L O Dietrich

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L O Dietrich


Company History translated by Claire Sherwell

Friedrich Leopold Oscar Dietrich (1847-1904), Heinrich Hermann Köhler (1849-1914) and Leberecht Friedrich Gustav Winselmann (1842-1907) got to know each other as fellow mechanics in the Clemens Müller sewing machine factory in Dresden. In the summer of 1871, even before the Franco-German war they planned to develop their own sewing machine company, and founded it on July 21st, then registered it on October 7th. Under the company name of Dietrich and Co they rented premises in an Altenburger brush factory, bought the most important machines (Winselmann obtained the money from a wealthy building family in Ploetzkau) and started sewing machine production with only a few men.

At first only hand sewing machines using the Singer principal called Saxonias were manufactured. Annual production amounted to 1871 – 20 sewing machines, 1872 - 400 sewing machines.

By 1873 Dietrich left the partnership, because he didn’t see eye to eye with Köhler, and set up in the "sewing machine retail trade" with a repair outlet in the Sporenstrasse in Altenburg. He started manufacturing his own sewing machines in 1874. In 1875 the company moved to Wilhelmstrasse, and in 1880/81 into the new factory building in Ziegelstrasse. At this time the annual production was about 12,000 sewing machines. In 1889 Dietrich established its own foundry. There Dietrich made shuttles, cabinets and tools, and was to a large extent independent of suppliers.

Leopold Oscar Dietrich died in 1904. His son took over the company and enlarged the existing factory, adding first a lighting department and in 1911/12 a completely new building. The washrooms and showers were exemplary, as was the canteen. As had the old Dietrich and Co, L. O. Dietrich began by building Saxonia hand and treadle sewing machines, then changed to Vibrating Shuttle, then to IF type machines (ring shuttle, long beak), CB and rotary sewing machines, as the other Altenburger factories did in 1890. Dietrich also started manufacturing knitting machines in 1906.

The trademark name of Vesta, which later almost replaced the name Dietrich, was used for the first time in 1895 according to advertisements. In 1906 the company produced Saxonia, Dietrich and Vesta sewing machines, by 1920 the name of Dietrich was replaced by Vesta.

The Vesta Sewing Machine Company came through the world economic crisis relatively well, in 1940 Karl Dietrich was the owner and CEO. In the subsequent years however sales decreased, the company applied for defense contracts and from 1935 started manufacturing MG 15 machine guns. 1940 sewing machine production was completely suspended and war munitions had absolute priority.

After end of the World War the sewing machine factories of Köhler, Winselmann (which was completely dismantled) and Dietrich were expropriated and nationalized. The close connection between the Hermann Köhler establishment, Leopold Oscar Dietrich and the Karl Dietrich establishments I and II were first explained to be "frozen", then in 1952 were declared invalid and transferred as national property.

After the war, when the first company Köhler was able to work once more, it supplied sewing machines as reparation into the USSR. In 1948 Köhler and Dietrich merged to form VEB Naehmaschinenwerke (VEB Sewing Machine Works) Altenburg as the Textima Co-operative.

Within a few years the Altenburger company became the prominent household and industrial sewing machine suppliers for the eastern world. But from 1960 onwards Altenburg and Saalfield gradually lost its domestic sewing machine manufacturing, which was merged with the former Singer works in Wittenberge. More and more Altin industrial sewing machines came out of Altenburg. Although the development of new models was constantly made more difficult for Altin with material problems arising everywhere in the GDR, the Altenburger company could nevertheless keep up to a large extent with the west.

After the change over the Altin was finally transferred first to the independent Altenburger industrial sewing machines GmbH, then to a part of the "Plaschna management GmbH and CO participation -, reorganization and sales limited partnership" and by "S and S technology and investment company ltd." to Berlin. Today, in the year 2001, the main building of the Dietrich factory is empty and dilapidated, the boiler house is torn down, and in the buildings next door several small companies operate that are unrelated to SM production. The name Altin changed over to a small specialty firm.

L O Dietrich Logos

This logo uses the old style L.O.D. 'S' logo and also mentions Vesta. The name Vesta was first used by the company in 1895.

The gold logo badge was registered in November 1896 and was the first Dietrich badge not to mention Singer.

This logo uses the old style L.O.D. 'S' logo, but there is no writing around the outside of the badge. Another distinctive element is the small coat of arms towards the bottom of the badge is oval, not shield-shaped as Dietrich used on other versions of their logo.

Mid-1920s Logo

Saxonia 'Sylvia' 1920s

Little Vesta Logo c.1930

Vesta 'B' 1930

Triangle & Circle 1930s The basic triangle and circle logo with wreath underneath was introduced in 1932. "Vesta" was added in 1933 and L.O. Dietrich-Altenburg curved around the logo in 1934. It is unsure whether this version, with L.O. Dietrich Altenberg blocked underneath, dated slightly later, but it was before 1937.

Dietrich & Vesta Machines

Dietrich Fiddlebase Saxonia

Courtesy of Ludger Halbur


The needle bar and face plate was stamped only with 31956, but some manufacturers stamp some parts with only the last 3 number of the serial number, or the complete number. The machine doesn't have catches or locks for a case. Presumably it came with a wooden box, or else without a cover.

Vesta Transverse Shuttle Machine

Courtesy of Margaret


Made in Germany on inside of pillar. Tansverse shuttle machine using a cylinder/hybrid shuttle. Oil holes are rimmed in red. Tension on the face plate. The pin cushion turns to open the accessories box. Machine dates to c1936/1937.

Advertising Needle Book

Courtesy of Odile Berget

For use with Vesta machines

Little Vesta Flyer

Courtesy of Mike West

An advertising flyer dated 1928 which came with an instruction manual dated 1929.