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More Bosch – and no tosh

November 10, 2011
Robert Bosch

An update from my earlier Bosch post ….there is also some fascinating written material produced for its 125th anniversary. It isn’t that easy to find on Bosch websites but if  you have an interest in the development of the automotive industry or the social and business history of Germany you can view it here. There aren’t many international firms (if any at all)  that have departments of historical communications which publish their own Historical Journal. But these supplements to the Journal are well researched, illustrated and translated. Robert Bosch introduced the eight-hour working day years before Henry Ford but still had a strike in 1913. He called workers “associates” which continues to this day – not unlike the “partners” who form the John Lewis workforce. He was also heavily influenced at Stuttgart Polytechnic by the physician, Gustav Jaeger,  champion of wearing wool against the skin.  Fashionistas may note the now famous brand name got its start (as did Bosch) in London as “Dr Jaeger’s Sanitary Woolen System.”  There’s more on Jaeger’s history showing interesting fashions of yesteryear here. We get a much better picture of what Robert Bosch was like – and a much better likeness (above) than the earlier and rather weird portrait more often used. My wife says he has kind eyes. He created a corporate structure which still means virtually all profit goes back into investing in the firm’s future rather than anonymous shareholders. And it is also still partly a family business – they own 8 per cent of the shares. Bosch was a pan-European liberal. He organised a meeting of French and German World War One veterans in Stuttgart in 1935 to promote peace and understanding. Someone had other ideas. Bosch, summoned to a meeting with Hitler two years earlier which turned into a harangue, concluded: “This individual wants to be a statesman and doesn’t know what justice is.”

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