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Guebwiller (Municipality, Haut-Rhin, France)

Last modified: 2012-06-23 by ivan sache
Keywords: haut-rhin | guebwiller | cap: albanian (red) |
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[Flag of Guebwiller]

Flag of Guebwiller - Image by Ivan Sache, 26 November 2011

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Presentation of Guebwiller

The municipality of Guebwiller (11,575 inhabitants in 2008; 968 ha) is located 25 km north-west of Mulhouse. The town is dominated by the Grand Ballon, aka Ballon de Guebwiller (in spite of being located on an enclave of the municipality of Soultz), the highest point in the Vosges mountains and in Alsace (1,424 m). Guebwiller is located in the valley of river Lauch, known as Florival (lit., the Flowers' Valley) since the 11th century.

Guebwiller was mentioned for the first time in 774, as the rural estate of Genbunvillare, transferred to the abbey of Murbach. The medieval town developed mostly in the 12th century around the St. Léger church and the Burgstall castle, being subsequently enclosed in a wall built in 1270-1287. Guebwiller, with 1,350 inhabitants in 1394, was then the wealthy capital of the Principality of Murbach.
In the 15th-16th centuries, Guebwiller was involved in several war acts. The Armagnacs assaulted it, to no avail in February 1445. The town revolted against the Murbach abbey and was looted during the Peasant's uprising (1525) and during the Thirty Years' War. The Principality of Murbach was incorporated in 1680 to the Kingdom of France; at the time, Guebwiller had less than 200 inhabitants.

Guebwiller is the birth town of the ceramist Théodore Deck (1823-1891), who set up in Paris in 1856 a manufacture, together with his brother Xavier. His works were awarded prizes in several international exhibitions and fairs. In 1897, Deck was appointed Director of the Manufacture nationale de Sèvres. The Théodore Deck Museum in Guebwiller, inaugurated in 1933 as the Florival Museum and renamed in 2009, has a collection of more than 500 artworks designed by Deck, including his famous Blue Cat.
Guebwiller is the birth town of the physician Alfred Kastler (1902-1984), awarded in 1966 the Nobel Prize in Physics "for the discovery and development of optical methods for studying Hertzian resonances in atoms". The method set up by Kastler, subsequently known as "optical pumping", was a first step to the construction of the first laser.

Source: Municipal website

Guebwiller is the cradle of the Schlumberger family (biography). In 1808, Nicolas Schlumberger (1782-1867) set up a cloth mill in Guebwiller. He was a member of a Protestant tanner's dynasty, whose ancestor Nicolas had settled in 1542 in Guebwiller and moved three years later to Mulhouse to escape the control by the abbot of Murbach. In 1817, Schlumberger "brought back" from England the plans of new automated mills that he developed in Guebwiller. A convinced puritan, Schlumberger organized social and mutual-aid systems in his factory, in a much more progressivist way than the capitalist paternalist system of the time.
In 1871, his sons Jean and Adolphe, in spite of their strong opposition to the incorporation of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany, decided not to relocate the factory to France. Jean's son, Paul Schlumberger, married Marguerite de Witt, the granddaughter of the politician Guizot. She organized the passive resistance to germanization of Guebwiller; when the Kronprinz visited the town in 1873, all the inhabitants closed their shutters. One of the first French suffragettes, Marguerite Schlumberger-De Witt presided the International League for the Women's Right. Paul and Marguerite's sons left Guebwiller to avoid wearing the German uniform. Daniel Schlumberger was killed on the front in 1915. Jean Schlumberger, a moralist writer, contributed to the development of French literature via the foundation of the NRF (Nouvelle Revue Française) in 1908, together with André Gide and Gaston Gallimard. Maurice Schlumberger founded in 1919 an accounting company that became the powerful Schlumberger & Cie bank, today part of the ABN Amro group. Conrad and Marcel Schlumberger founded in 1926 the Société de prospection électrique, today Schlumberger Ltd., the world's largest oilfield services company.

Ivan Sache, 26 November 2011

Flag of Guebwiller

The flag of Guebwiller, hoisted on the town hall (photo, is vertically divided blue-white with the municipal coat of arms in the middle. The colors of the flag are taken from the arms.

The arms of Guebwiller are "Argent an Albanian cap gules lined azure". According to the Armorial des Communes du Haut-Rhin (2000), the current arms of Guebwiller appeared in the 16th century. They are registered in the Armorial Général (1697). Beforehand, Guebwiller used on its seal a greyhound taken from the arms of the abbey of Murbach.
The origin and meaning of the "Albanian cap" are obscure. A local legend claims that the cap was brought to Guebwiller by Albanian journeymen working in the vineyards. Another theory says that the cap is indeed the Judenhut, the Jew's hat, which was, indeed, yellow and not red and blue. The Albanian cap is too old to be the Phrygian cap from the French Revolution, either. Charles Braun proposed a much more elaborated (and far-fetched!) hypothesis (description): Judenhut would be a bastardization of Gudenhut, Odin's Hut. Odin wore a hut similar to the Elf's hut (called Uddehat by the Grimm brothers), the Elfs being called in German Alben, therefore the possible confusion with Albanians.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 26 November 2011

Former flag of Guebwiller

[Former flag of Guebwiller]

Former flag of Guebwiller - Image by Ivan Sache, 26 November 2011

In Vexillologia [vxa], 3,1, published some time between 1967 and 1975, Gérard Pillot reports the flag of Guebwiller as vertically divided blue-white-red (that is, the French tricolore) with the municipal arms in the middle.

Pascal Vagnat, 26 November 2011