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21. June 2023
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Steadfastly into a great future

The development of a decisive technical detail gave Stiegelmeyer its breakthrough as a manufacturer of hospital beds almost 90 years ago

When someone wants to get off to a flying start, they usually put the pedal to the metal. The great breakthrough of the Stiegelmeyer company to become the leading producer of hospital beds, on the other hand, began with a powerful kick on the brakes. The almost 90-year-old story makes it very clear over what long periods of time and with how high-calibre inspiration the Stiegelmeyer Group was able to build up its current know-how. Therefore, it opens our new series on the values of our company with the value "Experienced".

When the Charité hospital in Berlin approached Stiegelmeyer with a request in 1935, the Herford-based company already had some experience in the hospital sector. The first hospital beds from Stiegelmeyer had already come onto the market around 1910: Two-storey beds for large dormitories as well as metal beds on castors – the mobile "Kaiser bed" from that time can still be seen today in our exhibition in Herford.

But as the Stiegelmeyer chronicle reports, the health sector remained only one of many until the 1930s. The company's focus was still on so-called "steel wire mattresses": comfortably sprung slatted frames with which Stiegelmeyer had celebrated great success with private customers immediately after its foundation in 1900. In addition, there were metal and wooden beds for the retail furniture market. Our catalogue pictures from the 1930s show elegant bedroom furnishings in the Art Deco style that would still look good in many homes today.

In 1935, however, the Charité, the famous Berlin hospital, was not interested in design but in an important technical issue. As mentioned, there were already beds on castors at that time, but they had a problem: apparently they could not be braked well. But a firm stand is very important, especially when getting up and lying down. Although metal beds already had a weight of over 100 kilograms, the risk of rolling away was not eliminated.

The administrative director of the Charité therefore asked for proposals for a hospital bed with a braking mechanism that could be operated comfortably with the foot. The bed was intended for the ward of the world-famous surgeon Ferdinand Sauerbruch (1875-1951).

Stiegelmeyer immediately fulfilled this wish with the "Chromed hospital bedstead no. 5350". The brittle name did not stop the triumph of this model: According to the chronicle, it became an international classic for decades. The success of No. 5350 set Stiegelmeyer on the track to the present. It led to the establishment of a separate "hospital furniture department" in Herford, which dealt full-time with technical developments for the healthcare sector.

Unfortunately, the bed itself has not been preserved, but luckily there are two copies of a general catalogue from 1937 in our archive, which documents the model and the rest of the hospital range at the time well. The bed, proudly advertised as a "special model of the Charité", could optionally be ordered with a brass or steel frame. It was 100 cm wide, weighed 106 kg and had a mattress base height of 55 cm that was easy to stand up from. The designers had of course equipped the mattress base itself with Stiegelmeyer steel wire springs, and the backrest was adjustable.

The technical innovation of the bed was the pairwise braking of the castors at the foot end with the help of a bar with a brake pedal. A practical writing desk could be folded out of the foot board. The drawing in the catalogue also shows a bed-spanning lifting pole as an accessory, which made it easier for the patient to position himself comfortably in bed.

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