A Student Stein from East Prussia
This month's stein got a bit of attention at Ron Fox's auction at the recent Gambrinus Steinfest. It's a University stein but why isn't the school's name mentioned? And what did "Ragnit" mean? Several of us passed it around but we had no answers. I felt this stein deserved some research so it was added to my wish list and I was fortunate enough to win it.
The stein has one unexpected clue that I thought would help my research. It's rare for a porcelain stein to have a maker's or decorator's mark, especially on the bottom, but this has one. The decorator was "A. Schamal Porzellanmaler - Erfurt". So my research began looking into the history of the city of Erfurt in eastern Germany at the time of this stein, 1897-1900. Unfortunately, there was nothing referring to a school such as the one pictured on the stein. I did find that Herr Schamal's first name was Albert. I am sure that Chris Wheeler will have more information about Herr Schamal's business on his Stein Marks website soon.
Searching on "Ragnit" provided the information I needed. Ragnit was the site of a castle on a peninsula in East Prussia that dated back to the 13th century. The castle was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the ensuing years. In the early 1400s a settlement developed around the castle but it wasn't until 1722 that it was officially designated a town.
The history of East Prussia reveals that the Königliches Lehrerseminar (Royal Teachers College) was founded in 1882. This was a college specifically for elementary school teachers. In 1922, the college underwent a role reversal - instead of preparing teachers it became a high school with residential facilities for the students.
After World War II the town of Ragnit became part of the Soviet Union and its name was changed to Neman. I could find no further information on the history of the school except for the note that it was torn down for its construction material in 1993.
The banner across the top of the stein reads:
Bei des Abschieds bitter und Schmerzen Tröstet nur die bangen Herzen
Ach, ein Wörtchen, wunderschön Freund, es heisset: Wiedersehn
When parting is bitter and painful only comfort the anxious hearts
Oh, a little word, wonderful friend, it means: See you again
The website (https://www.bildarchiv-ostpreussen.de) has several pictures of the school and the ruins of the former castle. Most interestingly, it has this photo of the school's class of 1911. That class had 24 students while the stein shows the class of 1900 had 29 students.
Class photo courtesy of www.bildarchiv-ostpressen.de
Other sources: ostpreussen.net, Bernhard Waldmann on flickr.com