This section gives you a few short descriptions of different political and/or historical proceedings that are not explained in the manufacturer history texts every time but are part of the basic knowledge needed to understand certain events:
Origin of the 'Made in ...' marking:
The term 'Made in Germany' came into being thanks to the British Parliament which passed the 'Merchandise Act' on August 23rd 1887 in order to protect the British market from German imports. It required that all goods from Germany had to carry an unremovable mark with the wording 'Made in Germany'. Today we of course know that the whole act backfired because what was originally intended as a branding mark finally became a free trademark and the epitome of a seal of quality or warranty for good value. And of course a few years later - especially after the revision of the US McKinley Tariff Act - manufacturers all over the world started to adapt this form of marking. The 'Made in' prefix by the way never was a requirement of the US rules and regulations or the McKinley Tariff Act regardless of what people claim.
McKinley Tariff Act (1): Origin of the 'FOREIGN' marking:
On October 1st 1890 the Congress of the United States passed the so-called 'McKinley Tariff Act', a law that was introduced by the 25th President, William McKinley. This law not only imposed the highest tariffs that the United States had ever placed on imports it also demanded that regardless of country of origin all items imported to the US had to be marked as such, 'FOREIGN'. The act was later revised in two steps and while the first allowed the real country of origin to be used, based on the fact that Great Britain had already forced Germany to use 'Made in Germany' for their goods. The second change introduced the regulation that only standard English terms and characters were legit after the newly-founded state of Czechoslovakia in 1918 had started to use foreign characters (see 'Čechoslovakia' on marks (1918-1920)').
McKinley Tariff Act (2): 'Nippon' marks (September 1st 1891 - 1921):
Japan wanted to comply to the McKinley Tariff Act but somehow had to translate their country name into a form that could be used by Westerners. Many people may think that it would not have been a big deal, however one should hold in mind that for example any US manufacturer would never mark items 'Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika' instead of 'USA' just because they want to export to Germany/Austria and Switzerland. With other words local patriotism and easy international readability had to be taken into mind. The original name for what we know as Japan is a combination of the two characters 日 (ni) which resembles 'day/sun' and 本 (hon) which resembles 'origin/beginning'. Japanese is a complex language largely built on minimal body language, context and pronounciation, thus different meanings for one and the same term/context exist and so 日本 can be read as 'nihon' as well as 'nippon'. The problem here was that the representation form 'nihon' is not really phonetically correct - a drawback of translating Japanese characters into the romanic alphabet - and would result in many mispronounciations whereas the term 'nippon' nearly fits the original pronounciation and was therefore preferred. Next to the following Czechoslovakian example this was another case that was later touched by the McKinley Tariff Act alterations: in the year 1921 the US mandated that 'Nippon' had to be changed into the by then usual Western term 'Japan'.
McKinley Tariff Act (3): 'Čechoslovakia' on marks (1918-1920):
Following the founding of Czechoslovakia in 1918 the new state of course wanted to export goods, marked according to both British and US regulations. A problem arose after they had used an incorrect version for some time; the US authorities in a special addition to the McKinley Tariff Act stated that only English terms and characters were allowed and Czechoslovakia had to change their markings. The reason for this was that the Western languages had no equivalent to the used 'Č' and so the peculiar letter C-Caron (also called C-Hatschek) had to be replaced with the pronounceable equivalent, the known 'Cz'.
Bohemia, German or not?
Lots of sites and books state that former Bohemia was actually German over a long period of time and quite a few manufacturers there were German which is not correct as most of them actually came from Austria. The history of the area shows quite a few changes over the years and that may be the reason for the many misinterpretations even though it actually is very simple when one takes a look at the facts. From 1904 onwards the area was part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire and after the end of WWI in 1918 it became a part of the newly founded state of Czechoslovakia. Many people know that the western parts of former Bohemia were occupied by Germany during WWII (1939-1945) but it should be mentioned that a specific north-western part of former Bohemia was occupied by German troops in a minor conflict that took place between the first and tenth of October 1938, nearly a year before the outbreak of the war. The annexed areas were called the 'Sudetenland' and officially declared part of the German Reich on November 21st 1938. This fact is often missed but explains the use of marks relating to Germany in that area earlier than 1939 which confused some collectors and resulted in many wrong datings. In general the whole area was occupied by Germany until 1945 when it became Czechoslovakia again.
'MADE IN WEST GERMANY' or 'MADE IN G.D.R.':
Following the founding of the two German states in October 1949 the western manufacturers saw themselves confronted with a problem. At that time and under economic/quality aspects the reputation of everything marked 'Made in Germany' was very high, on the other hand it was known that the whole system of production in regions influenced by the Soviets was less than adequate. Believing that the split of the two states was no more than a temporary solution and one should hold open a back door, the manufacturers in the Federal Republic of Germany thought it would be a good idea to use 'Western Germany' as that was near enough to the old 'Germany' but also implied western world orientation and distanced them from the sub-standard Soviet-influenced East German side. The German Democratic Republic countered by starting to use 'Eastern Germany' and the 'name race' started with all its twists and (partially funny) turns. After the fall of the Wall in November 1989 and the official German reunification on October 3rd 1990 all companies nearly instantly used 'Made in Germany' again. The only thing you can be really sure about is that a product marked with any kind of East/West German designator can only have been made sometime between 1950 and 1990. No more, no less.
Against what is commonly claimed by various 'collectors' and 'experts' one should know that some East German companies at first continued to use '(Made in) Germany' even during their time in the German Democratic Republic; some even up until 1972. The interest of some sellers in keeping these facts low is obvious as many people want to sell their items off as been made before 1949 (and hence being more desireable) even if they were made much later. Now as for roughly pre-dating all these items, two guidelines apply:
 A first placement for an item of a single manufacturer can be found by keeping in mind the general mark development over time, for example any given western manufacturer used a 'W.-Germany' mark later than a 'Made in West Germany' mark. Also remember that the prefix 'Made in' as part of the mark was at that time often seen optional so its use can change according to free space on the item, mark design or other preferences. All that can be boiled down to the following short and painless list, evolving over time from left to right:
- (Made in) Western Germany => (Made in) West Germany => (Made in) W.-Germany
- (Made in) Eastern Germany => (Made in) East Germany => (Made in) German Democratic Republic => (Made in) GDR
 Dating items is only possible when one knows the marking procedures of the specific company as each of them had their own internal timeline. For example some factories used 'Western Germany' on some items right up to 1976 while other manufacturers had long dropped that it in favour of 'West Germany' or 'W. Germany'.
'Czechoslovakia' past January 1st 1993:
A fact that confuses people is that although Czechoslovakia split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic on January 1st 1993 the name 'Czechoslovakia' itself was still used in some trademarks for quite some time after the split and some sources even indicate it was used until the end of 1995.
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