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Living at a Mill

May 31, 2012

Florian Eickmann (in Romania) has provided excellent leads into the unraveling of the mystery of The Ritter Mystery Cup and recently she sent this informative email about mill life and this cup….

For a watermill of that time it was absolutely usual to have accomodation in the same building as the (water)mill. For safety reasons (fire) they used to have seperate entrance doors and a thick brick or natural sone wall to separate the two functions from one another. Of course, dust was a different issue – the millers’ wives did not want to have flour inside the living room all the time – having no vaccuum cleaners yet ;-))

In a way the group of buildings on the cup look very much like a typical mill of that time witht the small building in the middle being the actual mill. What makes the situation unusual is that there are two different buildings with curtains on the windows. Usually there was just one home for the millers’ family with some primitive rooms for auxiliary staff and trainees that were not part of the family. A typical small mill with an output of no more than one or two tons of flour in 24 hours would have needed two or three skilled workers to operate it… in case they also had an oilmill or a sawmill more workers would have been needed…

Sometimes when a mill or a farm was handed over from the father to the (oldest) son, the older generation moved out of their previous home to a smaller adjacent one, the socalled “Altenteil” or “Altentheil”. So maybe the second building with curtains was erected on behalf of such an occasion???

Talking about the small girl playing, I do not consider the scene very unusual. This is exactly how I grew up in my grandfather’s mill :-). To me it only looks strange to find such situation shown in a picture of that time. The only reason I can imagine is that she was a true person who was of some import to the one who was the first owner of the cup. Maybe a daughter or a small sister?

I recently read that at a time there must have been more than 60 mills in Erfurt – this will make it very difficult to identify the place. The name “Ritter” is not too widespread in Germany, it is not like Müller, Meier, Schulz… but on the other hand, milling used to be a business that was kept in families over the generations and often enough we find the same family name in a region in quite huge numbers of mills. If a miller had five sons all of them would have been trained as millers or millwrights but only one would have been handed over the family’s mill. The other four would have married otheFlorian r millers’ daughters and moved to different mills… So now that we have two Ritters on two different Erfurt mills, I am almost convinced that we will be able to find many more… :-).

Thank you, Florian!

With her permission, Florain Eickmann’s email is “Schneckentrieur AT gmx DOT de”

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