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Locatie: Gilze en Rijen
Periode: 1907 - 1912

Leather fabrication Gebr. van der Steen in Rijen

vertelde op 25 februari 2016 om 13:17 uur

It was during this time of prosperity that my grandfather, Augustinus van der Steen, decided to introduce father Jan (Johannes Baptist) and Uncle Louis, to the family business. They started running the family leather factory under the commercial control of grandfather in 1907.

Grandfather wanted to recruit their energies while they were still young and living at home. It was orchestrated to their advantage so their only responsibility was the business and they could focus fully, without the distraction of having their own families. It was a master plan for success. The announcements were made, introductions assured the shoe manufacturers, that the high quality of Sole leather would remain the same as it always was, but the real advantage would be more production therefore better prices, and they would have enough power behind them that it would blow away any competition.

Grandpa rallied an alliance with the shoe companies to supply them exclusively. “Our company has grown very slowly and steadfastly to become the largest supplier of shoe leather in all of Brabant. We are building a new factory on Gillis Straat to accommodate the growth, so we may continue to provide the best quality of sole leather that customers have come to expect. The old factory will be managed by my son Louis and will focus strictly on the tanning of leather. The new factory will be managed by my son Jan and will fabricate sole leather. By using this new system, we reduce the cost of product. A winning situation for all.”

Uncle Louis took over the old factory on Kerkstraat in Rijen, seen in the photo above, using traditional tanning processes. The hides were then shipped to my father on Pastoor Gillisstraat, and to shoemakers across Holland, direct from the Pastoor Gillisstraat factory.

Construction of the new complex began, resulting in a two story building that was huge for it’s time. It was quickly erected, taking up a prominent space in the village of two hectars on Pastoor Gillisstraat. It required massive oak beams and tons of masonry brought in by horse drawn wagons. Most astounding of all, was the size of the chimney. It rose up into the air out of the middle of the complex a good 32 meters high. With the name of ‘Van der Steen’ permanently etched into the stack pipe, dominating the landscape for miles around. None of the villagers had ever seen anything as big and it created a stir of expectation in the village. The factory on Pastoor Gillisstraat made sole leather, improving productivity and cost.

This was at a time when horse and buggy; and motor cars shared the same roads. You can see father’s car parked in front of our home right after it was built.

The success of the new factory allowed father to finally marry my mother. They married in her home town Riel, on February 3, 1912, just two months before the tragic sinking of the Titanic. My grandfather in a gracious gesture bestowed upon them a gift of 2,500 guilders to help them get started. They built their new two storey home across the street from the factory on Pastoor Gillisstraat in Rijen.

The Van der Steen family, my oma & opa, my mother is the little three year old girl standing at the front in the center, with all my aunts and uncles. Circa 1926
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Reacties (9)

Mary Christie zei op 25 februari 2016 om 19:50 uur

The story was told from the perspective of my mother (Joanne van der Steen/Seelen), deceased 2001. She was three years old in family photo circa 1926, standing centre front.

Marilou Nillesen
Marilou Nillesen bhic zei op 28 februari 2016 om 09:45 uur

Thank you for the beautiful story, Mary. It's an interesting family history!

van der Steen Louis zei op 5 juni 2016 om 13:41 uur

Thank you for this beautiful family story. It was very interesting. My name is Louis van der Steen. I'm living in Belgium in Ghent. I am the son of Antonius van der Steen and my grandfather was Louis van der Steen, the brother of your father. Many greetings from Belgium

Mary christie zei op 6 juni 2016 om 16:52 uur

I am delighted. I am on the road worling out of town for a week. I would like to communicate further. The story does not end there. We can talk more when i get home. Thank you for making contacr

Norbert van de steen zei op 8 juli 2017 om 22:40 uur

Hello, I am Norbert van der steen, I am a Son of the three brothers who take over the Factory. These days THE factory in Rijen is closed but there is some history left. THE factory chimney is still in THE village. All the three brothers are past away, we burried the last uncle today.. Many regards From Rijen, THE Netherlands.

Annemarie van Geloven
Annemarie van Geloven bhic zei op 10 juli 2017 om 10:29 uur

So respectfull of you to react from Rijen on the day you and your family burried your last uncle. At such moments you feel very strong the end of an era of such enterprising men.

Désirée Akkermans - van der Steen zei op 31 oktober 2017 om 21:33 uur

My name is Désirée van der Steen. Louis van der Steen was my grandfather and I'm the oldest daughter of his son Jan van der Steen, who passed away on the 2nd of july 2017, as last of the three brothers running the factory.
My father was born on the 23th of october 1930 in the house next to the factory.
87 Years later, together with our family, we scatterd his ashes in the old factory chimney, which is still standing as a monument in the center of Rijen.
As my brother said: "Our father is home again".

Annemarie van Geloven
Annemarie van Geloven bhic zei op 1 november 2017 om 09:45 uur

Thank you very much for your reaction, Désiréé. It expresses the enormous commitment of the family Van der Steen to the leather factory in Rijen. The words of your brother about your father, the last deceased of the three brothers, are very meaningful!

Mary Christie zei op 4 januari 2018 om 17:41 uur

Your grand father lived three doors down from my grand father, Jan Vandersteen. They were brothers and frequently gathered for dinner in my grandfather's home. I have more stories of events, like their Christmas celebrations that took place there. The fire that took down part of the factory, started by a faulty motor, and more. I have worked on the details for many years now, from information provided by my mother before she passed away in 2001. I am sorry to hear of the passing of your father. You and I are 2nd cousins. My mother is cousin to your father. We share the same great grandfather.

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