31. January 1733 wolfgang-ernst iii. Zu isenburg-birstein approved the first tobacco factory in germany

What’s the use of nobility, what’s the use of big names if you’re broke?? Thinks Count Wolfgang Ernst III. zu Isenburg-Birstein and thinks about what could be done to become rich after all. Distribute privileges, let others work and skim off the top in an up-and-coming market field such as tobacco! Author: Simon Demmelhuber

31 . January

Monday, 31. January 2022

Author(s): Simon Demmelhuber

Speaker: Johannes Hitzelberger

Illustration: Tobias Kubald

Editor: Susi Weichselbaumer

Haa… haa… hatschi! Ah, that has done well! A bit of tobacco, a hearty sneeze, and the nose is cleared and swept clean. Oh, if only everything would be so simple. But Wolfgang Ernst zu Isenburg-Birstein does not get rid of his worries so easily. The parties, the carriages, castles, horses, the servants and soldiers, all this eats him up. The count needs money, more than his real estate yields.

His Serene Highness is heavily in debt, as are all the small and large lords around him. But save? Impossible! Nobility obliges, also to the befitting splendor development. Flaunting, showing off, showing that you can keep up, that’s what it’s all about! Only like? Where to get the funds? Could perhaps this caprice from France, this manufactory business, which is now très à la mode in Bavaria, Saxony and Prussia? The princes there recently favored the production of coveted luxury goods through privileges and earned heavily from taxes and customs duties.

Where to get?

Such a golden blessing would come in handy for the count. A sovereign sovereign he certainly is, he can also grant freedoms and privileges. But which commercium promote what brings in profit and guilders? This needs to be thoroughly considered. The thing is tricky, the thoughts falter. To loosen his sluggish mind, the count leisurely taps his tabatiere, puts away a solid quantum in both nostrils, pulls up sniffing, polishes neatly and – Mon Dieu, c’est ca! Snuff! Naturally! Young and old, man and woman, all snorting! And by no means a simple forest and meadow herb, but refined with lavender, rose and fruit essences refined nasal gossamer.


Tobacco has been planted in the Palatinate for a long time, but no one in this country has yet thought of refining it for use. So far, only the English, the French and the Spanish understand this, and they guard their recipes like state secrets. Hm, instead of expensive imports to offer domestic products, that would have future, no doubt! All that’s missing is someone to put the business on its feet. The bold entrepreneur is soon found. In Frankfurt, less than two hours’ walk away, Johann Nikolaus Bernard has long been planning to set up a snuff manufactory. The heir to a tobacco business knows the tricks of the trade, has recruited French specialists, and is bursting with energy. But the lords of the council put the brakes on him. A factory? God forbid! There is no place for such fashionable stuff in Frankfurt.

The offer from Isenburg-Birstein came at just the right time: Cheap building land, a monopoly on tobacco production, exemption from customs duties, and the grace to bear the count’s coat of arms – that’s worth every move. So pot and lid come together, and finally His Serene Highness Wolfgang Ernst allowed on 31. January 1733: Foundation of the "Count Isenburg Privileged Snuff Factory to Offenbach on the Main. The first German tobacco factory flourishes right away and continues to thrive to this day. It looks as if Count Wolfgang Ernst zu Isenburg-Birstein had the right instinct.

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