Our company history – almost 500 years of tradition
Germany’s oldest industrial family business is characterized by a sense of continuity throughout its eventful history.
Wilhelm Prym became an independent goldsmith in Aachen, starting a chain of events that would lead to the Prym Group. Kerstgen Prym, presumably Wilhelm Prym’s son, was running a brass workshop in Aachen’s Kölnstrasse by 1559. Its proximity to the major zinc ore deposits in the region offered the Pryms ideal conditions for brass production.
As Protestants, the Prym brassmaker family lost their guild rights in the Catholic city of Aachen. In search of a better future, Christian Prym and his entire family moved to the nearby town of Stolberg. He settled in an area known as Dollartshammer, where the company headquarters is still located to this day.
Just like his sisters Maria and Sara, Christian Prym married into the Peltzer family – one of the region’s most important brassmaker families. These marriages within the “industry” became something a tradition because the families were united by their religious denomination. There were hardly any other Protestants working in other professions in the Stolberg valley.
In the late 18th century, 140 furnaces in Stolberg were producing around 40,000 hundredweight of the yellow metal, which was processed in more than 100 forges, brass mills, and wire drawing workshops. In 1832, however, the figure fell to only 1,100 hundredweight of brass. A new production landscape resulting from the successful smelting of zinc triggered the decline of the brass industry in Stolberg. By the mid-19th century, just 20 furnaces were still burning, and Prym employed only a handful of workers. Be that as it may, the Pryms acted wisely: they began manufacturing the first finished products made of brass in addition to rolled materials and wires made of copper alloys.
Now named after the new manager, William Prym (1811–1881), the company began to blossom again. His son, Heinrich August Prym (1843–1927), completed an apprenticeship in Birmingham, England, and later used the knowledge he had gained there to introduce the mechanical production of small metal parts in Germany. He also broke new ground in a very different area of life by establishing a foundation to support bereaved family members, the sick, those unable to work, and senior citizens shortly before his death in 1927.
The brands Prym and Prym’s Zukunft (“Prym’s Future”) guaranteed that Prym would develop a reputation as a pioneer in marketing. Their products became real branded items, and the stag from the family crest – with a needle in its antlers – turned into one of the most famous trademarks for sewing accessories. The company also established a foothold in Austria.
In 1887, negotiations were held for the purchase of a rolling mill in Lower Austria. Prym was then granted an official commercial license to produce needle products.
Hans Friedrich Prym, the grandson of William Prym, set the company on a major new course. He improved the press fastener, first invented by Heribert Bauer, by inserting a spring and took out a patent on the design. Hans Prym and his father, Heinrich August Prym, were made honored citizens in the town of Stolberg.
Demand for the practical press fastener – something of a “must-have” – continued to grow. The first machine able to insert the spring automatically was put into operation.
Despite a general lack of incoming order, Hans Prym modernized the brass mill in Stolberg, which had been built before the turn of the century. During the Second World War, the company produced turbine buckets and other equipment to support the war effort in addition to rolled materials. After the war, the family and the company lost considerable assets in places such as Berlin, Dresden, and Langenberg as well as Austria and Poland. It was not until 1960 that Hans Prym managed to reacquire all of the production sites, real estate, and rights in Austria.
Prym employed more people than at any other time in its history to date: some 4,000 people earn a living at the Stolberg site or one of its subsidiaries.
Prym produces around 15 million press fasteners every day. Some 3,300 people work for Prym around the globe. Over the years, the company has extended its range of sewing and craft products as well as accessories for the apparel industry to include material and surface technology, mechanical connecting elements, and component assemblies for the automotive and electronics industries.