Tilgmann was founded in Helsinki in 1869. The company’s rich history gives us an interesting insight into the development of this distinguished printing house. Throughout the decades its products have included maps, banknotes and board games as well as packaging materials.
Familiarise yourself with the company’s fascinating history using this timeline.
The Tilgmann printing house was built in the centre of Helsinki
In 1869 Ferdinand Tilgmann, of German descent, founded a lithography business bearing his own name in Helsinki. He was well educated and he was also a talented artist with a professional interest in printing.
In 1872 Ferdinand Tilgmann bought three plots of land on the corner of Annankatu and Lönnrotinkatu, where he built his printing house.
The Miu printing press that was invented by Ferdinand Tilgmann and used rolls of paper, received a great many commendation in professional circles, but no more than three of them were ever made. It was a little too much ahead of its time. 9,000 Markkas was used to make the prototype, which was a lot of money back then.
Ferdinand Tilgmann was tasked with printing the large general map of Finland. As he also had also had special training in drawing maps, he engraved the stone slabs himself.
Banknote printing begins
Ferdinand Tilgmann founds the Bank of Finland printing house for banknotes in 1885. This is a mission of great honour, because this is the country’s first establishment of this kind.
The first banknote printed by the Bank of Finland’s own printing house is designed by Ferdinand Tilgmann and Friedrich Wanderer. The printed banknotes have a value of five and ten Markkas and they come into circulation in 1889. The banknote designed by Tilgmann is not officially annulled as legal tender until as late as in 1945.
The first provisional one Markka banknote is a different shape to the modern banknotes: it is 13.5 cm wide and 9.5 cm high. It is manufactured at the F. O. Liewendahl printing press, SKS printing press and Tilgmann’s printing press before the official printing press for banknotes is founded.
The company status is changed to a Limited Company. Tilgmann’s reputation as a great printing house is strengthened. It is tasked with handling several commissions for maps as well as receiving the honour of being the first to print so-called correspondence cards and international response coupons for the Post Office (referred to as Postihallitus at the time).
Ferdinand Tilgmann’s son Ernst joins the company’s management team together with lieutenant and baron Gösta Sackleen.
Ferdinand Tilgmann puts greater emphasis on mechanics and automation and invests in express presses. Chemigraphy, i.e. printing slabs made with chemical and photographic methods, is introduced. The risky investment pays off and brings the company economic growth.
They are also using a fast “accident” printing press which is capable of printing 1600 impressions an hour. In 1905 Tilgmann founds a paper processing company Ab Chromo, which specialises in manufacturing printing paper and cardboard for artistic purposes.
Ferdinand Tilgmann and his family move back to their home country Germany for a year, where he starts studying composing at the local conservatoire, at the tender age of 61.
In 1903 his son Ernst Tilgmann is fired from his position as a company director because he fails to make a Russian client pay for a large order. He returns to the company in 1906, starting off as an auditor until he again progresses into management tasks.
The family business goes to Amos Anderson
Ferdinand Tilgmann dies in 1911. In 1916 Amos Anderson acquires the majority of the shares in the company. He merges Tilgmann with Öflund & Petterson, Helsingin Kirja- ja Kivipaino, Weilin & Göös kivipaino, Lilius & Hertzberg and Turun Kivipaino. Now a major company it immediately dominates the lithography business.
Tilgmann boasts 1,000 employees, a quarter of whom work in offset printing. 40 percent of Tilgmann’s turnover comes from offset printing, which is why the company is increasingly specialising in this particular printing technique.
Offset printing is also especially suitable for making packaging material. Tilgmann’s exceptional performance in this field provides solutions to packaging problems. In addition to the actual printing work the company also takes care of post press finishing, through e.g. laminating, polishing and die-cutting packaging products.
The last representative of Tilgmann family leaves the company as Ernst Tilgmann steps away from the business. Oskar Öflund, who started his career as Ferdinand Tilgmann’s apprentice as well as working for a number of its competitors at times, is taken on as the company’s managing director.
From books to packaging materials
After the war years Tilgmann concentrates more and more on manufacturing packaging materials instead of printing books. Tilgmann’s Kuvataide publishing house publishes products ranging from simple playing cards to high quality images. In 1951 Tilgmann publishes the board game “Afrikan Tähti” (Star of Africa) which still today is a favourite Finnish board game.
In 1955 Tilgmann calls an end to its lithography line and demolishes the last fifteen express lithography machines which are sold on as scrap. The majority of the 40,000 lithographed blocks are also destroyed.
In 1957 Tilgmann takes up photogravure printing technique, which is used alongside flexographic printing, for the production of packaging materials. The company is even able to create unusual shapes, such as round cheese boxes.
Ferdinand Tilgmann’s grandson Arnold Tilgmann illustrated some 1,500 postcards, of which the soldier-themed ones proved very successful, especially during the war years.
Tilgmann celebrates its 100th anniversary
The sixties are a golden age for Tilgmann. It has achieved a particularly strong position in the market and increasingly focuses on printing packaging material. There is good reason to celebrate at the end of the decade, because in 1969 Tilgmann will be 100 years old. In honour of this special day an historic print is created to showcase the company’s stunning work is printed.
Tilgmann is Finland’s largest printing press company and leads the way in almost all forms of printing from books to board games and from art materials to packaging materials.
In 1962 Amos Anderson dies and bequeaths all Tilgmann’s shares to Föreningen Konstsamfundet foundation, whose key founder he was back in the 1940’s. In reality the foundation is Amos Anderson’s sole beneficiary.
Decades of change
The ensuing decades are the time of great change for Tilgmann. The operational environment undergoes a sea of change because, as is typical of the time, Tilgmann also bears witness to increased specialisation. Demand is changing and the company differentiates its business into units which each focus on their own know-how.
In the 1970’s share capital is being sold. First up, Tilgmann is bought by Kymmene, and in the1980’s ownership is transferred to Yhtyneet Paperitehtaat. At the end of the 1990’s Edita Oy (previously Valtion Painatuskeskus) buys out Tilgmann and another leading label operator, Lauttasaaren Paino, and the merger takes on the title of the Edita Label division.
From the 1990’s the company concentrates solely on printing labels.
In 1971 the production departments are moved from the centre of Helsinki to the Suomenoja site in Espoo, where there is a greater potential to expand. The building on the corner of Annankatu and Lönnrotinkatu becomes a more classic office building, which is today used by the European Chemical Agency.
At the beginning of the 2000s, the manufacture of labels was centralised in a production plant in Siuntio. The main focus is on fibre-based gravure and offset printed labels. Tilgmann boosts its exports to both Sweden and Russia, and new customers are found in Sweden in the early 2010s, in particular. Around the same time, the production of labels for plastic bottles begins using the so-called flexographic printing technology.
In the mid-2010s, the first expansion in a long time takes place through an acquisition. Tilgmann acquires Turku Offsetpaino Oy, which also produces fibre-based labels. At the same time, expansion to Sweden also takes place, and flexible packaging re-enters the product range.
Self-adhesive labels have long been the fastest growing label solution. In 2016, the Helsinki-based Paperityö Oy, which was founded in 1921 and is one of the country’s leading printing houses in terms of self-adhesive labels, joins the Tilgmann Group. By combining the expertise and business of Paperityö, Tilgmann again becomes Finland’s leading label manufacturer. With the addition of two of Estonia’s leading label operations, Tilgmann once again becomes a leading player in the Nordic and Baltic countries.
In the future, Tilgmann sees itself as a strong player in carton packaging, in addition to labels. Carton is the largest of the packaging materials segments, has a favourable future outlook, and is environmentally sustainable. As a Nordic company, Tilgmann has extensive experience in fibre-based materials, and the Group is actively working on various options to bring this product group back as a significant part of the product range.