The first mentions of Łódź come from 1332. However, it was only in July 1423 that King Władysław Jagiełło granted it the location privilege. At that time the basis for existence of its inhabitants was agriculture. This is the period referred to as "agricultural Łódź". In the middle of the 16th century the town had 650-800 inhabitants. The buildings of the settlement were gathered around today's Old Market Square and Church Square. The townspeople took advantage of the proximity of the Kraków-Łęczyca route and developed their economic activities on this basis.
Everything changed only in the 1820s, when several hundred metres to the south, on the initiative of the authorities of the autonomous Kingdom of Poland, an industrial settlement started to grow, then called New Town.
Although the centre of Łódź started to shift towards the south, the Old Market still played an important role in the life of the city. Throughout the nineteenth century, a market functioned here and – since 1841 – the famous Marconi butcheries, where you could buy fresh bread and a variety of meats and sausages. As the city developed, the appearance of the Old Market also changed. Wooden houses, often remembering the times of "agricultural Łódź", were replaced by brick houses, usually one- or two-storeyed. Most of them were inhabited by Jews, who for a long time were forbidden to settle in the industrial area of the New Town. Among others, Izrael Poznański had his shop here, before he became one of the "kings of cotton" in Łódź.
New Market Square in Łódź (now Liberty Square) looking towards Piotrkowska Street. Visible the Holy Trinity Church and the town hall, 1896. (photo: Bronisław Wilkoszewski, public domain)
The period of the city's prosperity is tied to the abolition of the customs border between the Kingdom and Russia. The domestic textile industry was established and Łódź was made the leading centre of the Polish textile industry. New inhabitants, craftsmen and merchants came to Łódź, fairs and markets revived.
The creator and patron of modern Łódź was Rajmund Rembieliński. Thanks to his efforts Łódź was ranked among the so-called factory cities in 1820. The first settlers came to the city in 1822 – within 8 years there were already over a thousand craftsmen families. They gave rise to the development of textile industry in the city. New settlers settled along Piotrkowska Street, south of the Old Town. The first textile settlement in Łódź – "Cloth Mill New Town" was established in 1823 – this year is considered the beginning of "Industrial Łódź".
Łódź becomes the "Promised Land" for thousands of rural and small-town dwellers. From a village lost among willow osiers, from swamps and peat bogs, a city begins to emerge.
It took only half a century from the birth to the flourishing of industrial Łódź. Already in 1825 the first cotton mill, built by Kristian Fryderyk Wendisch coming from Saxony, was opened in the city.
In 1839 the first steam machine in the Polish cotton industry was installed in L. Geyer's factory. In K. Scheibler's factory a mechanical spinning-mill was started up in 1855, and the first mechanical weaving mill in 1866 in J. Heinzl's factory.
Łódź's very rapid population growth in the 19th century was the consequence of immigration from the countryside and small towns. There were also settlers from neighbouring countries, mainly from Bohemia and Saxony, sporadically from England, France and Switzerland. In terms of population growth Łódź broke all the records at that time – almost every 10 years it doubled its population. Łódź became a multicultural, vibrant city, where huge factory owners' fortunes were made overnight.
Symbols of former Łódź in old photographs:
Łódź Fabryczna railway station, 1930. (photo:
W. Pfeiffer, from the collection of the State
Archive in Łódź)