Wilhelm Herchenbach

Wilhelm was a successful writer in 19th-century Germany. Born 1818 in Neunkirchen, Wilhelm first became a bailiff's assistant in the nearby town of Hennef, later a teacher near and in the city of Düsseldorf, where in 1850 he founded his own (boys') school. From 1866 onwards, he focused on writing, and by the time of his death in 1889, his works comprised over 300 books.

Most were renarrations of local folk tales or told stories of his own imagination and were usually targeted at young readers, centering around issues of (Christian) morality. However, Wilhelm also wrote novels with an historical background, travelogues and books of educational intent – e.g. about natural history or a nowadays especially anachronistic guide to the upbringing of daughters.

His works once had a quite high circulation and were even translated into several other languages, but can meanwhile only be acquired from antiquarians or on eBay, as publication ceased in the 1930s. To save you the trouble, some can be found on the right as PDF files.


13 Nov 1818 Peter Wilhelm Herchenbach, the son of farmer Peter Herchenbach and his wife Eva Maria Klein, is born in Neunkirchen (part of Neunkirchen-Seelscheid, situated close to Cologne)
8 Nov 1828 Death of Wilhelm's mother Eva Maria;
for two years Wilhelm is raised at his uncle's, who is a teacher in Pempelfort (Düsseldorf)
1830-35 Wilhelm attends school in Neunkirchen; on March 28th, 1831 he passes a test that qualifies him for leaving school, but because of good grades his teachers would like his parents to allow him attending school furthermore; teacher Heinrich Weeg supports Wilhelm; until March 1835 Wilhelm attends school only periodically but with credible diligence and good success
1835-37 Herchenbach takes a job as an assistant in the mayor's office of Neunkirchen and the bailiff at Hennef; he decides to become a teacher and receives an approving letter of recommendation for further applications by the local priest of Neunkirchen
1836-37 Wilhelm is employed as an assistant teacher in Hennef; he makes great progress in teaching young students
1837-40 Herchenbach teaches at his uncle's school in Pempelfort
1840-42 Wilhelm attends the newly established teachers' college in Kempen; he even takes classes for teaching deaf-mutes; his artistic skills (Drawing: hardly satisfying; Singing: hardly satisfying) are not developed well but his teaching ability in general is pretty well
1841 Herchenbach's first written work, "Eisblumen", is published in Düsseldorf
1842-47 Wilhelm returns to his uncle Klein's school for a short time; in December 1842 he starts teaching at the Max school (a school for poor kids from the parish of St. Maximilian) in Düsseldorf
19 Feb 1846 Wilhelm Herchenbach is married to Elisabeth Lutz from Düsseldorf
1847-49 Herchenbach becomes teacher of a secondary Catholic girls' school in Düsseldorf; he does a rather good job so that the board of trustees of the school can recommend him for any other teaching profession
1849 to repesent the town's interest in school affairs, Herchenbach is elected into the local town council
1850-68 Herchenbach opens his own school at Bilker Straße in Düsseldorf; on December 18th, 1849, he receives the permission to have a Catholic boys' school, in which elementary skills, French and English, Geography and History are taught, some special classes prepare boys for business life; not only Catholics can attend Herchenbach's school; up to 140 kids are in his charge, but conflicts with the town's supervision, who blame Herchenbach for exceeding his competence, come up; in the 1860s his school loses its reputation; 1867 his school is accused of severe failings so that Herchenbach gives up teaching by September 1st, 1868
1852-54 Wilhelm Herchenbach also becomes the private teacher of Stephanie of Hohenzollern (daughter of Prince Carl Anton of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen), the future queen of Portugal; her father awards Wilhelm with the Knight's Cross of the family of Hohenzollern and two medals for Art and Science "bene merenti"; Herchenbach also teaches his neighbours' kids, those of musicians Robert and Clara Schumann, while they are touring in Europe
1860- Herchenbach's profession suffers more and more from his engagement in writing; already in 1859 he is accused of preferring writing instead of focusing on further training for his teaching career; 1860-75 the first serial of books "Stories for People and Youth" ("Erzählungen für Volk und Jugend") with 100 volumes is published, 1879-85 the "New Stories for People and Youth" ("Neue Erzählungen für Volk und Jugend") follow, in the same time, 1876-82, 25 books on "Travels on all parts of the Earth" ("Wanderungen über alle Theile der Erde") are published, in 1884 the "Soldier's Library" ("Soldaten-Bibliothek") starts; all these serials are published at Manz in Regensburg; some other books are printed at other publishing houses; essays in newspapers, anthologies, school books, scientific papers can be added to his overall work
1868-74 Wilhelm Herchenbach is president of the shooting club of St. Sebastianus in Düsseldorf
1874 Herchenbach is co-founder of the "Museum of Local History" ("Stadtmuseum") of Düsseldorf; he is among the elected members of its board of trustees
13 May 1880 "Düsseldorf's History Club" ("Düsseldorfer Geschichtsverein") is established; Herchenbach becomes the first president of the club which concentrates on the study of local history and is associated with the "Museum of Local History"; Herchenbach writes short articles in the first publications of this Club, but it is his successors who introduce the Club as a scientific one in Germany; in January 1884, Herchenbach is reelected as the Club's president
1880-82 Herchenbach, who has been a member of several Catholic Clubs in Düsseldorf, finally becomes a member of the executive committee of the "Christian-Social Club of Düsseldorf" ("Christlich-sozialer Verein Düsseldorf II"); he publishes the "Düsseldorfer Merkur", a Catholic newspaper
1882-88 Wilhelm Herchenbach's works concentrate on the history of his home town of Düsseldorf; "Düsseldorf and its neighbourhood in the revolution of 1848-49" ("Düsseldorf und seine Umgebung in den Revolutionsjahren von 1848-1849") (1882), "The history of Limburg's succession conflict" ("Die Geschichte des Limburger Erbfolgestreites") (1883 and 1888) and a "History of the town of Düsseldorf" ("Geschichte der Stadt Düsseldorf") (1888) are published
Dec 1883 Herchenbach falls seriously ill and retires to private life
26 Jan 1885 Wilhelm Herchenbach becomes an honorary member of Düsseldorf's History Club
14 Dec 1889 Wilhelm Herchenbach dies in Düsseldorf

Short Biography by Leo Lammert