Four generations, one shared vision – passion for successful joining
145 years ago, on 6 January 1877, the story of our company began in Herdecke, Germany.
A lot has changed over this long period of time. What started out as a national hardware shop has become a global group of companies – with over 3,000 employees in 24 countries. Our product portfolio around joining technology has also become much broader.
However, one thing has always remained the same: our “passion for successful joining”. It is what drives us and inspires us to continuously reinvent ourselves. Day after day. Year after year. Generation after generation.
And since you only turn 145 once, we will be sharing some stories from our company’s history with you throughout the year. Stay tuned!
A screw head in the literal sense, a B for Böllhoff as its body and the logo of the Wilhelm Böllhoff company on its chest – that is the screw banker, an early mascot of our company. In our next story from 145 years of Böllhoff, you will find out why the screw banker led to a small marital quarrel shortly after its creation and only reappeared for our 145th company anniversary in 2022.
As company manager of the second family generation, Josef Böllhoff had to cope with the aftermath of two world wars. Like so many other people, he was then forced to start over again from ruins. His special sense for business and his distinct imagination were two features that helped him in the process.
"As imaginative as my father was, he had the idea to call himself a screw banker one day."
“I was 10 years old when the Second World War ended. In the years that followed, I gradually got to hear more and more things around our company - things that I can still remember today. Like the marital quarrel about the screw banker. My parents didn’t have many quarrels, but that was one. (laughs)
As imaginative as my father was, he had the idea to call himself a screw banker one day. ‘I have a large assortment, I have to change, I have to hand out – I am the screw banker’, he then said. He asked Wilhelm Heiner, an artist friend from Bielefeld, to design the screw banker mascot for him and used it on price lists and brochures. Full of enthusiasm, he then took his idea to my mother - and she was stunned, modest as she was. I can still hear her words: ‘What are people supposed to say when you say something like that about yourself? Screw banker, terrible. How can you dare to call yourself a screw banker? People will think we are crazy and arrogant.’ My father loved my mother very much and her opinion meant a lot to him. So afterwards the brochures quickly disappeared into the archives – and with them the screw banker.”
As a small piece of Böllhoff history, the screw banker has taken its place today, in celebration of our company’s 145th anniversary, alongside two of our best-known fasteners: the RIPP LOCK® self-locking washer and the HELICOIL® Smart thread insert. Welcome back, screw banker!
After its military defeat in World War I and the resulting fall of the German Empire, Germany was up against the wall economically in the early 1920s. To be able to meet the reparation demands, the German government put more and more money into circulation – even if there was no material equivalent in the country. The result: hyperinflation in the fateful year of 1923. In December 1923, 1 US dollar was worth a whole 4.21 trillion marks. Incredibly high prices were the result. An egg, for example, cost a whopping 320 billion marks in Berlin at that time. Only by introducing a new currency, the Rentenmark, could the extreme decline in the value of money finally be slowed down.
What followed these crises was a new German optimism from 1924 onwards. Germany increasingly returned to its inventive spirit and a new economic rise began. Crucial to this rise were the German ships that now sailed the seven seas again. In August 1928, a fast steamer with state-of-the-art features and room for over 2,200 passengers was launched: the Bremen, a prestige project of the German shipyards. For our second company generation led by Josef Böllhoff, this ship was “the major order”. The steamer, which was over 280 metres long, was entirely held together by fasteners from Böllhoff. On her maiden voyage across the Atlantic, the Bremen even won the Blue Ribbon in 1929, making her the fastest passenger ship in the world for some time.
In the late 1920s, the shipping industry was Böllhoff’s most important customer segment – with a share of sales of around 80 to 90 percent. Our company enjoyed a high level of trust from the shipyards at that time, as we were not only able to reliably deliver quality and quantity, but also to meet the delivery deadlines which are very important in shipbuilding. Josef Böllhoff always summed up the great importance of timely delivery with his saying “deadline is deadline”. The essence of this statement: A ship must always be launched on time. Consequently, for a trading company like Böllhoff, the delivery date to the customer was and is everything and must be met at all times. As a constant reminder of that and as additional motivation for his employees, Josef Böllhoff had the saying “deadline is deadline” (Termin ist Termin in German) captured in a painting. This painting still hangs in the entrance to the logistics department at the Böllhoff headquarters in Bielefeld today.
On 6 January 1877, Wilhelm Böllhoff, son of a master tailor from the small Westphalian town of Herdecke, laid the foundation for our group of companies by founding an ironmongery wholesale business. Much like his nails and screws would create connections from now on, this very beginning of our company’s history was also based on a connection. A very special one in fact: a romantic relationship.
It all began even before 1877 – with Anna, a farmer’s daughter from the nearby area of Wittbräucke. Wilhelm Böllhoff, still working as a travelling ironmongery salesman at the time, fell in love with Anna. Her father, however, had a precise idea of what a suitable man for his daughter should be like if he intended to marry her. He should be self-employed and settled. And so in 1877, after 10 years of travelling around as a salesman, Wilhelm Böllhoff set up his own business in Herdecke. One year later, in 1878, he married Anna.
Wilhelm Böllhoff was now self-employed and married, but he was far from being completely settled. He sometimes travelled long distances to his national clientele in the years to come, only with a stagecoach and a few boxes of screws and nails in his luggage. Even as far as Bavaria and Brandenburg. The basis for our current expertise in the global trade of fasteners, it can already be seen here.
145 years of Böllhoff – that means countless successful connections. Our fasteners were used, for example, in the fastest Atlantic steamer of the 1920s. In the lunar module that brought Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the dusty surface of the moon in 1969. And over the decades, of course, also in some iconic cars.
Many successful connections, both large and small, have enabled us to constantly develop as a company. In this video we would like to show you some of the most important milestones of our 145-year company history.