RIPET - Kroutl and Company
České Budějovice (Budweis) is an ancient town in southern Bohemia founded in 1265 by bohemian king Přemysl Otakar II. During his reign Bohemian kingdom was the most powerful kingdom of Holy Roman empire and bohemian kings were the only non native german electors of the Holy Roman emperor. He founded many new cities in Bohemian kingdom and he had promoted skilled german craftsmen to come to live and work into these newly founded cities. This was the base of brilliant economical cooperation between czechs and germans. In 1827 České Budějovice was the first bohemian town connected on horse tram (hippomobile) railroad: Pferdeeisenbahn Budweis–Linz–Gmunden
. In fact, it was the second railroad on european continent, after Saint-Étienne á la Loire
in France. The situation was ideal for upcoming industrial revolution..
In November 1847 Hardtmuth
pencil factory was established in České Budějovice.
In 1895 there was established a second pencil factory - Národní podnik
, later also FP producer.
Then later in 1910 was established third pencil company Graphium
which existed until 1918 when it was bought by Národní podnik company.
In 1920 was established GRAFO
company, also a pencil producer.
All of them in Budweis.
Emil Kroutl was working as expert metal galvaniser and small parts metalsmith in workshop of Blažej Schattinger in Biskupská street, Budweis. This workshop was Hardtmuth subcontractor and produced all gold plated parts and other metal trim for LCH export models. Later, when a special division for metal galvanising was established within Hardtmuth factory, Emil Kroutl was hired as the chief metal galvaniser in Hardtmuth with some percentage of the factory profits.
Ludvík Kroutl was one of Emil brothers (Kroutl familly was of 7 children). He was working long years as expert operator on special lathe machines for early plastics (celluloid, HR and Galalith) in mechanical pencil division of Hardtmuth factory.
Rudolf Kroutl was an Anglophile who as a young man had spent 4 years in England sometimes before WW1. When back in Bohemia he established in Budweis his own painter shop specialised in lacquers. During WW1 he was mobilised and served as a soldier.
Then there was Jaromír Kroutl, František Kroutl, and two sisters - Anna and Marie Kroutl. Later they will be all implied in Ripet project. Anna and Marie Kroutl became co-owners in 1936.
In 28th July 1920 Emil Kroutl have registered ČS patent number 12045 for repeating pencil, for the first time operated by one hand. He wanted to sell the patent to Hardtmuth but the money amount proposed by LCH was not enough for Emil Kroutl.
So after a brief familial meeting in Rudolf shop´s backyard, they decided to launch their own company. We have to admire their courage, LCH and other makers were powerful competitors. So Kroutls have borrowed some money from bank and used an esperanto word „ripeti“ which means „repeat“ and they registered Ripet – Kroutl and Company later in 1920. They bought an estate land in the industrial part of the town, nearby the emerging GRAFO company site. They have built a new factory building and had bought all machinery for lead making (two graphite mills of the same type as Hardtmuth had, one heating furnace, various machines for lead preparation. Then there was complete machinery for producing inner metal repeating pencil mechanism. And lathe machines for hard rubber cases. In 4th April 1925 Jaromír and Ludvík Kroutl had registered another patent, this time for a mechanical lead holder. ČS patent number 25733.
It became the Ripet-Art pencil.The six sided wooden shaft was subproduced by GRAFO company.
Surprisingly as Kroutls were very competent technicians they were not proficient traders. Even with the top class product such as repeating pencils, they totally lacked practical marketing skills and first years were quite difficult according to archive files and also to Kroutls memories. At that time Ripet was producing patented repeating pencils, classic screwing pencils and patented Ripet-Art holders in around 20 different sizes, colors and design mutations. Apparently there were some personal differencies and in 1928 Emil Kroutl decided to left the Ripet company. Once he left Ripet Co, Emil Kroult had established successful bicycle producing company in Budweis and later in 1939 was one of PEROP Company founders). The eldest brother – František Kroutl became Ripet new co-owner with Ludvík, Jaromír and Rudolf. František apparently had some experience and skills that the other brothers had not. He started to do some public relations and marketing. Now they also for the first time hired 3 certified dealers: one for german speaking countries, second for Prague only and third one for all Czechoslovakia minus Prague.
At the same year 1928 Kroutl brothers decided to start fountain pen production. Interestingly, the fountain pens became immediately the best selling Ripet products. All parts for FPs were made in Ripet company, except nibs. Those were imported from Germany, USA and France. In 1932 they hired a specialist engineer from Belgium who spent one year in České Budějovice and designed all the machinery necessary for iridium tipped gold nib making. The machinery equipement designed by the foreign specialist was then made on command by some precision machinery companies in Prague and some pieces were made directly by the engineer himself in Budweis. So in year 1933 Ripet was the first czechoslovak company producing highest quality iridium tipped gold nibs. It was Ludvík Kroutl who - as an enthusiastic and very experienced fine machinist - became very skilled nib master in Ripet company. Ripet produced various piston fillers of their own construction, button fillers and vacuum fillers such as Ripet Hermetic or Start. The rubber sacs were imported from USA. After year 1933 Ripet products were selling so good that the factory had difficulties to fulfill the demand. The celluloid was imported from Italy and Germany, iridium from England and hard rubber from Sweden. Since early 1940´s UMA celluloid was used.
In second half of 1930´s there was a judicial trial Eversharp versus Ripet. It lasted couple of years. It was because Ripet had produced one line of START pens quite identical to multi-sided Doric pens. As that cause was well described in local news papers, it actually helped Ripet to increase further their sales. Their pen was described of the same quality but sligthly more robust by the independent authorities judging both products. In 1938 Ripet was hiring around 50 workers and was ready to produce pens and pencils for 20.000Crowns per day. The most expensive Ripet cost up to 250crowns with 25 years warranty. The cheapest Ripet was for 7,50Crowns, most pens were sold around 30-50Crowns. (Waterman Ink Vue full size with Keyhole nib costed 350Crowns in 1937 in Prague.)
Here are some Ripet pens:
During WW2 Ripet was allowed to run limited FP production but they had to do some small parts subcontracts for nazi army, too.
For clear reasons after the war all kinds of czechoslovak industry lived a real golden age. Unfortunately it lasted only 3 years and then the unique opportunity was missed. So the briliant succes of RIPET company was doomed in february 1948. The company was nationalised and integrated among other FP makers into newly created Centropen public company. It was not a fast process and some middle and small Ripet piston fillers remained in production until early 1950. In 1958, all Czechoslovak FP/Pencil industry was reorganised once more and FP production was definitively stopped in Budweis.
Kroutl familly was heavily persecuted by communists.
Edited by Khufu, 24 February 2013 - 11:28.