Franz Jaeger (Jäger) 1876 – 1957
Gunsmith – Manufacturer – Inventor
Friesenstr. 17 (formerly Pfiffergrube).
Suhl – Thuringia – Germany
- Jäger & Co. Trade Mark Herold
Manufacturer of all types of hunting guns.
Despite the fact that fate did not bring Franz Jaeger much recognition or riches during his lifetime, his inventions still play an important role in the guns of today.
He was born on a farm in 1876 and grew up with nine brothers and sisters in Rampitz, in Merseburg County. Since only one son could take over the farm, the others had to make their own fortune in the world. Franz Jaeger’s mother was the sister of Gustav Kersten, a military gunsmith, inventor and armorer in the Prussian Army. Not only was he an example for Franz Jaeger, but he also found him an apprenticeship as an actioner in Zella Mehlis.
As a young journeyman Franz opened his own gun shop in Halle. This venture was not successful so he decided to try his luck in America. He found employment as a gunsmith in New York, and it was there that he met and married Fanny Strauss who had also come from Germany. Their first son, Paul, was born there. It was here that he began to develop his own ideas and he took out his first patent for a single trigger mechanism. Again he opened his own business with a partner (Bittiner & Jaeger) on Broadway in New York.
After a few years the family returned to Germany and settled in Suhl. Franz rented a workshop and installed single triggers for other manufacturers and to gun owners through a network of gun dealers. His business flourished and the Jaegers could soon rent a nice house with a better shop in the Schleusinger Strasse.
In short succession between 1901 and 1914Franz Jaeger obtained eight patents. He hired gunsmiths and his shop was soon too small. A retired druggist who had a love for guns, Mr. Luedecke, became a partner and helped finance a new factory that was built at Pfiffergrube 17 (later Friesenstrasse). Mr. Lüdecke built a Villa next door and wanted to work part time as a business manager. The buildings were hardly completed when Mr. Lüdecke died unexpectedly and his family wanted the invested money to be returned.
The Jaeger family moved into an apartment next to the offices in the factory building. Plans for the building of a private home on the same grounds never became a reality. Despite financial problems, the business kept growing. In the years before World War I, Franz Jaeger employed more than 50 people. The catalogs of that period showed a wide variety of guns, most of them with Jaeger patents.
At the death bed of his father, Franz Jaeger promised that he would take care of the family, especially the youngest brother Reinhold. He kept this promise and not only Reinhold but also brothers Paul and Karl came to Suhl, learned their trade and worked in Franz Jaeger’s gun factory.
World War I brought the good times to an end. Reinhold was drafted into the army and Paul, Franz Jaeger’s brother, who had volunteered for active duty,lost his life in Flanders in November 1914.
Franz Jaeger designed the “Jaeger Pistol” in a period of 3 months. It was far ahead of the times and used steel stampings and castings, something unheard of at the time. The army rejected it for official use with one word: “Blech” (sheet metal). Nevertheless, the Jaeger factory produced about 15,000 of the pistols which gave work and an income to his employees.