John McGregor


Blue and grey steinzeug was and is, my first love in beer steins, so when I saw this stein I knew I had to have it. First of all, it looked great, this squat, ½ liter stein by Reinhold Hanke (figures 1 and 2), has a cartouche on the front with the verse: "Schon Docktor Luther spricht Wasser allein tuts freilich nicht." which says "Even Doctor Luther said Water alone surely doesn't do it."


Figure 1

Figure 2

It has a copper inlaid lid of a mining scene with the miner's salutation "Glück Auf", meaning Good Luck (figure 3) and the figural, copper thumblift of a seated miner (figure 4).


Figure 3

Figure 4


In addition to that, it had engraved inside the lid what appeared to be a presentation inscription from a mentor to a first year student (figure 5), but nowhere on the stein was there a student association wappen, or zirkel. In addition, part of the inscription was in English. Is it a student association stein or what? The inscription reads as follows: "C. H. Gibson s/l. Liebfuchs "Navy" sonst Wm. D. Chandler & fr. Erg. Glück Auf! Freiberg d. 10 April 1883" meaning "From C. H. Gibson with affection to first year student "Navy" formerly known as Wm. D. Chandler in friendly remembrance Good Luck! Freiberg the 10th of April 1883."

Figure 5

The stein sat on a shelf for about four months, until I saw a show on the History Channel about mining the Comstock Load in Nevada. It seems they had a problem keeping the mines from caving in until a former student of the Freiberg School of Mining showed them how to properly shore up the mines to keep them from collapsing. It came to me at that moment that the inscription inside the lid of this stein had the word "Freiberg" engraved right in the middle. Hmm, perhaps it was time to check this stein out.


A Very Brief History

What follows is some of what I gleaned from several web sites having to do with Freiberg and the Freiberg School of Mining.

Lead had been mined in the Freiberg (Free Mountain) area for centuries. However with the discovery of silver c.1163 it was time for the government to step in. In 1175, the Margrave of Meissen, Otto the Rich, who perhaps thought he could get richer, founded the town of Freiberg with its castle Freudenstein. In 1536 the Reformation arrived in Freiberg, brought there by Henry the Pious and the town suffered greatly through the Thirty Years War and again during the French invasion and occupation from 1806 to 1814. The Bergakademie Freiberg, the first school of mining engineering in the world, was founded in 1765 on the suggestion of General Mining Commissioner von Heynitz. The university counts among its alumni and former staff, Clemens Winkler who discovered Germanium, Ferdinand Reich and Hieronymus Theodor Richter co-discoverers of Indium and Alexander von Humboldt to name but a few.


Student Associations and Academic Standards

At the beginning of the 20th century Freiberg was the only university in Germany where there were more foreign students than Germans. Most of the foreigners were from Russia, the rest from various countries around the world; England, Japan, Chile, Australia, Canada and while unmentioned, there were probably Americans there also. The German students were organized into formal fraternities or student associations. Students from the Baltic countries joined with others from the north, Swedes and Finns, in the North Club. The Russians and English made their own informal unions and I assume the same was true of the Australians, Canadians and any Americans that may have attended. Evidently, in the over all scheme of German university life, the informal student associations were of little significance. There was a lot of heavy drinking and fighting, both formal and informal, but for the most part, those who wished to learn worked hard since there was no other way at a technical university. The stein that is the subject of this article is evidently a product of one of those informal student associations, thus the lack of a wappen and/or zirkel.

The professors received no lecture fees, and their pay was meager. Salaries were supplemented from two sources. First, every foreigner had to pay a special fee of 200 marks and with 250 foreigners, 50,000 marks could be added to the treasury. Second, there was a mineral warehouse in the school conducting a business in mineral samples that was originally founded to provide students with minerals, ore samples, rocks and fossils for their studies. Eventually it became an international business that obtained minerals from all over the world and supplied specimens of same, even complete collections, to any museum that wanted them. The business realized an annual net profit of 40,000 marks that also went into the academy treasury.

For obvious reasons the school relied on the attendance of foreigners, and made admission simple. It was jokingly said, "that a luggage ticket would get you admission." The examinations were also easy, and some graduated who could not speak a complete sentence in German. When it came to actual technical knowledge the school turned a blind eye and foreign students all passed their courses. What they did with their diplomas in the Australian out back, or America's wild west did not concern the school. One student told this story: "I know of some friends who, after passing the diploma exam, went to Tomsk in Siberia to get a Russian diploma. There was such astonishment at their ignorance that their diplomas were assumed to be counterfeit."

I would bet that the academic standards have improved somewhat in the intervening years.


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