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Now & Then

Development continues – 1873-1945

Bringing to market the dressings for wound treatment was a joint effort between the physician Sir Joseph Lister and the PAUL HARTMANN company. The new products were a real sensation: thanks to them, patient mortality fell rapidly. Hartmann focused on marketing and expansion – part two of the company's history, 1873-1945.

Historical portrait of Sir Joseph Lister
Sir Joseph Lister
Everybody who came across this absorbent and hygienic dressing was thrilled, from patients to physicians to hospital nurses. Word spread quickly about the PAUL HARTMANN company in the Swabian town of Heidenheim mass-producing such a helpful means for wound care. As early as 1873, the first year of production, a major order arrived from Leipzig: the St. Jacob's hospital there ordered 400 pounds of the dressing. But Paul Hartmann and his sons had no desire to rest on their laurels. They tinkered, experimented, and never tired of exchanging ideas with specialists.

British physician Sir Joseph Lister was the first to treat wounds with dressings soaked in carbolic acid, which achieved a germicidal effect. As a result, wounds could heal quickly and without complications. The physician reported on his findings in a series of articles for the scientific journal "The Lancet", which enthused Paul Hartmann, who then wrote to Lister expressing his willingness to mass-produce the dressing material. A lively exchange of correspondence developed between the two.

Lister and Hartmann – collaborators who never met

Historical picture of HARTMANN’s production sites
Lister gave precise instructions on points to be considered in the production of the dressing he had developed. Production of his dressing began in 1874 and it soon became another best-seller for HARTMANN. Another Lister invention was also produced in Heidenheim, from 1874: catgut. Surgeons use this fibrous material disinfected with carbolic acid to suture wounds – catgut thus replaced silk and plain thread, which had proven to be inflammatory in many cases. The extraordinary thing about all this was that Lister and Hartmann never met in person; they communicated solely by mail. That seems unbelievable today, 200 years later.

In 1875, the PAUL HARTMANN company began industrial production of absorbent cotton wool, gauze and jute impregnated with carbolic acid. These products were a huge boon to the general populace – thanks to them, patient mortality once again fell rapidly. That was a fact deserving of publicity, so the company management decided to focus on advertising at an early stage. Posters painted in Heidenheim were sent out and stuck to advertising pillars. They featured a company logo consisting of a red cross on a white background, which was registered as a trademark in 1883.

First foreign factory in Pavia

Historical portrait of Paul Hartmann Snr
Paul Hartmann Snr.

However, it was confusingly similar to the Red Cross emblem, so in 1906 the HARTMANN logo was changed to a white cross on a red background. Long before 1906 – actually in 1876 – the company had exhibited for the first time at shows in Philadelphia and Brussels, winning an award for its wound products both times. Another prize followed in 1883: at the General German Exhibition for Hygiene and Rescue, Empress Augusta presented the HARTMANN company with the gold medal. Over the next few years, the Hartmann family decided to establish production facilities abroad as well. The first foreign factory was set up in 1882 in Pavia, Italy, followed by additional branches and factories in the period until 1910, for example in Paris, London, New York, Prague, Rome, Seville and Innsbruck.

Meanwhile, the 1880s saw a handover between family generations: Paul Hartmann Snr. died in 1884 and Paul Hartmann Jnr. in 1899. Walter Hartmann, the son of Paul Hartmann Jnr., took over the running of the business. The new head of the company systematically continued its expansion strategy. To obtain capital, in 1912 the company was converted into a family-owned corporation with a four-member Management Board made up entirely of family members. Despite upheavals, business continued as usual during the First World War (1914-1918). However, after 1918 the lost foreign business had to be rebuilt.

Meanwhile, the HARTMANN range continued to expand. In addition to existing products, the manufacture of special warming plasters began in 1919. They were joined in later years by painless burn dressings. For a long time the slogan on posters and packaging read: "HARTMANN helps healing". Another innovation in the 1930s was a burn compress impregnated with Branolin ointment – it is still in the range today as "Branolind". The Second World War (1939-1945) was a devastating setback for the company: all its foreign plants and subsidiaries were lost.