Hess History research, observations and commentary

If you love German tin toys and collecting, you probably also enjoy reading about the history of the early Nuremberg tin toy makers. Please read and enjoy the following research, observations and commentary by Grant Fehr who has graciously granted permission for his work to be viewed here. Obviously a painstaking, passionate work from original German documents, it makes for fascinating reading for the tin toy enthusiast. In addition, Grant reveals clues about the close relationship between the early toymakers, especially Issmayer. Enjoy!

All documents copyright 2014 by Grant Fehr

Matthäus Hess Chronology
A note on sources:

SN = "Stadtarchiv Nürnberg" -- the City Archives of Nürnberg
BA = "Bavarica" -- an on-line service of the Bayerische Landesbibliothek, the Bavarian State Library

Other sources (usually from the above):

"Adressbuchen" -- These were city directories - - really "business directories".  Other than officials and certain specialized parties such as parish priests ("government officials" themselves of a sort), only people engaged publicly in some form of commerce were listed.   These books were privately and sporadically printed, and the earliest I have found for Nürnberg is for 1835.  It should be noted that their information may be a little dated due to the time for collecting, typesetting and printing it, as well as due to the vintage of any of their data sources such as City government records.

Verzeichnisse, Katalogen, etc.- These were usually directories of exhibitions.  The data may also be dated relative to the publication date.

Blatter (literally, "sheets") - Newspapers which do not seem to have concerned themselves much with the activities of the working classes.

A note about geography:

The information found in these sources relies heavily on how old Nürnberg (within the walls) was administratively organized.  By tradition there are still of course two principal divisions based on original parish names.  North of the river Pegnitz which divides the city is the Sebalder and south is the Lorenzer.  Within them each house (perhaps more properly each distinct interior area with a door on a public street) had a Hausnummer.  These were assigned in sequence as the city grew, up one street and down the next without regard to any street names or numbers.  The numbers were prefixed with either an "S." or an "L." to signify which side of the river, followed by four digits (and rarely an “a” or “b” suffix).  Often a street name and even a street number were added to a geographical description (sometimes more than one per "house").  But street names were a little fluid.  For identification purposes the only reliable datum was the Hausnummer.

Matthäus Hess (also Matthias, etc.)

1799  - Year of Matthäus Hess' birth, in Nürnberg.  This is incidental data mentioned in some official record of his journeyman's status, not in an announcement of birth.  Source: SN - C7/II 2777 - Niederlassungsakten ("office records", probably of City officials).

1803 - Matthäus Heß, Nagelschmiedmeister ("master nail smith") is rounded up by the Polizeidepartment of Nürnberg, along with nine others, for interrogation about a "forbidden lottery game".  One of the others, Johann Wilhelm Hess, is also a Nagelschmiedmeister .  The rest are a master tailor, a coppersmith, a common laborer, widows of a master turner and a master jeweler, a woman described as ledig ("single" or "free") and two other women who don't seem to have any stated occupation at all.  One of the two Nagelschmiedemeister is likely Matthäus Hess' father, most likely the one with the same name.  Source: SN - B 10 291.

1826 - Registration by “Matthäus Hess” of a Zeichen ("mark') as a Flaschner (Einzelblätter)  ("tinsmith of single sheets"; i.e. sheet metal or tin plate).  This registration also appears to have been registered for a separate place ("Ortsnamen") of Schwabach, a town to the southwest of  Nürnberg; and also Spital which I think is an Ortsnamen specific to a part of Nürnberg itself - Source SN - E 5/19 6 Bl. 4 v.

1826, October 20 - Marriage of "Mathias Hess, Flashnermeister, mit Catharina Wolkersdörfer, von hier."   In other words they were both Nürnbergers.  She was likely related to a butcher of that name, probably as a sister.  Source: BA - Allgeimeines Intelligenz-Blatt der Stadt Nürnberg 1826 No. 129.(a newspaper)

1827, September 25 - Birth of "Walburg Maria Elizabetha, Tochter des Flaschnermeister Hess."  The first given name seems unusual for either sex.  But it is probably after St. Walburga (or Walpurga), an English nun of the 8th century and an early missionary to the Franks (residents of much of Europe at one time, but specifically "Franconia" of which Nürnberg is part).  Mostly, the use of the name verifies a connection to Catholicism.  Catholics were rather new to Nürnberg -- they were not allowed to have rights while Nürnberg was an independently Free City.  After the Napolionic wars it became part of (very Catholic) Bavaria.  The Hesses seem to have been in Nürnberg for several generations.  So possibly the Wolkersdörfers (including Catharina) were the Catholics, and possibly new to the city.  Source: BA - Allgeimeines Intelligenz-Blatt der Stadt Nürnberg 1827 No. 121.

1827, October 9 - Death of "Susanna Regina Hess, Wittwe des Nagelschmiedmeisters Hess, alt 82 Jahre, Entkräftung" ("widow of master nail smith Hess, 82 years old, [from] exhaustion").  This may be either Matthäus Hess' aunt or grandmother.  At the very least this says something about the longevity of the Hesses,  Source: BA - Allgeimeines Intelligenz-Blatt der Stadt Nürnberg 1827 No. 122.

1835 - Matthäus Hess does not appear in the “The Business Address Book or Directory of All Merchants and Manufacturers of the City of Nurnberg and Their Precincts”.   However it’s not clear how complete this directory is.  There are, for instance, no Flaschner listed in it at all, nor Schumacher, a very populous trade all over Europe at this time.  And the author does admit off-handedly in the Forward that it may not be complete.   But there are only three parties mentioned in connection with Spielwaaren (“play wares”) – one a Handler (probably as a distributor), another specializing in porcelain, the last of unknown craft.  Source: BA - Nurnbergs Handelsaddreßbuch oder Verziechnes aller Kaufleute und Fabrikanten der Stadt Nurnberg und ihres Burgfriedens.

1840 -Matthäus Hess again does not appear in the "Directory of All the Items Which Were Admitted for the Year 1840 to the General Industrial Exhibition for the Kingdom of Bavaria Located in Nürnberg by His Majesty" -- a very large royal exhibition of wares from all over Bavaria including several tinsmiths from Nürnberg itself.  Source: BA - Verzeichniß aller Gegenstände, welche zu der für das Jahr 1840 in Nürnberg Allerhöchst angeordneten allgemeinen Industrie-Ausstellung für das Königreich Bayern eingeliefert wurden.

1842, c. July 27 - "Mathias" Hess submits some drawings of plans regarding the address "S. 1180 - Neue Gasse 16/Binsengasse 2" to the  Baurisse Hochbauamt ("Office of Building Plans").  The inclusion of two street addresses likely means the house was large enough to front on both of them, not an unusual feature.  Today 16 Neue Gasse (an entirely new structure) does adjoin an unnamed alleyway.

The description of the drawings is "Pen and ink drawings, view of [i.e., elevation] and plan regarding the extension of an existing coach house and installation of a window in the existing part, including the scale, schedule[?] and executing craftsmen, master stonemasons C(onrad) H(einrich) Schabdach and the master carpenter Johann Marsching and the owner, the master tinsmith Mathias Hess. Above the date 07/21/1842 is the endorsement made with a red quill for technical[?] admissibility by Solger [an official] and in pencil marked 'Done'.  On the back is the notice of authorization of  08/5/1842 and the signatures of (Franz Xaver) Schwarzenbach and (Georg Christoph) Quehl [more officials, most likely]."  Source: SN A 4/III  3253

1842 - Matthäus Hess does not appear in an Adressbuch published for that year.  The owner of the above house number S. 1180 is shown as Schnittwaarenhändler ("draper" or "dry goods dealer") J. J. Grasser.  Grasser does not seem to have lived there, and his shop was elsewhere in "Der Plobenhof", an inn with shops.  Most likely Grasser by July 1842 (the date of the permit application above) had sold S. 1180 to Hess.  If Hess was "moving" during the time that information for the Adressbuch was being collected, then that might explain the omission.  But as he does not appear in any known Adressbuch or its kind before 1842, it could be he was working in another shop, and this house was his first.  Being a (presumably) disused coach house it was probably cheap and needed work.  Source:  BA - Vollständiges Adreß-Buch und Handlungsschematismus der Stadt Nürnberg und des ganzen Burgfriedens. 1842.

1845 - In the ""Directory of the Local Industry Exhibition of the Royal City of Nürnberg", pg. 15, is the listing of "Hess, Matthias, master tinsmith in Nürnberg:  7 items from tinplate depicting a fisherman's hut, a Chinese palace, 1 similar Castle, 4 wagons, 1 tobacco box of pinchbeck.  For Sale."  This was basically a trade show, and the listing is the first indication that Hess had established himself in business, and also that he was already making "toys" or amusing things like toys -- and apparently nothing else that he was willing to show.   "Pinchbeck"  (the German term used is Tomback) is a brass alloy invented by an English chemist of that name to imitate gold.  It is very likely the source of the extensive gold color found on later lithographed toys by J. L. Hess and of course J. A. Issmayer who in his time was the master of gold lithography on cheap tin toys.  How it was applied here was likely as a varnish.  Source: BA -  Verzeichniss der Local-Industrie-Ausstellung der königlich bayerischen Stadt Nürnberg im Jahre 1845.

1846 - In the "Complete Address Book and Business Schematism of the CIty of Nürnberg and the Entire Jurisdiction", on pg. 5, is the listing for "Hess, Mathias, Flaschnermeister, S. neue Gasse 1180."  Hess is in the same carriage house of before and advertising himself as a "master tinsmith" even if what he largely (if not exclusively) was doing was making Speilwaaren -- "play wares" as shown in the 1845 exhibit.  Source: BA - Vollständiges Adress-Buch und Handlungs-Schematismus der Stadt Nürnberg und des ganzen Burgfriedens 1846.

1850 - In the "New Address Book of the City of Nürnberg", pg. 52, his former location of S. 1080 (at 16 Neuegasse) is now occupied (along with S.1079 next door) by "Beck, Joh. Gg., Bäckermeister", while Hess himself is under the category of  Flaschner at S. 1011 (pg. 118).  The latter was on innere Laufergasse, a few hundred meters north of Neuegasse.  The house was owned by "Fischer, Paul Friedr., Schlossermeister", a master locksmith.  Why the move occurred is unknown, but Hess never seems to have returned to the Neuegasse address (although he did later move to an adjoining or nearby house on that street).  Source: BA - Neues Adressbuch der Stadt Nürnberg.

1852 - Both the "New Address Book of the City of Nürnberg" and "Nürnberg's Business and Industry with Particular Reference to the Present" show little change, other than Hess, though still listed under Flaschner, also refers to himself as Manufakturwaaren, a manufacturer of wares (pg. 257 of the latter book).  Meanwhile, in the address book "Johann Simon Beck", master baker, is now at S. 1179 on Neuegasse, while "Johann Schmidt, Nudelfabrikant u. Oblatenbäcker" ("noodle maker and baker of holy wafers") has moved into Hess' old carriage house at S. 1180.  It could be that Matthäus Hess moved because he was running out of money or out of room, but there is nothing to indicate either.  Source: BA - Neues Adreßbuch der Stadt Nürnberg and Nürnberg's Handel und Industrie mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Gegenwart.

1853 - That last question is answered in part by the "Official Catalogue of the New-York Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations 1853."  (It seems to have carried into 1854 as well.)  On pg. 138 is exhibit "39 Pewter toys in great variety. -- Mathias Hess, manu. Nuremberg, Bavaria."  There are others such as Issmayer represented.  Indeed, at least among toymakers on display, the "All Nations" evidently means mostly "Germany".  No doubt this was all arranged by a distributor rather than by the makers themselves.  But it is an indication that Hess was sufficiently advanced to merit representation in the rapidly expanding American toy market.  The only surprise is "pewter" rather than "tinplate".  Hess did eventually make flywheels out of a lead alloy, if not actual "pewter".  So white metal casting must have been in the mix by this time as well.  Of most importance is that this is the second time Hess is described as showing only toys, leaving the impression that that is what he had been making all along.  Source: Cornell University Library.

1854 -  The Katalog of a Munich exhibition also makes this point (pg. 65).  Exhibit number "1965  Hess, M. Nürnberg -- Vershiedene Spielwaaren von Blech."  ("divers toy wares of tinplate"), leaves no doubt that this is what he was making and selling.  Blech really means simply "sheet".  But in the south (such as in Nürnberg) it meant "tinplate" as well.  Source: BA - Katalog der allgemeinen deutschen Industrie-Ausstellung zu München im Jahre 1854.

1857 - While Hess was clear enough in exhibition catalogues what he was producing, it seems to have been the pattern so far, in the various address books, that he stuck to generalizations.  In the "New Address Book of the City of Nürnberg" for this year he is (pg. 110) "Hess, Matth., Flaschnermstr. S. 1011."  So, back to being a "master tinsmith" and still at the address of 1850.  Source: BA - Neues Adressbuch der Stadt Nürnberg. (1857).

1863 - In the "Address Book of the City of Nürnberg" for this year (pg. 103) Hess admits to being a Blechwaarenfabr[ikant], a "manufacturer of tinplate wares.  Also, his address has changed again.  He is back "on" Neuegasse, but this time at S. 1204b, which is really in the alley off Neuegasse called Binsengasse (or Binsengasschen -- "Little Binsen Lane" as it had come to be called)  There is a little confusion here in trying to relate this to his 1840s address at S. 1180 (16 Neuegasse).  But it does not appear to be the same house -- and thus not one that he still owned while living and working elsewhere.  But. like that old carriage house, this one may have fronted on both 18 Neuegasse and Binsengasschen.  The short of it is he and his family are back  in the old neighborhood -- in a house next to the old carriage house and possibly even the house for which the carriage house was originally built.  The address book also shows (pg. 45) that there was an S. 1204a.  So evidently this was a house with at least two doorways to the alley.  The other is owned by "Passing, Privatier", a older term that implied he was of sufficient independent means to not require a job title (nor, in this case, a first name it would seem).  It's possible one or both of these spaces connected also with the back of 18 Neuegasse.  Source: BA - Adressbuch der Stadt Nürnberg, nach amtlichen Quellen bearbeitet.

1867 - The "Commercial Address Book of Nürnberg" (pg. 31) shows Hess still at S. 1204b in the "Binsengässchen" where he is simply a Flaschner.  (As this is a purely business directory, Passer the Privateer is not listed.)  Source: BA - Handels Adressbuch von Nürnberg.

1869 - The "Address-Pocket Book of the City of Nürnberg" shows that Hess and family have moved into the residential address at S. 1204a at  "neue Gasse (Binsengasschen)" (pg. 27).  It also describes Hess as "M. Hess Blechspielwaarenfabrikant".   So he has finally come out of the closet so to speak in the address books as a "manufacturer of tinplate toy wares".  Under the separate section of "The Tradesmen of Nürnberg's Industry In Particular the Factory System", on pg. 29, there is more detail about what he makes: "M. Hess, tinplate toy wares from the ordinary to the finest, especially traveling [running] things, carousels, chaises [horse-drawn] and waterworks, fortresses, railways, doll things: [in] Little Binsen Lane."  This is the first mention I have found of Eisenbahnen or Lokomotiven in Hess' history.  And in fact I have found no other among any other tinsmiths this early on.  Given that the first railway in Germany -- from Nürnberg to Fürth -- had been a sensation when it began service more than thirty years before, it does not seem likely that he or someone was not making some sort of topical Eisenbahnen tinplate toy long before 1869.  But this is the first for me.  Source: BA - Adress-Taschenbuch der Stadt Nürnberg.

1870 - "Eisenbahnen" again appear.  In the "Nürnberg-Furth Industry Almanac, First Annual 1870", pg. 42, there are "tinplate toy wares, carrousels [again], water works [ditto], wagons for dolls, railways, water wagons, etc."  "Math. Hess" is the "Besitzer" ("owner"), with "Paulus Bub and J. L. Hess, tinsmiths."  I have no idea if "Paulus Bub" is related to the later "Karl Bub", but a real possibility.  He was almost certainly related (probably as a son) to "Bub, Joh. Christ., Flaschner.  Am Lauferschlagthurm 6" (the last being next to one of the old portals through the walls into the city.  And in fact he had reached journeyman status a few years earlier.  I think this is also the first appearance of Johann Leonhard Hess.  That both of them are mentioned at all is a little surprising, since they were technically little more than employees and possibly had been for a few years.  This may have been "Math. Hess" way of saying that the new guard had effectively taken over with himself being merely "the old man in the corner" with his pipe, watching it all take place.  Source: BA - Nürnberg-Fürther Industrie-Almanach.

1870 - And just in time because apparently Matthäus Hess died in that same year (or perhaps just the year before).  The Adress-Buch must have been compiled a little later than the above Almanach.  Quite clearly, it shows the occupant of S. 1204a (on Binsengasse) as "Katharina Hess, Flaschnerm[ei]st[er]- W[i]tw[e]".  A Witwe is of course a widow, and "Catharina Wolkersdörfer"  had been his bride more than forty years before.  It also shows "Joh[ann] Leonh[ard] Hess, Flaschnermeister, neue Gasse 18".  So the transition with a son and "master tinsmith" at the helm was probably already taking place.  Matthäus Hess must have been seventy, a little longer than I would have predicted, and apparently he had done his thing.  Source: BA -  Adressbuch der Stadt Nürnberg Vol. 2 (1870).

1873 - As a little bit of a footnote to Matthäus Hess, the "Official Catalogue of the Exhibit of the [new] German Empire" in Berlin, shows exhibit number 98 (pg. 395) as "Hess, M., Nürnberg -- Blechspielwaaren."  and goes on with "Established 1826.  Manufacture of tinplate toy wares.  Sales in equal numbers on German and other European, as well as transatlantic markets. 19 workers (10 female)."  The last fact, "19 Arb[eiter] (10 weibl[ich])" is a nice one, the first indication how big "M. Hess" had become by the time of his death.  Just as comparison, a few lines down is "101. Issmayer, J. A.,  Nürnberg. -- Sculptural collection of tinplate toy wares.  Established 1861. Production of sculptural tinplate toy wares. In 1871 for the same business were 8,000 florins produced.  45 workers (21 female) in the factory, 20 women [working] on the outside."  The "Collection plastischer" is an odd phrase, a combination of an English word with one that could mean "sculptural", or "formed" or "dimensional".  "J. A. J." apparently did not waste much time making his own new (1861) company to replace his father’s (which was still listed as late as 1867).  With that many workers in 1873 it was already big for a Nürnberg toy factory.  Source: BA - Amtlicher Katalog der Ausstellung des Deutschen Reiches (1873).

Speculation about Nürnberg Tin Toy Makers

It's striking from the chronology that there is a large hole in the published or recorded life of Matthäus Hess, even allowing for the slimness of the information available on-line.  From his birth in 1799 to 1826 when he recorded a mark with the Nürnberg city authorities, this absence of information is understandable.  But from 1826 to 1842 -- sixteen years -- there is nothing about him other than newspaper announcements of his marriage in 1826 and the birth of a daughter the following year.

This is particularly strange because of the registering of the mark.  It has been the somewhat logical conclusion that 1826 or thereabouts was when he started making toys (or something) as a Flaschnermeister, the title attached to the registration.   Why else get the mark unless you intended to use it soon?

It is also the case that beginning as early as 1873 – just after Hess’ death – the phrase “Errichtet 1826” (“established” or “set up” in 1826) started being attached to the name of the Firma of Matthias Hess, referring of course to the original registration of his mark.  This could mean that the absence of information between 1826 and 1842 is incidental.  But I think it could also mean that although Hess intended or hoped to establish his own Werkstatt in 1826, lack of funds or other restrictions held him back during that time.  I would also point out that prior to this year of 1873 or thereabouts, the inclusion of a year of Errichtung was not found for almost any Firma in Nürnberg, big or small.  In other words this had become a new fashion.  And the son (J. L. Hess) and Hess’ widow Katharina Hess may have begun using that date in much the same way or for the same reasons it is used by “establishments” today – as a marketing gimmick more than as a hard and fast fact.

It is also true that before 1842, there is only one city Adressbuchen (1835) or like directory available where, as a self-employed Handwerker, he would appear.  But it does seem as though there would be something out there in the on-line record.  Possibly there is, but it is just not available to me.  Or maybe it was never there in the first place.

In particular I am struck that he does not appear as an exhibitor in the 1840 publication of a "Verzeichniß aller Gegenstände, welche zu der für das Jahr 1840 in Nürnberg Allerhöchst angeordneten allgemeinen Industrie-Ausstellung für das Königreich Bayern eingeliefert wurden" -- that is, the "Directory of All the Items Which Were Admitted for the Year 1840 to the General Industrial Exhibition for the Kingdom of Bavaria Located in Nürnberg by His Majesty" (or something like that).  There were nearly a thousand exhibitors from all of the Kingdom, including putative Hess competitors such as J. M Issmayer and other Flaschner of Spielwaaren or Blechspielwaaren .

This absence is also particularly notable because he did exhibit in 1845. also in Nürnberg, in the similar if more localized Austellung of Local-Industrie.  You would think that if in 1840 Hess had been in business for fourteen years he would have had something to show in an exhibition held in his hometown only five years before he actually did show something.  It's possible he simply wasn't "big enough" yet to be included.  But if he was the earliest tin toymaker in Nürnberg, as some believe, then he would have been prominent it seems.

If in fact he wasn't being "Matthäus Hess, Proprietor" in Nürnberg during that time, then there are two possibilities, one more reasonable than the other.  The first was that he left town.  And if he had been a journeyman tinsmith back in 1826 that may have been a possible path to take.  It had been the traditional thing to do for journeymen for a few hundred years, and the technical difficulties -- getting a pass to travel within Bavaria -- would have been a possibility (though not so easy to relocate in another German state).  But cheap tinplate was a relatively new material, and the dialectal term of Flaschner had developed largely in the metal-working capital of Deutschland -- Nürnberg.  Other than Fürth just down the road, and some surrounding small towns, there weren't too many other places to go.  And why go in the first place?

As it was he not only registered a mark in Nürnberg but got himself married with child in short order.  If he had ever been even remotely thinking about leaving Nürnberg, why did he do any of that?  And finally, if he did in fact leave and not come back for at least fifteen years, why did he come back at all?

(There is one curious fact, which is that he also registered his mark in Schwabach, a smaller town just to the south of Nürnberg.  His in-laws' name means "someone from Wolkersdorf" and there are several villages with that name in Germany, one about halfway between Schwabach and Nürnberg.  Today there seem to be some Wolkersdorfers still in the general area.  But it seems an odd rustication for a native Nürnberger when a better living could be had at home.)

The much greater and simpler possibility is that he got a job -- he stayed in Nürnberg and worked for someone else, or with someone else in a secondary capacity.  Not being the Besitzer (owner) of a distinct business would have meant his not being mentioned in the various sources.  It's even plausible that he continued working for whoever had trained him as an apprentice and journeyman.  If he was a skilled worker in a busy shop, why let him go?  Or why, if he wanted to go, did he not just do it?

The answer to that last question is probably money, something you needed in order to buy (or at least rent) your own space for your Werkstatt and your living quarters, never mind the furniture, raw materials and tools.  I included the 1803 entry in the Chronology only because of the name "Matthäus Heß, Nagelschmiedmeister " or “master nail smith”.   His occupation, even that early in the German version of the Industrial Revolution, was a dead-end, and that could explain why the young Matthäus Hess did not follow in that line as would be expected, but apprenticed to the up-and-coming tinsmith business.  And Germans did have a tendency of passing down given names of long use in their families.  Thus this elder Matthäus could have been the father and the Johann Wilhelm Hess, Nagelschmiedmeister -- who was also worked over by the police in 1803 -- could have been young Matthäus' uncle.

And these two Hesses, when young Matthäus was about four years old, got themselves caught gambling with women of no repute.  They don't sound like the types that would have been building up something (such as ownership of a house) to leave to an ambitious son.  There is also other "dirt" in the 1790s about the Nagelschmiedmeister Hesses -- either them or the daughters of same.  And Johann William Hess managed to have fires in his house (probably his Werkstatt as well) at least three times in a twenty-five year period leading up to the turn of the 18th century.  The summation is that the Nagelschmiedmeister Hesses sound like not a very high order of working class family (or of brains) -- and very far from "rich".

Another source of money, of course, would have been Matthäus Hess' in-laws.  But there is little indication the Nürnberg Wolkersdörfers were any better off in 1826.  They were not "merchants" for instance, the type that would have a nice sum stashed away.  And in fact there is some evidence they may have been siblings of Hess’ wife, just starting out themselves.  It was enough that Hess and his wife Catharina may have lived in the house of her relation Johann Adam Wolkersdörfer from about 1833 to 1842.

I say that last part because if unmarried and working for another Flaschnermeister Hess would have lived in his house with his employer's family and the other employees.  This was standard Werkstatt practice where the hours could begin as early as 4 a.m. and last well into the night -- with Sundays off -- and the Meister of the whole household was just that.  But with a wife and children (or at least one child) Hess would have lived elsewhere most likely -- and the in-laws, where he would have shared some of the household expenses, is a pretty good bet.

This leads to who that employer could have been.  There were several possibilities.  But my strong guess is Johann Michael Issmayer, likewise a Flaschnermeister and at some point -- like most Flaschner in Nürnberg -- primarily making Blechspielwaaren.  The second choice is Georg Leonhard Eichner.  Both of these seemed to have been prominent among Nürnberg makers of tinplate toys.  In fact, the former was awarded a bronze medal at the 1840 exhibition (in which Hess did not appear), and the latter an honorable mention.  Probably for these reasons (as well as for the products they displayed to the public) they received critical mention in two separate publications at the time.

The tentative beginning of the idea of Issmayer as Hess' employer or senior partner was the mention in 1845 of Hess using Tomback as a surface finish.  It's my understanding that the later brilliant "gold" lithography of J. A. Issmayer (and of J. L. Hess) used some sort of brass for its coloring, and Tomback (or “pinchbeck” after its English inventor) would have certainly fitted that description.  So M.  Hess could have learned about its early 19th century application in the elder Issmayer's shop.  But probably other Flaschner were then using Tomback as well.

There is also the description of Hess' wares in the 1845 "Local Industry Exhibition".  A "Chinese palace" and "castle" sound like fantastic stamped tinplate things, like others being made by Issmayer, Eicher, etc.  But by the 1840s fantastic stamped tinplate things may have been what any top Flaschner was doing in Nürnberg.

The much stronger reason for thinking Issmayer as Hess' early employer or senior partner is geographical.  As I have said the maiden name of Catharina (or Katharina) Hess was  "Wolkersdörfer (or "Wolkersdorfer).  In the Nürnberg archives there are many Wolkersdörfers, but with few exceptions their dates are from the later 19th century on.  During the early 19th century there seem to have maybe four (or five counting Catharina).  In the "address books" that begin being available from 1835, there is only one Wolkersdörfer (with family, presumably) listed in the city.  This was Johann Adam Wolkersdörfer, mentioned above, and from the early address book of 1842 he was a master butcher living in S. 1657 in the Schmausengasse.

But his shop was actually around the corner, in house number S. 1683 on Am Sand (a street, at other times identified as Fischergasse or Klein Insel Schutt).  Next door in S. 1684 was a Rothschmiedmeister, a coppersmith.  And next to him at S. 1685 was Johann Michael Issmayer.  In a city as large as Nürnberg was, even in the 1820s, the fact of J. M. Issmayer and Matthäus Hess in-laws having their shops on the same street two doors apart does not admit of raw coincidence.  There had to have been a connection, and a reason.  Whether that reason existed in 1826 -- when Matthäus Hess and Catharina Wolkersdörfer were married -- is probably not the case.  But it does bear thinking.

I should mention that in a city of metal-workers the Flaschner, like most of the other trades, were not concentrated in any one small area.  There may have been a concentration of metal workers in general in the southeast part of the Sebalder.  But the tinsmiths were scattered amongst all the others, the small retailers, etc.  And in 1842 there was, for instance, another Flaschnermeister, named Andreas Stauber, only three doors down from butcher Wolkersdörfer's residence around the corner on Schmausengasse.   But it's not clear how large a business he had, or whether there would have been room or need for another Flaschnermeister there.  Nor is it known whether he actually made toys (though as a Flaschner there was a high probability he did).  In any case he does not appear in the lists for either the 1840 or the 1845 exhibitions in Nürnberg.  Whereas J. M. Issmayer seems to have been considered at the time a leading light of local tinsmiths and of wondrous things -- and thus someone with plenty of work and workers.

The other possibility as Hess' boss or senior partner, G. L. Eichner, was also in the neighborhood.  In fact he was at S. 1665 (on either Schmausengasse or Fischergasse -- it's not clear), between the residence and shop of Mattäus Hess' likely brother-in-law Johann Adam Wolkersdörfer -- and less than ten doors away from Issmayer.

But the difficulty with placing Hess in subservience to Eichner is that Eichner, as Hausbesitzer (“house owner”), did not do any “remodeling” work at his house at S. 1665 until 1842 at the earliest, in other words, in the same year that Hess was having work done on his first known address at S. 1011 on Neuegasse.

However, Eichner did show at the royal exhibition in 1840 and not as a journeyman but as a master.  He may have had a Werkstatt before 1842.  But the remaining difficulty with Eichner and Hess is that whereas Hess seems to have achieved journeyman status somewhere in 1814-1825, Eichner did not do so until 1833.  And his birth year was 1806 -- seven years younger than Hess.  Thus he is not as strong a candidate for a senior connection to Hess as is Issmayer.

In the Fall of 1840 the author of "Memory of the Folkfest, the Encampment for the Stay of the Royal Family at the Castle of Nürnberg" describes (and adds his critical assessment to) some of the things at the related 1840 exhibition noted earlier.  Among makers of Zinnfiguren, or "tin flat figures", he mentions some familiar names: Hafner from Fürth and Ammon and Heinrichsen from Nürnberg.  And he names only three of the tinsmiths, one from Fürth.  The other two were from Nürnberg -- G. L. Eichner who "provided a fountain of herons and two rather pretty little chaises", and "the eye of the beholder…..also lingered happily on the twelve tin and lacquered flower vases (of various figures) in which Issmayer from here [Nürnberg] expressed no less his skill, as in his Chariot of the Gods and its magnetic gadgetry."

Another observer in another book of the time had this comment about Issmayer, in reference to bronze medals awarded: "The same honor was awarded to the two master Flaschner from Nuremberg, J. M. Issmayer, who had offered beautifully crafted and cheap flower vases, figurines, magnetic toys and so forth; and C. Friedr. Böhrer from whom were submitted [for an award] his own tinwork, because of the good tinning of the popular 'healthy' tableware and also guttering and downspouts."

Böhrer does not seem to have been a toymaker.  Eichner's exhibit is described as well: "From G. L. Eichner, likewise a master Flaschner from Nuremberg, were: a heron's fountain, chaises with springs and figures of evident good work and execution, which earned the distinction of an honorable mention."

In the 1840 Verzeichniss (directory) of this same exhibition Joh. Mich. Issmayer himself lists "12 flower vases of tinplate and lacquered, in various figures, 1 Chariot of the Gods, walking on the water; 1 flower vase of white tinplate and 1 consisting of nine pieces.  An assortment of magnetic things".  The "Chariot of the Gods" seemed to have been the great wonder, guided as it likely was by a magnet held underneath a sheet of glass.  These items were, according to the Verzeichness, not for sale but "gifts" -- presumably to the King as would have been usual.  One has to wonder if there is somewhere a Royal Bavarian stash of accumulated knick-knacks.  If so that could be where the Chariot of the Gods is today.

Issmayer did not actually register his own mark until about 1830.  But you didn't need to have a mark to be a Flaschner or really to be anything else.  It was a marketing tool.  City archive records show that J. M. Issmayer, Flaschnermeister und Hausbesitzer (house owner) did some remodeling in 1835 at S. 1685 (on the street Am Sand -- in this instance Fischergasse or even Rothschmiedsgasse at different times).   Before that, in 1834-5 it appears to have been owned by der Grünfischer Johann Kaspar Springer (he was a purveyor of fresh or "green" fish.)  So 1835 is almost certainly when Issmayer moved into house number  S. 1685 and set up his Werkstatt.

It’s also the case that in the 1835 “Nurnbergs Handelsaddreßbuch oder Verziechnes aller Kaufleute und Fabrikanten der Stadt Nurnberg und ihres Burgfriedens” – another early directory of “all merchants and manufacturers of the city of Nurnberg and their precincts” – Issmayer does not appear (as well as Hess, of course).  In fact there are no Flaschner (or Kempner or Spängler) mentioned at all – which does raise the question of whether the “all” in the title is accurate.  There are also no Schuhmacher, for instance, a category sure to be well-populated if the compiler had thought that trade to be a mercantile or manufacturing activity.  It could be that the compiler did not consider Flaschner (like Schuhmacher, etc.) belonging among “manufacturers”.

But three Spielwaaren names are listed, as well as many of the other usual metal-working trades.  One of these three is evidently a Handler and not a Fabrikant.  Another seems to otherwise make porcelain wares.  The third is a “manufacturer” and also has something to do with “Kinderspielwaaren” but the type or material is not specified. 

If this address book – published in May of 1835 --  is as complete as it claims, then this absence of Issmayer would coincide with his working on the house at S. 1685 presumably before moving into it and setting up his Werkstatt in that same year.  His permit application to the City building department is dated January-February of that same year, but it’s not stated when the work was completed. Given the time needed to compile the a address book as well, he may have been too late in business to be in it.

Indeed this book does suggest that there was really no one specifically “manufacturing” toys – that is for wholesale distribution – in all of Nuremberg at that time, though there may have been individual artisans making them out of wood or some other material such as tinplate, and retailing them out of their shops.

Matthäus Hess and the elder Issmayer were probably contemporaries.  I could find no birth year for the latter but as late as 1867 he was still in business as "J. M. Issmayer, sen." (his son J. A. had set up his own Fabrik by then).  This was about three years before Matthäus Hess himself died.

Matthäus Hess' in-law, the butcher Johann Adam Wolkersdörfer, got a permit to work on his house (residence) at S. 1657 on Schmausengasse in 1832.  This does at least show that he owned and soon lived in that house as early as that date.  Whereas he is first associated with the house of his shop at S. 1687 (on Fischergasse, a.k.a. Klein Insel Schütte No. 3) no earlier than 1829 when it was owned by another party.

And this butcher Wolkersdörfer and his probable sister, Catharina the wife of Matthäus Hess, were contemporaries with Issmayer as well.  Wolkersdörfer was born in 1807 according to a journeyman butcher's record under his name.  He was thus eight years younger than Hess, and Catharina it can easily be assumed was of that general age as well.  And just to add to the speculation, there was also a Georg Leonhard Wolkersdörfer, born 1804.  As of 1829 he was a Flaschnergeselle -- a journeyman tinsmith.

The only other Wolkersdörfer in Nürnberg at that general time was a Michael Wolkersdörfer, a soap-maker about whom very little shows.  He is not in any of the later Adressbuchen and first shows in the StadtArchiv for 1817.  He may have been another sibling, or the father, or none of the above.  It is also quite possible that this group of three (or four) siblings came together to Nürnberg when very young (and after Catholics had more rights in the city).  For a girl to travel at all mandated companionship and brothers were very good candidates.  And in the early 19th century in the rapidly changing and unsettled world of their time, a family of country kids coming to the city where there was work (and excitement) was not at all unusual -- by the end of the century the factories had insured there was a flood of this sort of migration all over Europe.

So we have three (or four) young Wolkersdörfers, probably siblings -- one of them even a tinsmith -- and we have Matthäus Hess and Johann Michael Issmayer (along with Georg Leonhard Eichner as a possible outlier), all closely associated by age, location, marriage and/or occupation.  Perhaps they all came "from the neighborhood" and had known each other as children.  Or perhaps they came to know each other as teenagers on the loose and ready to work.  It's an association I hope to pursue.

And out of such an association, sixteen years later, having saved from his slightly more than hand-to-mouth wages, and having gained quite a lot of knowledge in the process, Matthäus Hess would have been ready for his move to that carriage house on Binsengasschen.

I should add that J. M. Issmayer is another one of those early unknowns who deserves more attention.  As I have already pointed out he seems to have been a leading toymaker among the Flaschner.  In fact, if there is any way of assigning title of "who made tinplate toys in Nürnberg first", I would put my money on the elder Issmayer before the elder Hess -- or even on a Flaschner before both of them.  But tinplate railway toys might be a different matter.  But anyway, that's all another story.