Wed. J. Ahrend & Zoon

Cover of the 1922 no. 31 Ahrend catalogue.
Figure 1: Cover of the 1922 no. 31 Ahrend catalogue.
Although not an instrument manufacturer, but a trade-firm in office furniture and supplies, Wed. J. Ahrend & Zoon (or Ahrend in short) is still worth mentioning. Here in the Netherlands they were the major re-seller of geodetic instruments of all sorts, like survey tapes and chains, surveyor's crosses, sounding and geodetic sextants, levels and theodolites. Among the firms they featured were De Koningh and Wild Heerbrugg.
Their first office was founded in 1896 in a living room in Amsterdam by Jacobus Ahrend, son of Jacobus Ahrend Sr. and Gerardina Ahrend-Makelaar.1 By this time his father had already passed away, and being underaged, his mother's name had to be used as the firm name, hence the addition of "Wed." for weduwe (widow).
The first products they sold were Schäuffele drawing tables, Richter drawing compasses, Nestler slide rules, and blue prints. By 1900 they had moved to another location (an attic at the Prins Hendrikkade in Amsterdam), while their range of products had expanded with technical books, Odell typewriters and nautical instruments. In 1904 they acquired the largest blue print press in the Netherlands, the first with electric lighting, soon followed by their first electric lithographic press.

Ahrend logos over the years.
Figure 2: Ahrend logos over the years.
In 1909 they moved to larger premises at the Singel in Amsterdam and the following year they established their publishing house. After the Great War they established new stores in The Hague, Rotterdam and Hilversum, while their range of products kept on growing, now also including meteorological and optical instruments and mechanical calculators. In the 1920s they started selling radios and office furniture, among the latter were the famous steel tubed chairs by Gispen.
The Second World War meant that steel was no longer allowed as construction material for furniture, while their in the meanwhile developed overseas activities ceased and their Rotterdam store got lost in the German bombing raid on that city. The firm survived by working for the occupying forces; had they not done so their employees had to work for them in Germany anyway.
In 1946 the firm changed her name into Wed. J. Ahrend & Zoon's Industrie en Handelsvereniging.

One of the current Ahrend offices.
Figure 3: One of the current Ahrend offices.
In 1957 Ahrend opened their own workshop where theodolites, levels, binoculars, planimeters, microscopes and nautical equipment could be repaired, tested, and adjusted.2 That workshop was thus only for maintenance, not to produce new instruments. The year after Jacobus Ahrend would die, but the firm continued, buying shares from the geodetic instrument makers firm De Koningh in 1962. In 1974 Ahrin (Ahrend Instruments) was founded as the geodetic and cartographic division, from now on selling products from Wild Heerbrugg (geodetic instruments), Contraves Zürich (drawing apparatus), Macop Goslar (pantographs), Ott Kempten (planimeters), Mutoh Japan (coordinatographs), and Intermak (survey nails), although the simpler instruments could still be obtained from the Ahrend business points.3
By the end of the 1960s Ahrend had their peak with approximately 3000 employees, which were gradually brought back to 2300 by 1979. The following years up to 1983 brought Ahrend into financial stormy weather. Ahrin merged with the Dutch firms Kern Instrumenten BV and Wild Leitz BV and continued as Wild Leitz in the Dutch town of Rijswijk in 1989.4
In 1996 Ahrend celebrated its centenary and was given permission to carry the predicate 'Koninklijk' (Royal). They survived the troublesome years and now, after hiving off their office supplies and reproduction division in 2005, they focus on office interiors.

In the early 20th century Ahrend started developing their logo, only using their family name as a brand name (see figure 2). In contrast to their 1922 catalogue (see figure 1) an 1935 advertisement only showed the name in italics: Ahrend. In late 1971 or early 1972 this was changed into a properly designed logo, which seems to have been based on the tubular shape of the early Gispen furniture. Two years later the Ahrin logo appeared. In or shortly after 1996 the crown was added, while the whole logo was redesigned in or shortly before 2003.

Instruments in the collection
Although they did not produce the instruments themselves, the following were supplied by Ahrend or Ahrin to their customers:


[1]: See the Ahrend page on Wikipedia.
[2]: H.L. van Gent, 'Een nieuw Bedrijf', In: Tijdschrift voor Kadaster en Landmeetkunde, 73e jaargang, nr.4, 01/08/1957, p.272.
[3]: 'Bericht: Ahrin BV', In: Nederlands Geodetisch Tijdschrift, 4e jaargang, no.5, mei 1974, p.140.
[4]: 'Berichten: Wild Leitz', in: Nederlands Geodetisch Tijdschrift Geodesia, 31e jaargang, no. 5, mei 1989, p.252.

Figure references
figure 1: collection John Vossepoel.
figure 2: 1930s and 1970s logo's from private collection, 1996 and 2003 logo's from Mojo Strategy: herpositionering van een marktleider: Ahrend.
figure 3: Thuis in Brabant / Geschiedenis / Verstedelijking van de dorpen.

If you have any questions and/or remarks please let me know.

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