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Deutsches Technikmuseum - July

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The Websites of the donation Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin at a glance:

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The donation contains six locations:

Exhibit of the Month July 2019

Photo: This boat model is made from bluish rubber sections sewn together; the seams are clearly visible. A reddish cord goes all around the boat and there is a red valve for inflating it. The floor has crosswise ribs.

Small, but nice and above all self-made: This inflatable model is only 46 cm long and 26 cm wide. © SDTB / Photo: C. Kirchner

Inflatable boat model, circa 1944

The Berlin native Dorothea Meissner, nee Meyer (1925-2018), sewed this inflatable boat model herself around 1944 and gave it to her father for Christmas.

In 1942 he had arranged employment for her in his "Albert Meyer Inflatable Boats, Berlin" company. This kept her from having to serve the war effort on the battlefront.

Inflatable and floating

The concept and construction of inflatable floating platforms (pontoons) goes all the way back to 1839. The first rubber inflatable boat was eventually produced in Great Britain in 1844/45. American and French companies were to later follow suit.

Black & white photograph: In the foreground a dark haired woman is avidly paddling an inflatable boat. The Berlin Victory Column monument can be seen in the background. Today, the clear view of the Victory Column is blocked by numerous trees.

Dorothea Meyer working the paddles, circa 1945 © SDTB/Historisches Archiv, Albert Meyer estate

In Germany, the Berlin native Hermann Meyer and his 16 year old son Albert received the patent for "an inflatable boat with a fixed rubber floor that could be used on both sides" in 1913.

They initially did their experimentation and construction work in their own kitchen but the business quickly flourished. Albert received countless patents, including one for an air mattress in 1929. His company expanded its production beyond recreational boats and mattresses to include rescue devices and pontoons for the Berlin Fire Department and the German army. The company had great influence on the international development of these products until its dissolution in 1976.

In 1939, the company lost its patent rights, and thus its competitive advantage, by virtue of being nationalized. Dorothea helped her father make a new start after the Second World War.

She was responsible for production and led the company on equal terms with him and her husband Kurt Meissner. She was a self-reliant woman whose private life went far beyond the narrow confines of the family business structure.