Surrogates have a long history. Among the most well-known are the various types of ersatz coffee. In the course of industrialisation the number and variety of surrogates increased. When the First World War started, they took on a new importance for both private consumers and the war economy.
Among the most well-known surrogates is ersatz coffee. Since the eighteenth century coffee had become increasingly popular. In the middle class mentality it was a sign of sobriety and reason. It helped poor people to stay awake and concentrated during the long hours of work. Real coffee was expensive, however, and it was therefore a popular black market item. Ersatz varieties were also common. They were made of chicory roots, beechnuts, grape pips and other items. The powder variety offered scope for even more imaginative additives and substitutes. Large production facilities were established in the early nineteenth century to make ersatz coffee. Heinrich Franck in Ludwigsburg had a factory making chicory coffee. In 1879 the company opened a second factory in Linz and soon won a major share of the Austrian market.
Some regions of the Habsburg monarchy had large moors with extensive peat deposits. Dried peat was a traditional fuel in households and was also used in iron, glass and salt works. From the mid-nineteenth century machines were built for the mass extraction of peat, and its properties were also studied with a view to using it for other purposes. In Austria Karl Zschörner specialised in the manufacture and utilisation of peat products for animal beds, garden peat, blankets, carpets, bandages and paper. He had a peat extraction facility and factory in Admont, Styria and was awarded patents in several countries between 1897 and 1899 for his discoveries. During this time he attended exhibitions in Vienna and published a detailed catalogue. In it he presented his products and also included extensive newspaper cuttings and recommendations from landowners who hoped that their hitherto unused moors could be exploited financially.
With the growth of industrialisation and trade there was a greater demand for packaging material for the shipping of raw materials and finished products. Barrels were used for this purpose along with bags made of linen or hemp. Jute from India became increasingly important in this regard. In 1870 the Erste österreichische Jute-Spinnerei und -Weberei [First Austrian Jute Spinning and Weaving Mill] opened in the Simmering district of Vienna. As the domestic cultivation of fibre plants decreased, the dependence on imported jute grew. In 1913 the company thus began to make Textilit, a patented fabric made of textile fibres and paper. When jute supplies dried up after the outbreak of war, blended fabrics became increasingly important.
Translation: Nick Somers
Hanf-, Jute- und Textilit-Industrie A.G. in Wien (Hrsg.): 60 Jahre österreichischer Jute-Industrie, Wien 1929
Torf-Industrie Karl A. Zschörner & Comp.: Torf-Mannschaftsdecken, Torf-Pferdedecken, Torfteppiche etc. etc. Torfpapier, Torf-Packpapier, Torf-Pappendeckel, Torfstreu, Torfmull, Wien 1899
Weitensfelder, Hubert: Technikgeschichte. Eine Annäherung, Wien 2013
- Chicory, peat & Textilit: surrogates before the war
- The age of iron
- Bells for bullets: metal collection
- Fragile clothing: textiles and paper fabrics
- Well shod? Tanning agents and leather
- Rubber goods: elastic and essential
- From far and near: resins and resin products
- The 1918 surrogate exhibition in the Prater