100 YEARS OF LOWA - OUR HISTORY
ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WERE THREE BROTHERS
Not a fairy tale, but a true story: Lorenz, Hans and Adolf Wagner lived more than a hundred years ago in the Bavarian community of Jetzendorf an der Ilm. They learned the shoemaking trade from their father and then wrote alpine shoe history: as the founders of the LOWA, Hanwag and Hochland brands.
START WITH MUSIC
The father of the three Wagner brothers, Johann, was a shoemaker and musician. He played in the first Jetzendorf music band, founded by his brother Josef Wagner in 1850. Johann's sons Lorenz, Hans and Adolf were also musical and soon joined the party. And so the Wagnerian chapel played - depending on the occasion, swinging folk music or solemn church music. After his uncle and cousin, Lorenz Wagner finally took over the direction of the ensemble.
WITHIN A RADIUS OF 10 KILOMETERS
The need for shoes was great in the 1920s because they were the most important means of transportation. People in rural and urban areas were primarily on the move on "Schuster's pony". Lorenz' brothers settled down as self-employed shoemakers. Hans Wagner went to Vierkirchen, his brother Adolf to Weichs, both places are about 10 kilometers from Jetzendorf. The band broke up and the story of the three shoe brands began.
Today's Hanwag brand was founded in 1921. Hans Wagner supplied shoes for a Munich company and soon produced his own Bund and Haferl shoes. He constantly expanded his business and from 1952 marketed his shoes under the Hanwag name. The factory remained family-owned for the first 83 years, the company founder was succeeded by his nephew Josef Wagner, so that Hanwag only had two company bosses at this time. The company has belonged to Fenix Outdoor AB since 2004. The "brother company" is still connected to LOWA in friendly competition today.
Adolf Wagner, the youngest of the three brothers, married in Weichs in 1923, took over the shoe repair workshop there and developed it into a shoe factory with 30 employees in ten years. Under the abbreviation "AW" his mountain and ski boots were very successful. Like his brothers, he produced mountaineering boots during the war. In the post-war period, the new beginning succeeded under the brand name Hochland. Daughter Emma and her husband took over the business in 1955, which was known around the world in the 1950s and 1960s. In the mid-1970s, the shoe factory was leased to the Romika company, which produced high-quality hiking shoes there. However, the pressure of competition was too great and in 1981 the factory had to close for good.
THE "ILMTALER SPORTSCHUHFABRIK"
The parallels to the stories of his brothers cannot be overlooked: Lorenz Wagner, born in 1893, took over his parents' estate in Jetzendorf in 1922 as the eldest son. This included some land and his father Johann's cobbler's shop. Lorenz had big plans: together with his wife Therese, he wanted to expand the "small-scale cobbler's workshop" into a real "company". So he bought his first machines and founded his own company in 1923, which was not called LOWA at the time. He probably just ran it under his name at first, but in the 1930s the company appeared in documents as "Ilmtaler Sportschuhfabrik". Success followed: in 1925 Lorenz Wagner employed two male workers over the age of 16, by 1930 there were already seven employees – six men and one woman. The space became too small. The first factory building was built, 15 by 6 meters in size.
1930 The space is getting tight and so the first small factory building is built. In February of this year, the later son-in-law and successor Josef Lederer started as an apprentice in the shoe factory.
1933 In January 1933, the National Socialists came to power. This begins the persecution of political opponents and the bringing into line of the entire "national community". Lorenz Wagner joins the NSDAP. In April 1933 he was elected mayor of Jetzendorf. In his "Ilmtaler Sportschuhfabrik" he employs 17 men and women.
1934 From 1934, the shoe and leather industry throughout Germany was centrally controlled and allocated quotas. Shoe manufacturers like Lorenz Wagner (and his brothers) were given preferential treatment in the National Socialist economic policy, which was based on self-sufficiency and rearmament, because they produced the necessary work shoes and boots.
1936 The factory grows, the machines are powered by a 13 hp electric motor. In February 1936 the fourth Olympic Winter Games took place in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. LOWA develops leather ski boots for this purpose, which are named after the Kreuzeck mountain near Garmisch. Like the Berlin Summer Games in the same year, the Winter Games are a great propaganda success for the Nazi regime.
1937 Lorenz Wagner resigns as mayor. In an official letter to the Pfaffenhofen district office, he gave his financial situation as the reason for his resignation. After 1945, Lorenz Wagner explains in his denazification proceedings that another reason was a "difference with the district leader Limmer at the time".
1939 In September 1939 the Second World War begins. From now on, the shoe factory produces mountain and ski boots for the mountain troops of the Wehrmacht.
1942 Lorenz Wagner is again appointed mayor of Jetzendorf. He remains in office until 1945.
1944 The Nazi leadership uses forced laborers in all areas of the economy. The shoe factory also requests foreign workers in the final years of the war and is assigned up to 30 French prisoners of war from the Moosburg main camp. Hardly anything is known about the working conditions in the shoe factory. The only more detailed story suggests a positive relationship between employers and prisoners of war: After the surrender in 1945, the French interceded with the invading Americans for the Jetzendorfers.
1946 In the US military government's denazification process, he states that he joined the NSDAP "in order to keep [his] business [...] alive." These subsequent apologies should be read with reservations, as they are intended to absolve Lorenz Wagner of responsibility and guilt. However, the municipality's logbooks from this period give no indication of the mayor's National Socialist activities. Lorenz Wagner is divided into group 4 of the “followers” (1st main culprit, 2nd accused, 3rd less guilty, 4th follower, 5th exonerated) and sentenced to 1,000 RM in fines.
1948 In the period after the war, operations and offerings are expanded. During this time, the new name of the shoe factory was created: LO(renz) WA(gner).
"As the eldest son of our family, I took over the family estate in 1922, which included a country shoe shop in addition to a few day jobs. It was understandable that I aimed to create a business out of the confines of a small farm shoemaker's workshop, no matter how daring this plan seemed to many in our area."
— Lorenz Wagner | LOWA