the company was changed into a corporation with the name "Engel-Puppen GmbH".
For several years Engel had negotiated with W. Goebel Porzellanfabrik, the manufacturer of the world-famous Hummel®-figurines, about the manufacturing and distribution of the M.I. Hummel®-vinyl dolls, which succeeded in 1995. At the same time, Goebel gave
Engel the license for the models of the famous American doll artist Charlot Byi®, which Engel manufactured until 2002. Both lines brought new groups of customers to Engel-Puppen, which influenced the business results considerably.
In the celebration year 1996, there were four anniversaries at Engel-Puppen. Besides the centennial of the company and the takeover of the company by Helmut Engel 20 years before, the 60th birthday of president Helmut Engel and the 65th birthday of senior-designer
Gerda Völk were celebrated. The export business was doing great again just as it was 75 years earlier.
In early 1997, Helmut Engel decided to transfer the majority of the company to his son, Markus Engel who was at the same time appointed manager of the company. Since November 1999, Markus Engel has been leading the business as the sole manager.
Acquisition of the costume doll line from H.u.E. Wilhelm
At the beginning 1950s, Heinrich Wilhelm and his wife Emilie, born Clarner, began to make Black Forest dolls in a former carpenter’s workshop. Later their line was extended with original costumes from all over Germany and the surrounding countries.
In 1967, his daughter, Sonja entered into the management of the company. After Heinrich Wilhelm died in 1972, Sonja and her husband Hans Völker took over the business.
In October of 2001, Sonja and Hans Völker, both now over 70 years old, decided to retire.
Engel-Puppen took over the models of the neighborhood company in their own assortment and continues to manufacture the original costume dolls in traditional German styles.
Acquisition of the Hans Völk dolls
Hans Völk, born in 1893, bought the building of the old Terracotta factory in Mönchröden. There, on December 8th, 1922, he founded a company that specialized in punching and stamping paperboard together with his wife, Martha Wendler.
At the beginning their dolls were manufactured from paperboard and paper-mâché.
Daughter Lotte, born Aug. 6th, 1923, and her husband Otto Buchner, born Nov. 6th, 1923, continued the company in next generation. Under Lotte Buchner’s artistical influence, additional beautiful doll models were created.
By the end of the 1950s the doll materials were changed to plastic instead of the paperboard and paper-mâché. Selected dolls from the earlier paper-mâché collection were now manufactured from hard plastic by using a special process called blow-moulding. With the new 1950's rotational moulding technique, the Hans Völk company blossomed into a modern company using polymer processing techniques.
After Hans Völk died in 1961, his daughter, Lotte Buchner owned the company together with her mother and after Martha Völk died in 1969, she became the sole owner. Otto Buchner lead the company together with her and was mainly involved in technical issues in the
production. When Lotte Buchner died on Aug. 5th, 1989, the ownership of the company went to Otto Buchner and his daughter Barbara. After Otto Buchner died on June 29th, 1995, Barbara Buchner continued the company on her own.
The polymer processing department of the Völk company was given up in 1997. Barbara now concentrated on the manufacturing of nostalgic collector dolls and and doll parts to other doll manufacturers.
Wilhelm, a custom doll maker whom Engel-Puppen had acquired in 2001 was also one of Völk’s customers. Wilhelm purchased undressed dolls from Völk and re-sold them after dressing them in original regional costumes.
In May of 2002 Barbara Buchner decided to give up the doll department, and after short negotiations, the Hans Völk doll models were taken over by Engel-Puppen.
Also in 2002, on June 11th, the fifth family generation in the company’s history was founded with the birth of Victoria Sundari Engel, daughter of Claudia and Markus Engel, who had married in 2001.
In 2003, Engel-Puppen introduced the nostalgic dolls of the Hans Völk trade-mark, which are still made the same way they were in the 1950s. Together with the Wilhelm original costumes collection and the Hans Völk nostalgic dolls, the Engel-Puppen assortment for 2003-2004 grew to about 600 different doll styles, which are still manufactured today in Germany by the Engel-Puppen staff.