THE HISTORY OF Steinbach
According to German folklore,
steinbach nutcrackers were given as keepsakes to bring good luck to your family
and protect your home. The legend says that a nutcracker represents power and strength
and serves like a trusty watch dog guarding your family from evil spirits and danger.
A fierce protector, the nutcracker bares its teeth to the evil spirits and serves
as the traditional messenger of good luck and goodwill.
“Don’t be afraid, my beard is
long, my head is large, my look is grim but that matters not. I won’t bite you.
In spite of my big mouth and grim appearance, I look with my heart for your happiness.”
• Steinbach Nutcrackers embody the ‘Cycle of Life',
As the seed of a nut falls to the ground, it grows into a strong tree, living over
hundreds of years nourishing the woodcutters and woodcrafters. The legends tell
of a feast celebrated just before harvesting the logs of the Elder trees, where
nuts and fruits were eaten as if to pass on the magic and mystery of this eternal
cycle . . . and so on to the collectors of these exquisite wooden nutcrackers.
• Steinbach Nutcrackers reflect ancestral dining
customs where amusing or unusual nutcrackers were part of the social setting adding
a whimsical conversation piece as guests lingered over the desert course which included
sweetmeats such as pecans and hazelnuts.
• Writers, composers and artists sang and danced
the praises of the legend of the Nutcracker beginning with the novel “The Nutcracker
and the King of Mice,” written sometime between 1776 and 1822, by E.T. Amadeus Hoffman.
This novel became the basis for Tchaikovsky’s magnificent “Nutcracker Suite”, which
debuted as a ballet in St. Petersburg in 1892 and lives on as a holiday tradition
throughout the world.
“If you sit down under one of
these trees you might hear the rush and rustle of the tops, telling you about the
German legends and the history witnessed by these trees,” says Herr Steinbach.
THE STEINBACH NUTCRACKER FAMILY
For most of two centuries the
Steinbach Nutcracker family has been producing fine wood products. Today, Herr Christian
Steinbach heads the family operation carrying on the tradition with his daughter
Karla. Karla Steinbach, who is Vice President is being groomed to become the sixth
generation to head the company, after her father retires. Together they oversee
product development and quality control at the factory now located in Hohenhameln
in the northern region of Germany.
Originally from Austria, the
family dates back to Erwin V. Steinbach, a famous architect and master builder of
the “Muenster” or Dome of Strasbourg in 1284. Through a series of wars, the Steinbach
family was forced to relocate several times. Being Lutheran Protestants around the
time of the Reformation they suffered religious persecution. The family included
architects, builders, merchants, judges, politicians, and military men. The mettle
of the family is evidenced in this quote: “If one does not work hard to earn the
heritage, one will perish in the end or at best hold the stirrups for those who
are on their way up.” That fortitude was rewarded over the centuries.
The family settled around the
Erzgebirge, a mountainous mining area which at one time was. part of East Germany.
This region was rich in gold, silver, tin, cobalt, and uranium, as well as timber
which was needed to support the ceilings of the mines. As the metal supply dwindled,
many families were forced to turn to the trade of wood-working. Wood carvings, used
as souvenirs, gifts and for religious purposes, were popular since the 11th century.
The lathe became readily accepted by the people in this forest area and furthered
the development of the art. Thus a new trade of wood-turning was established in
the 15th and 16th century under the rule of Elector August the Strong of Saxony.
It became so popular that a decree was published permitting wood-carving to only
be performed by native craftsmen and their families.
HOW STEINBACH NUTCRACKERS CAME
Steinbach Nutcrackers have always
been enjoyed for their whimsical expressions. authentic costumes, and enigmatic
charm. However, nutcrackers also possess a rich history that goes back about 300
years. Steinbach Nutcrackers carry with them a sense of tradition as well as an
abundance of stories and legends of the past. Although nutcrackers have been around
forages, they were not always the collectible items as we know them today. In fact,
nutcrackers only became popular in the United States about 50 years ago.
The practice of collecting nutcrackers
in the United States began in the early 1950’s. Many of the GI's who were in Germany
during World War II visited “Kristkrinä!e Marktet”, which were open air fairs or
markets. It was there that they discovered a sturdy and intriguing companion in
the nutcracker. When the soldiers returned home after the war, a new comrade accompanied
them. Strengthened by the nutcracker’s ability to ward off evil from its owners,
the soldiers brought a figure of power and protection to their families and loved
ones. And so, the nutcrackers with their rich heritage had arrived in the United
States, and were here to stay.
When Tchaikovsky’s ballet, The
Nutcracker Suite premiered in St. Petersburg in 1892, the popularity of nutcrackers
spurted tremendously. The ballet became very popular in the United States in the
early 1950’s and ignited the passion for these fascinating creatures. The magic
and mystery of the ballet has intrigued and enchanted audiences year after year.
The strong following of this classic production greatly increased the popularity
of collecting nutcrackers in America.
The role of the Steinbach family
in contributing to the rising popularity of nutcrackers can not be overemphasized.
The first nutcrackers, created mainly in the Erzgebirge, depicted images of kings,
military officers, and other prominent members of the upper classes. Herr Steinbach,
in his own unique way, altered this tradition and raised the nutcrackers to a different
level. The subjects of the nutcrackers were expanded to depict characters from German
folklore and legend. Introducing nutcrackers representing characters from different
areas of the globe was another Steinbach innovation. Herr Steinbach’s vast choice
of subjects and superb quality and craftsmanship helped strengthen the perception
of the nutcracker as a treasured collector’s piece.
The next step in Steinbach’s
quest for uniqueness came with the development of the limited edition nutcracker.
The first limited edition nutcracker piece was King Ludwig II, which was limited
to 3000 pieces. The idea of a limited nutcracker produced an overwhelming response
because it contributed to the collectability of the nutcrackers and greatly increased
When Herr Steinbach crossed
the Atlantic, he visited many collector shows and spoke to both existing collectors
and those who were interested in starting a collection. His animated personality
and sincere interest in each and every collector created instant electricity between
the two. His individual treatment of each nutcracker collector combined with the
superb quality of the pieces, helped create a uniquely collectible product which
has survived the test of time. The concept took hold and has expanded with collectors
clubs, more limited editions and you, the collector who appreciates the beauty,
quality and sense of exciting tradition that accompanies each individual nutcracker.
For most of two centuries the
Steinbach family has been producing fine wood products. Today, Herr Christian Steinbach
heads the family operation carrying on the tradition with his daughter Karla.
Karla Steinbach, who is Vice President, is being groomed to become the sixth generation
to head the company after her father retires. Together they oversee product development
and quality control at the factory now located in Hohenhameln in the northern region
The mettle of the family is evidenced in the quote: "If one does not work hard
to earn the heritage, one will perish in the end or at best hold the stirrups for
those who are on their way up." That fortitude was rewarded over the centuries.
"To produce one nutcracker," explains Herr Steinbach, "can involve up to 130 separate
procedures. At one time the curing and natural drying to the wood could take up
to 3-4 years depending upon the piece."