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Journeyman’s book belonging to
the shoemaker Leopold Willstätter

Mannheim, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Karlsruhe, Metz, and Paris—these were the places Leopold Willstätter (1817–1868) visited between 1836 and 1843 as a journeyman shoemaker. Born in 1817 to a leather merchant in Karlsruhe, Willstätter belonged to the generation of German Jews who were given the opportunity to learn a trade in the first half of the nineteenth century.

In every town a journeyman visited, he was required to present his journeyman’s book (Wanderbuch) to the local police and have them stamp it. In an age before photographs, the book contained an exact description of its owner. From Willstätter’s book we learn that he was small in stature, had a long face, high forehead, round chin, dark-brown hair and eyebrows, light-brown eyes, medium-sized nose and mouth, and healthy teeth. The book also contains entries by various master craftsmen noting the duration of the journeyman's stay and his conduct.

The Grand Duchy of Baden, where Willstätter was born, was among the German territories that did the most to promote Jewish craftsmen. Of all the Jews working there in 1832, more than one-quarter practiced a skilled trade. Nevertheless, for various reasons most gave up their profession after just a few years and became merchants. Not Leopold Willstätter. He began working as a shoemaker on Lange Strasse in Karlsruhe in 1845, and in 1865, just three years before his untimely death, he was named Master Shoemaker of the Court.

Object Details:
Journeyman’s book belonging to the shoemaker Leopold Willstätter
Karlsruhe, 22 April 1836–1843
Printed book, ink, textile
15.7 x 9.7 cm
Gift of Rudy Appel

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