The story of “Wilhelm Kralik Söhn” begins with the foundation of a glass factory by Josef Meyr in 1815. In that year, Josef Meyr obtained permission to build and operate glass works in the state of Prince Adolf Schwarzenberg. The factory opened on October 1, 1816, and was given the name of Adolfshütte, in honor of the prince. It was built on the Volynka River and produced mainly clear glass to record in its own factory. At that time, Meyr was 84 years old.
Between 1816 and 1829, Josef Meyr owned a total of four glass houses that his son, Jan, inherited: Aldolfshütte, Kaltenbach, Idathal and Luisenhütte. The Katelbanch glass works were carried out under the direction of Paul Meyr, who, in 1803, received a gold medal for rediscovering the “ruby gold” glass.
Jan (1775-1841) added another furnace in 1824 and additional factories for cutting and engraving. At that time, the cutters outnumbered the engravers by 122 to 5. Jan then built a larger factory with four furnaces on the Vitava River. This he named her Eleonorahütte, in honor of Prince Shwarzenberg’s wife.
Elehonorahütte was probably built in 1834 and expanded in 1836 and again in 1842. Eleonorahütte produced clear and colored crystals, flat and hollow, and fancy glass. Also the clear crystals of the watches. The firm won silver medals in Vienna in 1835 and Prague in 1836, and gold medals in Vienna in 1839 and again in 1845. In 1835, he began a long association with J. Lobmeyr in Vienna.
In 1841, Jan died without children at the age of 66. The company passed into the hands of its two nephews: Josef Taschek and Wilhelm Kralik who renamed the company “J. Meyr’s Neffen” (the nephews of J. Meyr) and in 1854, they acquired two more glass factories: Ernsbrunn and Franzenthal.
In 1862, Taschek died and Kralik changed the name of the company to “Meyr’s Neffe”. The company continued to produce high quality glassware and won numerous awards in international competitions. Kralik was knighted for his work and was awarded the title of “Von Meyrs-Walden”. At that time, Meyr’s Neffe employed 255 glass cutters, 36 engravers and 35 painters. In 1851, he married Louise Lobmeyr, sister of Josef.
When Wilhelm Kralik died in 1877, his four children inherited the signature. Karl and Hugo received Adolfshütte, Idahütte, Luisenhütte and Franzhütte. Heinrich and Johann received Elehonorahütte and Ernsthütte. Karl and Hugo retained the name “Meyr’s Neffe” and Heinrich and Johann used the name “Wilhelm Kralik Söhne”. Hugo died in 1883 and Karl in 1899. The sons of Karl, Alfons (1885-1962) and Siegfried (1891-1974) inherited the signature Meyr’s Neffe, which remained unchanged until 1922.
In the 1870s, Austria was recovering from “the years of bankruptcy” and both Meyr’s Neffe and Wilhelm Kralik Söhne depended heavily on exports. The markets of China and Japan strongly influenced its production. Glass designed for the Far East was also popular in Europe due to bright colors and intricate motifs.
Both companies continued to produce high quality glass for numerous bohemian decorative firms. Moser in Karlsbad relied heavily on Meyr’s Neffe, as did Egermann in Nový Bor. Due to the proximity of glass workers in the Sumava region, much of the products produced by Meyr’s Neffe, Kralik and Loetz are strikingly similar.
Throughout the Art Nouveau period, the three firms depended heavily on the same Austrian designers: J. Hoffmann, Kolo Moser, Oskar Strnad, Michael Powolny and many others. The glassware produced covered the entire spectrum of Art Nouveau designs: iridized, painted, hot decorated, cut and engraved.