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Mevissen ... and his daughters

The library of the family of Mevissen Gustav von Mevissen and his daughters Mathilde and Melanie donated their libraries to the city of Cologne. Gustav von Mevissen's book collection is an important library of around 15,000 volumes on economic, social and technical history. Throughout his life, the industrial magnate expanded his collections, which not only included the library but also a collection of art and medals (now in the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum). His books were marked with a remarkable ownership stamp. The coat of arms is framed by the lettering "G. Mevissen in Cöln" and "Es werde Licht!" (Let there be light). Between 1900 and 1902, the Gustav von Mevissens library was incorporated into the existing arrangement system of the former municipal library. Shortly before her death, Mathilde von Mevissen donated the sisters' book collection and the remains of her father's university collection. In 1925 a further 1,380 volumes were handed over to the UCL Cologne by the von Mevissen family. Since these volumes were incorporated into the UCL collection in the same way as those of the father, no separate catalogue can be offered for this collection. Thus, a search must be conducted via "Search literature and website". Portraits from the collection of the von Mevissen family can be found in the Portraits Collection of the UCL. The Mevissen Family in the Cologne Collection of Newspaper Clippings 1840 - 1969

Gustav von Mevissen, Foto: Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln, rba_205378


Gustav von Mevissen was born on 20 May 1815 in Dülken on the Niederrhein. The family operated a yarn factory and a yarn wholesale business there. In 1840 Mevissen moved to Cologne, where he and a friend also worked as textile wholesalers. Three years later the successful businessman founded the Kölnische Rückversicherungs-Gesellschaft and in 1847 the Kölner Bergwerksverein. Mevissen soon became one of the typical representatives of Rhenish liberalism. As a young entrepreneur, Mevissen was already extremely successful as a founder and investor of various companies. Among these were the founding of and investments in insurance companies and banks, textile, railway and shipping companies, mines and public limited companies. In 1844, the Rheinische Eisenbahngesellschaft elected the 29-year-old as their president. He held this office until the nationalisation of the railway in 1880, and together with Georg Jung and Dagobert von Oppenheim he was one of the founders and employees of the "Rheinische Zeitung" in 1842. The editorial office was later transferred to Karl Marx. One year later the newspaper was banned by the Prussian government. However, this did not prevent Mevissen from increasing his political commitment. In 1846 he belonged to the Rheinische Provinziallandtag, in 1847 to the Vereinigte Landtag Preußens. As a member of the Sayn-Wittgenstein constituency he became a member of the Frankfurt National Assembly in 1848, from which he resigned in May 1849. In the 1860s Mevissen belonged to the Prussian Manor. In 1884 the emperor appointed him to the Prussian State Council and a few months later appointed him to the nobility. The University of Bonn awarded him an honorary doctorate. Two years before he died, Gustav von Mevissen was awarded honorary citizenship by the city of Cologne.

Mathilde von Mevissen, Foto: Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln, rba_630749


Mathilde von Mevissen was the second oldest of the five Mevissen daughters. As usual in the 19th century, the girls did not receive a well-founded education. Attending school was replaced by a private tutor. "In jeglichem Wissen bin ich Homöopath - habe stets nur die allerkleinsten Dosen genommen" (in all knowledge I am a homeopath - I have always taken only the tiniest doses), she wrote years later. She found ways and means to secretly obtain books from her father's rich library, which was forbidden to children, in order to satisfy her curiosity. As an adult, she was very committed to women's rights (women's right to vote) and especially to the education and support of girls. She was a co-founder of the Cologne Women's Continuing Education Association founded in 1894. The opening of a girls' high school in Cologne in 1903 - the first in Prussia - was due to her commitment and financial support. She still experienced that this school was named after her in 1923. As a deserving person in the history of the city, the city of Cologne honours the memory of Mathilde von Mevissen with a sculpture in the figure programme of the town hall tower. The estate of Mathilde von Mevissen in the UCL is listed in Kalliope

¹"Da ich unglücklich war und wohl etwas unterdrückt - Mathilde von Mevissen und die Mädchenbildung"
in: Jahrbuch des Kölnischen Geschichtsvereins ; volume 75, issue 1, page 87-142 ; ISSN 0341-9320 2198-0675, (2004)

Exlibris von Melanie von Mevissen, Foto: USB Köln


Throughout her life Melanie von Mevissen and her equally unmarried sister Mathilde lived independently in the parental villa at the Zeughausstraße 2a in Cologne. The sisters were involved in social and charitable projects. During the First World War they donated a military hospital train. Melanie died in 1923, Mathilde von Mevissen shortly afterwards in 1924. The books of Mathilde and Melanie von Mevissen can be recognized by the glued-in ex-libris.