This section includes explanations regarding different political and/or historical developments that are not explicitly mentioned on every manufacturer history page which may have been influenced by these. The information on this page should be seen as part of the basic knowledge required by every collector/reseller, regardless of his/her area of interest:
Origin of the 'Made in ...' marking:
The term 'Made in Germany' came into being based on a decision of the British Parliament which passed the Merchandise Act on August 23rd 1887 in order to protect the British market from German imports. This law required that all goods from Germany had to carry an unremovable mark which clearly stated '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. A few years later - especially after the revision of the US McKinley Tariff Act (see below) - manufacturers all over the world started to adapt this form of marking. By the way: the 'Made in' prefix never was a requirement under US import rules and regulations or the McKinley Tariff Act.
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 all items imported to the US, regardless of country of origin, had to be marked as 'FOREIGN'. This act was revised in two main steps: the first revision followed prompt, replacing the 'FOREIGN' with the true country of origin, based on the fact that Great Britain had already forced Germany to use 'Made in Germany' for their goods. The second step included the markings used by Japan and Czechoslovakia, as explained further below.
That aside, hold in mind that markings with 'FOREIGN' were indeed officially dropped, however their use represented a perfectly legal possibility of avoiding a true country mark when the target country had outlawed the corresponding country of origin. People may instantly conclude that this regarded German items created during World War 2, but that was only rarely the case.
Instead of vanishing from sight, the 'FOREIGN' mark was actually used on and off ever since its introduction, with various countries either using it or allowing imports showing such a mark. For example, West German potteries during the early Mid-Century-Modern era actually marked 'Foreign' for export to countries like Hungary or Bulgaria (as Western goods were not taken very well behind the Iron Curtain) while the U.S. accepted 'FOREIGN' marked imports from the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War.
So the mere presence of a 'FOREIGN' mark says absolutely nothing about the age or the intended target market of an item, in fact these items require intensive research as to place them correctly. Don't let yourself be fooled by sellers that claim a certain age (or country of origin) based simply on the presence of this mark.
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. 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' (hence 'Land of the Rising Sun'). Japanese is a complex language largely built on minimal body language, context and pronunciation, thus different meanings for one and the same term/context exist; 日本 therefore can actually be understood 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 Roman alphabet - and would result in many mispronunciations, whereas the term 'nippon' nearly fits the original pronunciation 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' et al (1918-1921):
Following the dire years of World War I, re-establishing international trade was vital for the newly-founded state of Czechoslovakia. This however required that all goods were correctly marked according to both British and US regulations. But nobody in Czechoslovakia had previously thought about specifying the spelling of the state name and so many manufacturers used all kinds of spelling forms (hyphenated or not, with 'v' or 'w', etc.) and sometimes even used the letter 'Č' (the C-caron, also known as C-hatschek) instead of the normal phonetic 'Cz' used in Western Europe and the USA.
Therefore the US authorities in an addition to the McKinley Tariff Act stated that only characters commonly used in the USA were allowed in names; at the same time the board proposed the spelling form 'Czechoslovakia'. The Czechoslovakian government not only accepted but also made sure that manufacturers obliged on very short notice, therefore all versions not spelled exactly 'Czechoslovakia' can be dated between 1918 and 1921.
Bohemia, German or not?
Lots of sources incorrectly state that former Bohemia belonged to Germany over a long period of time, but that is not quite correct. If one takes a look at the history of Bohemia and related Moravia at the time they belonged to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, one can see that those core regions included German-language enclaves (Sudetenland, Deutschböhmen, Sudetenschlesien, etc.) which mainly lived from farming. After the end of WWI in 1918, Bohemia and Moravia (including the German enclaves) became a part of the newly founded state of Czechoslovakia.
Due to the political situation (and diplomatic trickery), the whole situation regarding those areas eventually escalated shortly before mid-1938. Fearing the worst, the British, French and Italian governments on September 30st 1938 (in absence of Czechoslovakian representatives) signed the 'Munich Agreement', a declaration which split the corresponding areas from Czechoslovakia and officially declared them German territory once again. Germany immediately moved troops into the areas (a process that took place between the October 1st until 10th 1938) as it was the perfect opportunity to officially deploy troops nearer to the Polish border.
At that time, many nearly finished items marked 'Czechoslovakia' were altered, replacing the former addition with 'Germany' (or even 'Deutschland', e.g. on products from the factory in Dallwitz). Hence such marked items can be dated between October 1938 (not 1939!) and the end of the war in 1945.
'MADE IN WEST GERMANY' or 'MADE IN G.D.R.':
At the end of World War 2, more than 50 years had passed since the forced introduction of the 'Made in Germany' addition (see above). What once started off as literal 'black mark' had long changed into a term which stood for quality and reliability. But following the founding of the two independent German states in October 1949, many western manufacturers saw themselves confronted with a problem.
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, many manufacturers in the Federal Republic of Germany thought that it would be a good idea to use 'Western Germany' as that was close enough to the old 'Germany' but also implied western world orientation and distanced them from the sub-standard Soviet-influenced East German side.
Manufacturers in the German Democratic Republic countered by starting to use 'Eastern Germany' and the so-called 'name race' started with all its twists and turns until it was finally ended after the fall of the Wall in November 1989 and the official German reunification on October 3rd 1990; all companies which had formerly used West/East identifiers reverted to using 'Made in Germany' again.
There is however far more behind all that, and many collectors and self-proclaimed experts have managed to spread a lot of incorrect information on the matter, especially when it came to presenting their items in a better light. So a lot of the information some people used over and over again is actually completely worthless and only confuses / misguides people not firm in marking matters, therefore we should clarify this in form of short historical facts:
- Some manufacturers did not participate in this whole matter and, regardless of location in either West or East Germany, simply continued to use the generic term 'Germany' for the whole period between 1949 and 1990. Again: those manufacturers *never* used anything else than the generic 'Germany', regardless of location.
- A lot of East German manufacturers - at least those that actually *did* use a country identifier before 1949 - simply continued to use the '(Made in) Germany' identifier, regardless of their location. Most of them decided to do so until the final nationalization period in 1972, the year which also saw the (forced) introduction of country identifiers by manufacturers that until then had not used one at all.
- *Some* East German manufacturers did use some sort of East German origin identifier but evidently (even after 1972) marked 'Made in Germany' on certain export items (under special permission of the East German Government).
Holding the above exceptions in mind, any product marked with any kind of East/West German identifier can actually be dated between 1949 and 1990, however the exact period can only be narrowed down if one knows the specific marking scheme of a given manufacturer.
There was also a certain mark development over time, for example any given western manufacturer used a '(Made in) W.-Germany' mark later than a '(Made in) West Germany' mark. Hence one has also got to know the various evolution stages of the addition itself (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
As said, one always has to check out the specific time line for each manufacturer. Some factories for example used '(Made in) Western Germany' right up to 1976 while other manufacturers had long dropped that it in favour of '(Made in) West Germany' or '(Made in) W. Germany'. Finally, a small number of West German manufacturers and retailers actually used the abbreviation 'B.R.D.' ("Bundesrepublik Deutschland") or 'F.R.G.' ("Federal Republic of Germany") on their items, which was however not commonly accepted as the pronunciation thereof was unfit for everyday use.
'Czechoslovakia' past January 1st 1993:
The former united state of Czechoslovakia split up into the 'Czech Republic' and 'Slovakia' on January 1st 1993. The name 'Czechoslovakia' itself was however still used in some trademarks for quite a while after the split, and many sources indicate that the old state name was used until the end of December 1995.
© 2004-2015 C.S.Marshall, all rights reserved