100 years ago, Weggis opened the first Strandbad, a lido or outdoor swimming area with a beach for sunbathing, with no segregation of the sexes. It gave the local tourist trade a boost, but not everyone was happy about it!
On 9 August 1924, the church at Innerthal was blown up. Then the floodwaters came. The reason for this was the growing demand for electricity in Switzerland and, as a result, the construction of a reservoir.
With the advent of printing, from the late 15th century onwards printed news reports could be produced and circulated for the masses. In many cases, these reports were composed in the style of today’s tabloid media.
In 1940, General Guisan stood on the battlefield and called for resistance. Meanwhile, French internees wanted to sing the Marseillaise. Yet again, women were responsible for their welfare. ‘Allons les femmes de la patrie.’
On 2 July 1900, the world watched spellbound as events unfolded at Lake Constance. At 8 p.m., Ferdinand Zeppelin’s first airship floated into the sky. Despite a few minor issues, the machine amazed people across the globe.
The 1920s were the decade of aviation. Air shows expressed visions of hope and expansion. But because of one fatal accident, aviation in Switzerland took a different direction, moving away from spectacle towards civil aviation. This change of direction happened exactly 100 years ago.
In the 19th century some Swiss villages provided sponsorship to enable poorer members of their community to emigrate, to stave off financial ruin for the village. An example from the Canton of Aargau shows that this emigration wasn’t always entirely voluntary.
From today’s perspective, it seems unthinkable that nuns would rebel, put up violent resistance and ignore ecclesiastical regulations. But during the reform efforts in the 15th century, this was not an unusual occurrence.
In the history of professional photography, there are fewer well-known female photographers than male ones. There have, of course, been more male photographers overall, but this has also been due in part to social convention.
The great names in global history weren’t the only ones who dreamed of flying. Even in the Zürcher Unterland, people were designing and building. Lack of money and scarce resources gave rise to some exceedingly creative aircraft.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the electrification of the SBB was a hugely important step for the fledgling electricity sector. However, the issue of what type of energy should be used was a source of tension.
Two German painters, contemporaries, reacted to the ‘age of catastrophe’ of 1914-1945 in very different ways. One painted a harsh and objective depiction of the world he saw. The other persisted in a rural idyll. Both approaches are political.
The Exercice de l’Arquebuse was a Geneva society which, until 1782, held a festival of marksmanship (Schützenfest) each year, which culminated in the crowning of a ‘king’. This king then ruled temporarily as monarch.
For a long time, we were very reluctant in our part of the world to accept the Hindu-Arabic numeral system. Even the mathematician Fibonacci had trouble convincing people to change their attitude. But the economic benefits were so great that all resistance was abandoned.
Augsburg: a descendant of a rural weaver became Europe’s most prominent merchant, mining entrepreneur and banker, despite the Bible’s prohibition of usury. A biography sheds light on an era of history – and vice versa.
The CX-52 is one of the first cipher machines produced in Switzerland by the company Crypto AG. It is a much sought-after collector’s item and symbolises the greatest espionage scandal since World War II.
While the 16th and 17th-century ‘fear of the Turks’ is still present in the collective consciousness of Central Europe, very few people are aware that there are also numerous examples of a lively cultural exchange during the same period. Right in the thick of it was a Swiss man, Johann Rudolf Schmid von Schwarzenhorn, born in 1590 in Stein am Rhein.
Soie ou saucisson – in the traditional Lyonnaise families, you belonged to either the silk camp or the sausage camp. Both have left their mark on the city’s economic development. Visitors to the Musée des tissus in Lyon can now discover what links the silk camp with the renowned fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.
Sirens wailing!? A worried glance at the clock. 1:30 p.m. precisely. Aha – siren test! Switzerland’s annual siren test takes place on the first Wednesday in February. But how long have we had sirens in Switzerland anyway, and what’s the history of this hair-raising means of communication?
In the early days of the computer, there were games that were based entirely on text. Although they were soon replaced by graphics-based games, this genre is central to understanding the history of the computer, and the games still have their fans today.
Eating dots with Pac-Man, rescuing the princess with Mario and Luigi, or wiping out your opponents in Fortnite: over about three generations now, video games have shaped the childhood of millions of people. A look back at 50 years of gaming history.
It seems the left and right shores of Lake Zurich are separated by more than just a lake: they’re known in the local vernacular as the ‘Pfnüselküste’ and the ‘Goldküste’. But no matter how dissimilar the lakeshores may be, there is agreement on one point: the unifying element is the Lake Zurich ferries.
In an age when bridges were still a rare sight in Switzerland, ferries carried not only goods, animals and people to the opposite shore, but even entire railway carriages. A glimpse into a little-known chapter of transport history.
There was a time before mobile phones. A time when press photographers were the eyes of an entire nation. Many of the images they captured are now forgotten, such as this photo reportage on the dairy industry in Bulle.
Our beady-eyed Museum owl, Hibou Pèlerin, really has no time at all for flight shaming. But at this time of year, her desire for travel and adventure does slow down a bit. So, she took a little surfing trip into the realm of online exhibitions.
On 3 December 1959, PTT replaced Switzerland’s last manual telephone exchange with a fully automated switching system. This major feat of engineering also signalled the end of the switchboard girl, or ‘Fräulein vom Amt’, as the telephone operators were known.
There was a time before mobile phones, a time when press photographers were the eyes of an entire nation. Many of the images they captured are now forgotten. For example, Federal Councillor Rudolf Minger’s appearance at Bern’s Reithalle riding arena in November 1940.
From 1914, the Schweizerische Käseunion (SKU, the Swiss Cheese Union) ensured people at home and abroad were kept supplied with Swiss cheese. For that purpose, the Cheese Union monitored both production and prices.
Until the Second World War, fondue was unheard of in most areas of Switzerland. The cheese speciality only became the ‘national dish’ as the result of a marketing campaign run by the Schweizerische Käseunion (Swiss Cheese Union).
African fashion design is flourishing, and has been making waves on the world’s catwalks in recent years. ‘Connecting Afro Futures – Fashion x Hair x Design’ at Berlin’s Museum of Decorative Arts, the Kunstgewerbemuseum, provides current insights and examines the background to this upswing.
Even today, Switzerland’s ‘militia’ system of citizen legislature (Milizsystem) is central to the country’s system of government. But what does the term ‘militia’ actually mean? And how did this system come about?
Up until slavery was finally abolished in the 19th century, European traders carried off millions of people from Africa to the New World. Swiss families and companies also profited from the transatlantic slave trade.
From 1834 onwards, missionaries from Basel headed to India in their droves to convert the indigenous population to Christianity. The Basel Mission not only founded schools and hospitals in India, but also set up weaving mills and brickworks where the missionaries employed their Indian converts.
What became of the Gallic tribes who continued to live in the territory of what is now Switzerland after the Roman conquest? Thanks to Roman inscriptions, we’re able to partly reconstruct the family tree of the Gallic Camilli family, who lived in Avenches around 2,000 years ago.
In the late 19th century, La Chaux-de-Fonds was a popular destination for Jewish immigrants. This also benefited the watchmaking industry and the urban landscape, which gained the country’s largest synagogue.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the city of Zurich attracted scores of Jewish families. They brought their culture with them to their new homeland, also building synagogues. Like the one on Freigutstrasse, for example.
Football is more than just a sport. Football is culture, entertainment and even politics. As, for example, when Uli the Tenant played for Grasshopper Club Zurich. Or when carrots were grown in FC Baden’s stadium.
These days, the refrigerator is as much a part of our lives as running water or toothpaste. But that hasn’t always been the case. In earlier times, blocks of ice or cold water were used to keep food chilled.
490 years ago, on 26 June 1529, the First Peace of Kappel was agreed. Catholics and Protestants laid down their arms at the last minute and ate soup together. But the peace didn’t last long. Two years later, the parties were facing off against each other yet again.
At the end of the 19th century, the world was gripped by ‘railway fever’. Swiss expertise was in high demand. Jakob Müller left Lucerne to move to present-day Turkey, where he eventually became the director of the Orient Express.
On 1 April 1944, Schaffhausen was mistakenly bombed. The municipal museum lost more than 80 paintings. Then, artworks to match the scale of the losses started arriving from all over Switzerland. Even now, this level of cultural donation is testament to the huge solidarity compatriots felt for the stricken city.
The national exhibition of 1939 was not only a centre for the spiritual defence of the nation – it was also a hugely successful exhibition. With over 10 million visitors, it was extremely popular as well.
The Lake Constance and Rhine poster produced by Orell Füssli in 1897 shows the whole of Lake Constance as far as the Rhine Falls, with the snow-covered Alps in the background. Depicting a south-facing perspective, to this day it has defined the tourist view of Lake Constance.
Switzerland was not always a prosperous country. Up until 150 years ago, many set off for distant lands. The emigrants took a piece of their homeland with them and founded towns such as Zurichtal, Berne and Nova Friburgo.
Swiss cuisine doesn’t rank among the world’s elite. But the gadgets that make a cook’s life easier are truly a cut above. From the vegetable peeler to the garlic press, all these inventions come from Switzerland.
His, more than any other, was the hand that shaped Switzerland’s image in the 19th century: Zurich-born artist, watercolourist and art publisher Rudolf Dikenmann. His prints produced using the aquatint technique were churned out in their thousands: for travellers, collectors and members of the public.
In 1720, not long after its publication, the first German translation of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe came out. Zurich academic Johann Jakob Bodmer recommended it to the ladies of Zurich for reading. In 1818, a ‘Little Robinson for the entertainment of young persons’ was published in Zurich.
Over 300 years ago, Daniel Defoe published Robinson Crusoe, the most successful adventure novel in literary history: the story of the shipwreck survivor stranded on a remote island inspired scores of other ‘robinsonades’.
His idiosyncratic aesthetic has made film director Wes Anderson famous. Now, working with Juma Malouf, he has set up an exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. The result: a contemporary cabinet of curiosities.
It’s quite rare for a lawyer to invent a soft drink. And the fact that he used a by-product to do so is almost impossible. But that’s exactly what happened. The result was Switzerland’s national drink, Rivella.
After the Second World War, young survivors of Nazi concentration camps were brought to Switzerland to recover. The Burg Zug Museum is exhibiting drawings by the so-called “Buchenwald children” for the very first time.
What demon had taken hold of Sigmar Polke when he created his ‘Schimpftuch’ in 1968? And what statement does Tinguely’s beer bottle-smashing machine make? We don’t know. What is beyond doubt, though, is that these artworks truly defined a style.
After more than four years of violent conflict, the First World War came to an end on 11 November 1918. Social tensions in Switzerland had intensified drastically and culminated the next day in the general strike.
The outbreak of World War I split the Swiss Peace Society between the German-speaking and the Romandy, or French-speaking, sections. The conflict in which these two linguistic regions became embroiled, referred to as the ‘divide’, presented Switzerland with a crucial internal test.
From 1913 to 1991, the present-day home of the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra and lofty Prime Tower was a major centre for the production of gears, pumps and machine tools. And from 1907 to 1910 was the birthplace of a few dozen SAFIR brand automobiles.
In 1937, chemist Max Morgenthaler invented the Nescafé we still know today. His invention made it possible to preserve coffee, a feat that had never been achieved before. In some cases, the raw material even ended up in locomotive boilers.
Writing first appeared on the territory of modern-day Switzerland 2,500 years ago, south of the Alps. Some of Europe’s oldest evidence of writing in a Celtic language has been found in Ticino and the Val Mesolcina.
Ernst Kreidolf’s Art Nouveau books, in which he brings flowers and insects to life, are among the oldest Swiss picture books. His book “Flower Fairy Tales” was published in 1898. Up until then, illustrated books for younger Swiss children were very rare.
1968 marked a turning point in the history of Swiss football. It was the year the sport finally became accessible to everyone: on 28 February, with the establishment of ‘Damen-Fussball-Club Zürich’ (DFCZ), Switzerland’s first women’s football club was founded.
Without servants, most of them female, the extravagant lifestyle of a well-to-do family in centuries past would have been unthinkable. A glimpse behind the brilliantly polished façade of a grand household, with a focus on Jegenstorf Castle near Bern.
The diplomatic starting point is surprisingly complex and requires explanation: A Russian general coming from Italy, with the support of Austria, enters into battle against France in what is now Switzerland.
The sun and lettering in the design of the resort town of St. Moritz is the oldest still-used tourism trademark in the world. The symbol and logo were created in 1932 by Zurich graphic designer Walter Herdeg.
The Czechs have Jan Hus, the French have Joan of Arc, the Greeks have Alexander the Great: each country tells stories about its own past. Andreas Spillmann, Director of the Swiss National Museum, on a very humanistic way to create a national identity.
Walter Mittelholzer is still remembered as a pilot, aerial photographer and founder of Swissair. Mittelholzer himself worked hard to create this image, not least through the clever marketing of aerial photos of his homeland and images of foreign exotica.
Today it is just a memory, but from the 1930s to the 1950s the Fip-Fop Club sparked a small revolution: Thanks to its mobile cinemas, children under 15 years of age were able to visit film screenings in their municipalities.
Globi starts out as an advertising character. In the midst of the economic crisis of the 1930s, he’s intended to boost morale. Children quickly take the jaunty bird into their hearts and set up their own Globi clubs.
After the National Museum opened over 120 years ago it quickly began drawing large numbers of visitors. A tour of the National Museum at the turn of the 20th must have been an impressive but, at the same time, taxing experience.
In the afternoon of 25 June 1898, the three-day festivities marking the opening of Switzerland’s National Museum culminated in a lavish parade through downtown Zurich. The individual cantons presented themselves on the theme “Local Swiss costumes in portraits of traditional life”.
Katharina von Wattenwyl, from Bern, made a name for herself at the end of the 17th century. The price she paid for becoming embroiled in spying for the French court was imprisonment, torture and exile. People are still fascinated to this day by the life and fate of this extraordinary woman.
Even today Henry Dunant is revered as the father of the Red Cross. People happily forget the fact that the man from Geneva spent many years living in poverty and ignored by society – and that Dunant actually pursued colonial objectives.
In 1947, watch brand VULCAIN launched the world’s first wristwatch with built-in alarm that could be mass-produced. The “Cricket” became a symbol of the post-war period and has gone down in watchmaking history as the “President’s Watch”.
The success story of Schweppes began more than 200 years ago in Switzerland. In 1972, Reinhart Morscher broke new ground with his advertising graphics for this exclusive British beverage. The graphic artist born on 11 February 1938 would have turned 80 yesterday.
Spanish soup was once the ultimate in Sunday meals. This stew was cooked and served in bronze tureens. The dish and its tureen have disappeared from our culinary consciousness. Only a few robust museum pieces and the foreign word potpourri remain.
In 1978, PTT launched the National Car Telephone, or Natel for short, heralding the start of mobile telephony’s meteoric rise. By the turn of the millennium, the Natel had gone from being a status symbol in Switzerland to an everyday object which everyone takes for granted.
Food and drink played a central role in the life and work of the painter, commercial artist, “Nebelspalter” magazine caricaturist, book artist and legendary artists’ masked balls decorator Willi Rieser.
The works of the Lucerne graphic designer Paul Brühwiler were virtually omnipresent on Zurich’s cultural billboards for almost 20 years, achieving cult status. Even in the office of the director of the Film Podium they were not safe from thieves.
Donald Brun was born in Basel on 30/10/1909, exactly 108 years ago today. Since Brun completed his apprenticeship as an advertising illustrator in 1930, the techniques and tools have changed. Yet his posters are still understood today and some humour is timeless.
In Switzerland, government is a team effort, not a one-man-show. Political power is distributed among numerous authorities and many different people, and as a result, Swiss governments do not have just one head of state, but several–seven as a rule.
The iron helmet in the collection at the Swiss National Museum is said to have once protected the head of Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531) as he lay dying. Though there is no evidence of the actual origin of this Catholic trophy.
Swiss-German playing cards with the suits Schellen (Bells), Schilten (Shields), Eicheln (Acorns) and Rosen (Roses) have been around for more than half a millennium. Though they have only been used for the game Jass for the last 200 years or so.
The exhibition at the Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg can certainly be seen as a contribution to the anniversary of the Reformation. But it also addresses issues that go far beyond the portrait of an era.
A drawing found in a junk shop has turned out to be a document of great historical value. New discoveries have allowed the mystery of the St. Gallen Globe to be solved. A detective story from times past.
Sponsor boards are omnipresent at sporting, cultural and musical events these days. Even Einsiedeln Abbey received sponsorship. In return its sponsors found themselves in a manuscript known as the “Register of Benefactors”.
In autumn 1944, partisan groups liberated a sizeable territory around Domodossola from the Nazis and founded their own republic. But the resistance fighters were at odds with one another and after just over a month the dream of an independent state came to an end. The story of a tragedy on the border with Switzerland.
On 6 September 1839, thousands of farmers from the Zurich Oberland, armed with morning stars, halberds, pitchforks and cudgels, advanced on the cantonal capital city to topple the government. It was one of the bloody climaxes of the conflict between liberals and conservatives in the wild Switzerland of the 1840s.
Four hundred years ago, on 23 August 1617 to be precise, the first modern one-way street was established in London. An occasion for the philosopher Barbara Bleisch to muse on the sense and nonsense of dos and don’ts in modern society.
For centuries, counterfeiters worked painstakingly with skill and craft to copy coins. These days, they just tend to use a colour printer. The Federal Office of Police (fedpol) reports on the less glamorous world of money counterfeiting today.
First part of the series on counterfeit money: Counterfeiters have been around for as long as money itself. Even back in the 7th century BC people tried to reproduce official coins. But criminal intentions are not always behind this.
Switzerland has always been a haven for innovation and entrepreneurship. Much of its economic success is owed to the initiative of immigrants like Charles Brown and Walter Boveri of Brown, Boveri & Co.
In May, the Swiss National Bank launched the new CHF 20 note. Anyone expecting to see William Tell or the Rütli Oath on it will be disappointed. The main element of the new note is light. Actually, the Rütli Oath has already featured on a banknote – albeit an American one.
Most years, Western and Eastern Christianity celebrate Easter on different weekends. In Russia the decoration of Easter eggs looks back on a long tradition in which the luxurious Fabergé eggs stand out as a highlight.
Political refugees were not the only people to undertake the long journey from Russia to Switzerland. Also aristocratic tourists, women seeking higher education as well as escaped soldiers sought protection here.