More than a century ago a company F&W Goebel was founded which produced slate pencils and toy marbles. They then went on to make coffee pots and other useful items but it wasn’t until 1935 that F&W Goebel really made its mark on the industry. By producing delightful figurines of children; thus creating the innocent childlike memories preserved in porcelain that we know and love today – M.I. Hummel.
Franz Detleff Goebel was a porcelain merchant and his ambition was to have his own business. Together with his son William they founded F&W Goebel and in 1871 began to produce slate pencils and marbles. Franz’s desperately wanted to produce beautiful objects in porcelain but did not have the finances to do so. Five years later with considerable profits and hard work his dream became reality and in 1879 his first premises was erected and the first kiln fired.
F&W Goebel started making coffee sets and dinnerware but as Franz grew older he realised that his son had the eye to take the company further and so the name was changed to W. Goebel Porzellanfabrik and William took over the business. This company was in Germany and William was only too aware that they needed to expand into the overseas market such as America, he sent his son Max Louis to the USA who came back with a business plan; part of this plan was porcelain figurines. William passed away and so Max took over the company. The aftermath of the WW1 had forced many Germany companies to close but Max was determined this would not happen to Goebel. In 1926 fine-grained earthenware was introduced and this versatile new material was the start of the journey for M.I. Hummel figures as we know them today.
In 1929 Max Louis also sadly died but the business was then handed onto his son Franz Goebel, and son-in-law Dr. Eugen Stocke. Franz was well aware that innovative ideas were the only way to keep the company going especially after the stock market crash; he came up with the idea of figurines of innocent children, which would appeal to customers making them forget the political turmoil. So when he noticed the artwork of a Franciscan Sister, Maria Innocentia Hummel, he knew that this was the innocent children figurines that needed to be produ ced to keep Goebel afloat and a success.
Sister Hummel’s talent for drawing children came from when she taught art at a girls school, surrounded by children everyday her talent flourished and was soon printed in books and onto cards, which were sold to fund the Covent’s teaching and missionary work. Franz contacted Sister Hummel with the approval of two senior sculptors Arthur Moeller and Reinhold Unger. He assured her that should her designs be put into production that she would be shown all the clay models and have final approval on the sculpturing and painting. Her facsimile signature would also appear on each figure and Franz would be responsible for overseeing the production process. The convent and Sister Hummel allowed the rights for Goebel to produce these pieces from her original artwork and so the Hummel brand were born.
The range was launched in 1935 at the Leipzig Spring Fair and the response was phenomenal – these figurines of innocent children were an automatic success. The “M.I. Hummel” trademark was added to each figurine with the approval of Sister Hummel and the convent’s leadership. – This trademark still appears today. Sadly, Sister Hummel contracted Tuberculosis at the age of 37 and passed away in 1946 but she did leave behind extensive works so that Goebel could carry on producing the figurines from her drawings. The Convent of Siessen then decided to appoint an Artistic Board, even today all clay models and painted figures have to be approved. The board consists of a team of specialists that make sure that every figure is created in the correct company style and artists wishes. The Convent of Siessen, sculptors, master painters and Goebel management all ensure that each Hummel figure is to the standard that is required.
Over 70 years later and Hummel figures are still going strong as the demand from Collectors grows. W. Goebel Porzellanfabrik are constantly producing new pieces to add to their range and these figures are available in various sizes. The rarest and most expensive are the Jumbo sized ones, costing £10,899 they measure 86cm and there are only usually one or two pieces kept in stock, the rest are made to order. On average Goebel sell four or five of these a year, one particular model was the “Apple Tree Boy”.
M.I. Hummel figures were the start of W. Goebel Porzellanfabrik’s success and Sister Hummel’s personal motto “I want to bring Joy”, has without any doubt been realised through her work. Together Goebel and the Convent of Siessen. Geobel ensured that the success from the Hummel range has followed through to their recently released collections and I am sure that should Sister Hummel still be around today to witness the phenomenal success that her drawings and the figures have had on a worldwide scale she would believe – that not only had she brought Joy but a whole host of other attributes too.
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The purpose of these pages is to provide information to collectors of Hummel and Goebel figurines and plates.