Gdańsk entered the 18th century – the age of reason and enlightenment – as a city rich in people, buildings of outstanding beauty and reliable merchant-craftsman capital. It is a city aware of its possibilities, playing an important, subjective role in various political games. It is a true state within a state, where no foreign army has been able to penetrate its walls for years. During the free election of 1697, which preceded this century, Gdańsk actively opposed the candidate of France, the most powerful country in Europe at the time, Prince François Louis de Conti, thus helping August II of the Wettin dynasty to achieve the Polish throne. Never before or since has the will of Gdansk’s ruling elite left such a significant mark on the course of political events on a European, Commonwealth and regional scale. At the same time, the city shone with the brilliance of the rich and multi-faceted culture developed in previous centuries, a metropolitan, bourgeois, Protestant (Lutheran) and yet multi-confessional, German, but nevertheless imbued with so many other ethnicities, with the Polish at the forefront. A unique centre, fully deserving to be called “the most European among cities in the lands of Sarmatia” (Marcin Kaleciński). The 18th century in the history of Gdansk can therefore be seen as the quintessence and culmination of a golden – modern – age and a real explosion of civilisational achievements. At the end of this historical process, however, the partition annihilation and the new, very different reality of the age of steam and electricity awaited.
According to calculations by Jan Baszanowski, around 1700 Danzig had a population of 63,300, making it one of the elite thirty cities on the continent with a population over 50,000. More than 80 per cent of the inhabitants of Gdansk were Lutherans, and it was this denomination that had been the ruling religion on the Motlawa River since the Reformation. Reformed evangelicals, Calvinists, who at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries fought a turbulent battle for the rule of souls in the city, by the end of the 18th century were a barely visible group, around 2% of the total population. However, they were still the elite, patricians, wealthy citizens, representatives of the liberal professions, who had good relations, including family relations, with the victors in the confessional clash – the Lutherans. In addition to the two main communities of this confession, the Prussian and the Dutch, which had been rooted in the city for centuries, two ethnic groups settled in Danzig: the French Huguenots and the Scottish Presbyterians. Approximately 10% of the city’s population in the early 18th century were Catholics, and the size of this group, especially in percentage terms, was steadily increasing. Although more numerous than Calvinists, they were nevertheless deprived of full public rights. In particular, their lack of access to municipal offices was significant, making Catholicism a legally disadvantaged denomination. As Johanna Schopenhauer unceremoniously stated in her memoirs of her Danzig youth, they could not even be night watchmen in Danzig. The denominational mosaic was completed by Mennonites, who were allowed to live in the city under special conditions, and even more so, in its outer fortified suburbs, Zaroślak and Siedlce. There were also a handful of Anglicans, and until a certain point also Quakers, plus representatives of other rapidly assimilating religions and denominations. Jews, on the other hand, were not allowed to settle in Gdansk, but they still came in large numbers during the Dominican Fair, buying special residence licenses. The church settlements that no longer belonged to the city but were part of the city complex, such as Stare Szkoty, Chełm and Chmielniki, were open to them. Ethnic diversity went hand in hand with the diversity of religions, but (Lower) German was the dominant language in Danzig, which was the language of offices and pulpits. However, Polish was also spoken in churches, both Protestant and Catholic. French, and to a lesser extent English, was spoken in the salons and among educated people. On the other hand, the professors of the Academic Gymnasium (not to mention the teachers of the Jesuit College of Gdańsk in Stare Szkoty) had a very good command of Latin, the language of science at the time. In fact, as in any large port city, almost all the languages of Europe resounded here, and some printing works could be found in the Cyrillic or even the Arabic alphabet.
The Great Privilege of 1457 upheld the prevailing system in the city, which could roughly be described as republican, but with a strongly marked role for the somewhat aristocratic (after all, it was birth that decided in the first place) patrician City Council, with a leading role for representatives of the Main Town in its composition. It was to it that the city’s most vital interests were entrusted in the 15th century, making it at the same time a unified and efficiently managed organism. This so-called First Ordinance consisted of a college of 4 mayors and 14 councillors. The 5 separate councillors of the Old Town had only one, essentially advisory, vote in the main town council. In addition, there were so-called second ordinances in the city, the Benches of the Main City and the Old City, each consisting of 12 members and constituting an introduction to an official career at a higher, councillor level. The benches were judicial bodies, but there were more judicial bodies in the city with separate powers (e.g. the Veto, the Burgrave’s Office). Only the most prominent and wealthiest families in the town had access to the first and second orders, according to Joachim Zdrenko’s calculations a mere 0.23% of the total population, i.e. less than a quarter of a percent of the population (and only the male part of the population, of course, with full civil rights). However, there was also a so-called “potential patriciate”, those wealthy Gdansk families who, by virtue of their birth, connections and, above all, prosperity, could count on being promoted to the ranks of the ruling patriciate. This group was estimated at up to 10% of the total population. The broader urban citizenry, the so-called commoners, the most numerous stratum of the urban population, had their own so-called Third Ordinance from 1526 onwards, whose role was initially minor, merely advisory. The 108-member body was mostly composed of merchants and only a few of the most important craft guilds had a total of 8 representatives on it. John III Sobieski in 1678 and August III in 1750 gradually expanded the powers of this body, giving the appearance of democratising the system. Under the new electoral law, merchants (commoners) were henceforth guaranteed one-third of the seats in the Council and the Bench, and in the event of a disagreement with the Council, the remaining Ordinands had the right to appeal to the King. The Third Ordinance also gained control over all tax-collecting offices. In practice, however, it was still the mayors and councillors who exercised the greatest influence on decision-making, and knowledge of matters of truly exceptional importance rarely penetrated the public forum (and the deliberations of the combined three ordinates).
The authority thus structured was strictly subordinate not only to the city proper, within the massive fortifications, but also to the vast rural territory of some 643 square kilometres, nearly a hundred villages and settlements and one additional port city, Hel. The merchant republic of Gdansk was directly subordinate to the Polish kings, treating them as superior lords and protectors, as well as supreme judges (to whose arbitration Gdansk often resorted). This bond became noticeably weaker with the weakening of the Commonwealth and the anarchisation of its political life. In the 18th century there was a growing sense of self-reliance and reliance on its own forces, and, after the defeat in the war to defend the throne of Stanisław Leszczyński in 1734, on the patronage of foreign powers. Hence, it was very common in accounts of the period, and especially among the Danzigers themselves, to come across the opinion that Danzig was a free city (sometimes with an addition – the Hanseatic – but by the 18th century the Hanseatic League was practically defunct). However, Danzig fulfilled an important role as a member of the Prussian Council within Royal Prussia, actively participating in its political life, which strengthened ties not only with this province, but also with ‘our’ Kingdom of Poland. Eventually, the invaders themselves confirmed in partition documents that Gdańsk belonged to the Republic of Poland, recognising the city as a fragment of the divisible Polish ‘estate’.
At the beginning of the 18th century, a group of representatives of the ‘good old’ patrician families were still at the helm of governance in Danzig. The Ferbers, in particular, were in this stratum a symbol of the “long duration” of the old Gdansk elite, ruling the city uninterruptedly from the moment of liberation from the Teutonic yoke until almost the end of the period depicted. Constantine Ferber, the fourth of this name in the family and the third to hold the dignity of mayor of Gdańsk, died in 1704. The last mayor of this meritorious family in Gdańsk was Nataniel Gotfryd Ferber, who died in 1755, holding this office at a difficult time in the negotiations between the Council, the common people (the Third Ordinance) and August III. His son, John Samuel, was already “only” a councillor, and died a few years before the Second Partition, in 1786. In the first half of the 18th century, the patrician chairs in the Bench and Council were occupied by representatives of the families noted here earlier as well: Boemeln, Borckmann, Engelcke, von der Linde, Schmieden, Schumann. In the person of Johann Karl, the Schwartzwalds, who had been estranged from the town for several generations due to their Calvinist faith, privately one of the wealthiest noble families in the area, returned to the game. Gradually, especially in the second half of the 18th century, the Groddecks (including the mayors Abraham and Charles), the Renners (mayor Jan), the Reygers (mayors Frederick, Jan Gotfryd), the Gralaths (Daniel the Elder) and finally the Conrads (mayor Edward Frederick) came to prominence (and great influence). The phenomenon of the time was the scholars (the Latin term used was litterati, or the German Gelehrte), most often lawyers, who were co-opted for their high substantive competence. The first such scholar in power was Joachim Hoppe (d. 1712), lecturer at the University of Frankfurt on the Oder, then professor of law and history at the Danzig Academic Gymnasium, immediately appointed a councillor in 1697 and mayor of Danzig in 1708. Jan Gotfryd von Diesseldorf (d. 1745), a jurist with a doctorate from the University of Leipzig, took over the chair of law and history after Hopp in 1697 to become a juror as early as 1700, then a councillor, and at the end of his career (from 1720) mayor of the city. Gottlieb Gabriel von Weickhmann (d. 1776) represented the clerical-intellectual career type; he was the son of a Danzig Lutheran pastor, a long-time city secretary, and finally a juror, councillor and from 1762 mayor. Samuel Wolff (d. 1780), on the other hand, was the son of a Danzig medical doctor, a member of the Third Order for many years, and finally, after promotion to the city authorities, a juror, councillor and mayor (from 1775). People of this ilk, well-educated, politically sophisticated and familiar with new trends in administration and management, got on very well with the “Enlightenment men” of older and newer patrician families, often also practising science in private (such as the aforementioned Daniel Gralath the Elder, who was not averse to experiments in physics). The power elite, thus ultimately shaped, was concerned with artistic and scientific patronage and the adoption of innovations to improve life in the large urban agglomeration of the 18th century.
The wealthy Gdansk merchants and local financiers were not inferior to the patricians in wealth and ambition. There had been a grain exchange in Gdańsk for a long time, in 1742 located in the very centre of the city, in the Artus Court. Grain, as well as wood and its derivatives, continued to form the basis of Gdańsk’s exports, although a decline in trade could already be observed at this time, sometimes – especially during wartime conflicts – very drastic. The Danzigers saved themselves by the good quality of their goods and by expanding their business to the Mediterranean market as well. Imports were dominated by luxury goods and so-called colonial goods, including stimulants, as well as salt, wine and textiles. Among the wealthy grain merchants, shipowners and bankers, many families rose to the level of city councillors (such as the Calvinists of Dutch origin, the Uphagen family). Many families, however, contented themselves with amassing large amounts of capital, investing in real estate (including landed estates), book collections and works of art. This kind of career concerned both the Lutherans, who dominated the city space, and well established Reformed Evangelicals, e.g. the Kabruns, Gibsons, Davissons. Not left behind were the representatives of the estranged very wealthy Catholics and Mennonites, the Rottenburgs, Maths, Schultzes, Dircks or Mombers. The former were able to fill numerous seats in the Third Order, while the latter formed private merchant associations or reached for out-of-town public offices (e.g. post offices). In the commoner stratum, people of the liberal professions also stood out. Leaving aside, for the time being, scholars and artists, it is worth mentioning in this group the numerous medics and notaries in Gdańsk, and also keeping in mind the clergy of the main denominations, lower municipal officials, including municipal scribes. Medics, even if they gained their first qualifications under the tutelage of professors of medicine at the local Academic Gymnasium, went on to obtain degrees, including doctorates in medicine, at universities in eastern Germany, in Halle, Erfurt and Frankfurt/Oder. They then opened their practices in Danzig, providing high-paying medical services, but also helping the city’s poorer citizens. There were only a dozen or so of them in the city at any one time, so relatively few, but there was also a guild of surgeons (masters and journeymen) and also the so-called “city physicians”, officials who looked after the health and sanitation of the city’s inhabitants. The medical service, understood in this way, looked after the residents of hospitals and poorhouses and ensured the general safety of the town. Towards the end of the 18th century, this medical contingent was augmented by a group of certified municipal midwives. The availability of well-trained specialists and services became increasingly important during epidemics, including the largest in the 18th century, the plague of 1709, which cost Danzig almost 25,000 lives.
The main mass of the Danzig commoners, however, consisted of guild craftsmen, masters and senior journeymen. In addition to the four main corporations: shoemakers, bakers, blacksmiths and butchers, there were 50-55 further guilds in Gdańsk in the 18th century, with a total of around 230-250 professional groups. Some of these had the status of so-called ‘free crafts’ breaking out of the classical guild system. A separate problem were the groups of so-called “part-timers”, who did not fit into the system at all, and who lived in large numbers in the suburbs, but also in ecclesiastical jurisdictions inside the city. The regulation of production, problems with the supply of raw materials and the usual inter-church friction (the eternal conflict between masters and journeymen and apprentices trying to break into the mastery), together with the fight against illegal competition, generated a series of social conflicts, disputes over competences, revolts, strikes and even street fights. Particularly the urban poor, petty labourers, day labourers and people looking for service were eager for such actions. In spite of all this, some of the crafts thrived, and products made on the Motlawa River gained a reputation on the markets, also abroad, as attractive, desirable goods. It was not only furniture (including, in particular, elaborately carved oak cabinets), but also clocks and cookers that were called “Gdańsk”. The fruit of the work of local carpenters and woodcarvers were the so-called ‘Danzig sienae’. Danzig’s gold and amber work was particularly prized. An unsurpassed symbol of the genius of Danzig’s master craftsmen was the famous, now lost Amber Chamber. The workshops of the Schlaubitzes, Mackensen Ende enjoyed a well-deserved fame. Significantly, however, in the 18th century, no outstanding, built-from-scratch architectural structure was constructed in Gdansk (after all, the Baroque Church of St Ignatius was erected in the ecclesiastical suburb of Stare Szkoty, which did not belong to the city). However, reconstructions of townhouses, renovations of building facades and forecourts were certainly characteristic of this period. The tenement house at 12 Długa Street, henceforth known as the Uphagen House, acquired a classicist appearance.
The Academic Gymnasium (Gymnasium Academie), a semi-university school, but with a good budget and a good and professional teaching staff, continued to enjoy a well-deserved reputation even in the 18th century, and continued to attract large numbers of students, though perhaps not as many as in previous centuries. Although the importance of the then (still!) “queen of sciences” – theology – had declined, the chairs of philosophy, mathematics, medicine, rhetoric, poetry, oriental languages and – especially – law and history were doing well. Among the grammar school’s philosophy professors, Michael Christoph Hanow (1695-1773) certainly stood out, an unusual figure whose personality and achievements went beyond the school. He was involved in demography, history, legal history, meteorology, economics and even theology. He was a publisher of various source materials. He held the chair of philosophy for 44 years, from 1727 to 1771. In the experimental, scientific and applied fields, he represented a decidedly Enlightenment approach, publishing, for example, systematic materials on the statistics of natural traffic and shipping, data on the turnover of grain, temperatures and meteorological phenomena, or peculiarities of the natural world. Paul Pater (1656-1724), professor of mathematics from 1705 to 1724, was in turn one of the outstanding and brilliant practitioners. He incorporated mechanics, astronomy and geography into his lectures on a large scale. His pupils made scientific instruments and aids as part of their school exercises. He is also known as an outstanding and prolific publisher of popular calendars. Pater’s successor at the chair of mathematics from 1733 to 1769 was Heinrich Kühn (1690-1769), who dealt with the theory of imaginary and complex numbers in his research work. He was one of the first to give lectures on differential and integral calculus. He was also an inventor. He gained recognition for his machine for measuring the difference in water level between two towns situated on the same river. Another important figure of this time was another of the Gymnasium professors, the professor of medicine, Christian Sendel (1719-1789), who was also a respected doctor and publisher of periodicals. On the other hand, Samuel Friedrich Willenberg (1663-1748), author of works on maritime law and an advocate of freedom of the seas, among others, shone in the chair of law and history. His findings on the role and functioning of capers and buccaneers remained valid in the science of public law until the mid-19th century. His work on the permissibility of polygamy in the light of natural law, on the other hand, brought him European fame, but also led to a scandal and the condemnation of his dissertation by both municipal authorities and the Crown Tribunal in Piotrków. His most eminent pupil and successor in the chair of history and law was, in turn, Gottfried Lengnich (1689-1774), for many years a professor of poetry and eloquence in Gdańsk, and only at the end of his work at the grammar school did he head the chair of law and history, author of key and multi-volume works on the system of Gdańsk, the history of the province of Royal Prussia, and the history of the Polish state and law. He deserves to be called the most outstanding Polish historian of the first half of the 18th century.
In addition to the professors of the Gymnasium, a distinctly Lutheran school, there were ‘private’ scholars in Danzig, usually of Calvinist faith. This group included Johann Philipp Breyne (1680-1764), physician, botanist and zoologist, owner of a botanical garden and valuable natural history collections. An important figure was Jacob Theodor Klein (1685-1759), a brilliant self-taught scientist, born in Königsberg but already living in Danzig since 1712 and employed as secretary of the Council. He was a botanist, zoologist, mineralogist and palaeontologist. He was particularly concerned with the systematics of the animal and plant world. He also maintained his own botanical garden in Gdansk. He was appointed to scientific societies in London, Bologna, St. Petersburg and Jena. The Danzig physician Nathanael Matthaeus Wolf (1724-1784) became famous not only for introducing the first inoculations in Danzig, but also for building an astronomical observatory on Biskupia Górka. Johann Reinhold (father) and Johann Georg (son) Forster were also associated with the Danzig area. They were participants in James Cook’s expedition around the earth, and authors of works on botany, zoology, geography and ethnography. And the famous Dutch inventor of the thermometer, Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686-1736), was born in Danzig.
Both circles, grammar school and non-gymnasium, became the basis for the formation of Poland’s first scientific societies. This was fostered by the patronage and support of the Gdansk patriciate, especially the litterati and Enlightenment hobbyists and science enthusiasts at the helm of government. The Societas literaria, which existed ephemerally between 1720 and 1727, was attended by Gottfried Lengnich, among others, and outside the gymnasium by Jacob Theodor Klein, Constantin Gabriel Hecker, Johann Philipp Breyne, David Kade and the medicolegalist Gregor Remus. The natural history society of Danzig (Latin: Societas physicae), which had existed for over 200 years and was founded in 1743, was co-founded by Hanow and Heinrich Kühn on behalf of the grammar school, and by David Kade and Jacob Theodor Klein from outside the professorial community. However, it was initiated by the Danzig patrician and amateur scientist Daniel Gralath the Elder, known for his experiments in electrostatics and liquid pressure. The Natural History Society held scholarly debates, published treatises, had research instruments, a library and a museum-cabinet of curiosities at its headquarters in the Green Gate on the Motlawa River. It also gained the patronage and support of wealthy Polish and Lithuanian magnates, many of whom were active and active members of this body, often living for years in the comfortable manors, tenements and palaces of Gdansk and Podgdańsk. It is noteworthy that among the members of the Naturalist Society there were also clergymen, such as the deacon of the Calvinist Church of St Peter and St Paul, Samuel William Turner (1739-1806), who for many years in Danzig propagated the close ideas of the English Enlightenment in the pages of the moral and proclamation journal Danziger Erfahrungen, which was published here from 1739.
Danzig’s literary community did not have the same significance and influence as the scholarly bodies described above, perhaps because of the constant preventive censorship by the City Council, which tracked down any content dangerous to the peace and order of the city in the works and writings of both citizens and outsiders living on the Motlawa. In the middle of the 18th century, Johannes Antonius Wäsberge, a writer and literary man, was active in Danzig from 1741 to 1744 and later, from 1766 onwards, published the weekly magazine Der Freydenker, a journal promoting a peaceful, industrious life in keeping with the nature of existence. Among the authors who dealt with religious themes, we can mention the young deceased and now completely unknown poet Philipp Ernst Rauffseysen (1743-1775), who translated the psalms, but also wrote love lyrics, satire and occasional poetry and was also known for his translations of Voltaire. Rauffseysen founded a literary society in Danzig, which operated in a clandestine manner, almost like the Freemasons who were popular at the time, and the group of participating writers clearly preferred the epic and lyric poetry of the early days of German sentimentalism, full of lofty emotion and pathos. In addition, Wilhelm Lau, who was active in Gdansk, translated the psalms, and Anna Renata Breyne (1713-1759), daughter of the botanist Johann Philipp mentioned above, wrote religious poems celebrating the beauty of nature. Finally, Wilhelm Ludwig Nitzsch (1703-1758), author of a German church hymnbook, was among such authors. On the other hand, a more orthodox and traditional attitude to religious matters was represented by the Polish language teacher at the same Gymnasium, Jan Gotfryd Guzowiusz (1735-1785), who, before becoming a lecturer at the school (and Polish preacher at St Anne’s Chapel), worked for 13 years as a preacher at St Barbara’s Church in Długie Ogrody. He left behind both collections of sermons, religious writings and cancionals with church songs in Polish. The list of these – mostly translations from German, by the way – is truly impressive.
Speaking of songwriters, it is also worth mentioning here the circle of musicians and composers associated with Gdańsk, such as the Kapellmeister of the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jan Baltazar Chrystian Freisslich (c.1690-1764), or Friedrich Chrystian Mohrheim (1718-1780), to name just the most famous. Danzig’s musical output was, by definition, directed towards religious themes at this time, and both Freisslich and Mohrheim primarily composed cantatas, passions and songs. Their works, especially the cantatas, were intended to complement the word of God preached in the sermon, contained quotations from the Scriptures, and proclaimed praise, thanksgiving and praise to the Creator. The musical environment of Gdańsk at that time was rich not only in artists and works, but also in ways of promoting musical culture. One focal point of such influence was certainly the private music salon with concert hall, the so-called Bohon House, operating from the 1850s to probably the 1880s in the private house of a merchant family of that name in Św. Ducha Street.
The elite group of artists who were admired, received in salons, and above all had the means to influence public opinion in Danzig certainly included outstanding painters, engravers and sculptors connected with the city, who originated from here or who worked here. From this otherwise very large group of outstanding figures in various fields of art, it is worth recalling just a few, but very characteristic, biographies. Matthaeus Deisch (1724-1789), an outstanding engraver, a native of Augsburg but a Gdansker only by choice, dealt almost exclusively with religiously indifferent subjects such as portraits, coats of arms, ex-librises, views of the city and genre scenes, earning himself the title of “chronicler of Gdansk”. Quite similar was the case with another prominent portraitist of the time, Jacob Wessel (c. 1710-1780), in whose earliest works we can find threads and motifs of religious painting (e.g. Christ and the Samaritan Woman, or Jacob’s Struggle with an Angel), but who primarily devoted himself to typically secular painting, serving the use of a narrow circle of clients. Portrait painters Johann Benedikt Hoffmann (1668-1745) and Daniel Klein (1672-1744) were also highly regarded painters of this period. The most prominent engraver (however, active from his early youth outside Gdansk), on the other hand, was Daniel Chodowiecki (1726-1801). Sculpture was represented at this time by Henryk Meissner (c. 1700-1770) and Daniel Eggert (1732-1770), among others. The list of artists working with brush or chisel at this time in Gdansk is much longer. Obviously, not all of them deserved to be called famous or outstanding. They did, however, create a visible public environment.
In the houses of the wealthy bourgeoisie in the Main Town life was fairly comfortable. According to Ewa Barylewska-Szymańska, the number of rooms used for living increased considerably during this period, but in addition to living rooms, bedrooms and studies, utility rooms, kitchens, larders and chambers were also taken care of. It was obligatory to place canteens and merchants’ offices (or craftsmen’s workshops) on the ground floor of the houses, latrines were installed in side outbuildings or cellars (sometimes – on the residential floors – dedicated to the owners of the house). The courtyards were not unlike those in the countryside, with chicken coops, dovecotes, woodsheds and granaries. However, the raising of pigs was forbidden. Crops for domestic use could only be grown in suburban gardens and farms. Servants lived in the attics of such tenements. Small tenants, shopkeepers, craftsmen and the poor nestled in the basement cellars under the tasteful lintels. The domain of the city’s poorer population was the less exposed parts of the inner city, the Old and Lower Town and the so-called [Old] Suburb. Numerous dead-end streets and alleys were characteristic of Gdansk, and the individual districts were still separated by sequences of medieval walls, moats and canals. Lighting inside the houses was provided by candles in candlesticks and candelabra, the poorer the house, the poorer the quality. It was common in Gdansk for the wealthier homes to use faience crockery, and the exposed cupboards and dressers of rich townhouses boasted those from the then fashionable manufactories in Dutch Delft. Tin and ceramic tableware was in common use. Mirrors, clocks, paintings and paintings, decorative panelling and fabrics completed this individual comfort zone. Conversation and music were enjoyed in the space of the drawing rooms, while books were read and magazines browsed in the privacy of the cabinets. Colonial stimulants became ubiquitous at social gatherings: coffee, tea, chocolate, but also tobacco. People sat on sofas, armchairs and comfortable chairs. Various games and entertainment were played at tables. People went to sleep in quite cosy bedrooms, where it was the norm to also have stools and potties to serve physiological needs.
Just how wealthy patrician homes were can be seen in the inventory of the household possessions of Magdalena Schumann, the widow of a city magistrate and Calvinist Ludwik Schumann, who died at the beginning of the 18th century. The list of items in her possession (undoubtedly inherited from her husband) in the house on Piwna Street includes furniture, textiles, including clothing, bedding, tablecloths, carpets, serviettes, as well as silver, pewter, porcelain, faience and glass vessels, tools, paintings, books, jewellery and, because she was a Catholic, devotional items. And of everything – dozens of pieces. Some items – already worn out, some – artfully crafted from the finest, often exotic materials. However, it was the possessions of an above-average wealthy person. The inventories, sometimes of the so-called “kaduki” (possessions seized by the city) of members of the common people, or – but less frequently – of the plebs, convince us that the average 18th-century Danzigers were practical people and very frugal by nature.
18th-century Danzig was a very well organised city also in terms of municipalities. Already in 1709 (immediately after the epidemic) a special institution was established here to take care of the cleanliness of the streets and order in the city. This was the so-called Function zur Nachtwache und Strassenreinigung (Night Watch and City Cleaning Function). It supervised the cleaning up of rubbish from the roadways and pavements, the repairing of cobblestones, the cleaning of gutters, the depositing of waste on so-called dung hills and in rubbish boxes. A fleet of specially prepared rubbish carts was maintained for this purpose, making regular trips along the city’s thoroughfares. Interestingly, the cleaning of the gutters, but also of the latrines and cloacas, was the responsibility of the municipal executioners, also popularly known as rakes (because at the same time their duties included catching stray dogs and cats and exterminating rodents). The city’s main streets generally gave a rather favourable impression – despite the forecourts, they allowed two carriages to pass each other. Visitors and tourists, however, complained in their reports that most of the city blocks were narrow and dirty alleys, where you could either break your neck or – drown in mud. Pavements were rare and the roadways were full of potholes. At the end of the 18th century, oil lighting of the streets became a great convenience, but only in the Main Town, maintained throughout the night from 1 August to the last day of April.
The city’s most important streets were planted with rows of trees, which provided shade and cooling in hot summers, but at the same time darkened them in the evening and in autumn and winter. This sparse urban greenery was complemented by gardens, especially those of a public nature, among them the popular Błędnik (Irrgarten), founded in the early 18th century in the vicinity of the Oliwa Gate. Connoisseurs (and insiders), on the other hand, were served by botanical gardens established by Danzig scholars (e.g. the Breyne’s) (the latter in the Long Gardens). Completed in 1770 with the foundation of Daniel Gralath the Elder, the so-called Great Avenue, formed from four rows of linden trees shading the route between Danzig and Wrzeszcz, soon became a popular place for excursions and walks for Danzigers from various, not only the wealthiest, spheres.
Those who had the opportunity to come to Gdansk from outside praised some of the inns and hotels, usually giving the highest marks to the hotel in the English House, and, of the cafes, the famous Mennonite Momber’s place on Żabi Kruku, serving very good coffee. Although the cleanliness of the streets left a lot to be desired, attention was drawn to the reasonably good quality of the water, the fire and thief safety measures taken, as well as the general orderliness of the city. Already at that time, Gdańsk appeared to be a city full of tourist attractions, with St Mary’s Church, the Great Armoury and Artus Court at the forefront. There were also visits to charitable and rehabilitation institutions (including, even passionately, the House of Correction at Zamczysko), admired library collections, collections of curiosities and works of art. Certainly, there was still a lack of good theatre in Danzig, although a substitute for it was the former fencing school in the neighbourhood of the City Court, converted in 1730 into a theatre hall. Itinerant theatre troupes, the most famous of which was the Schuch family troupe, gave visitors an insight into the latest European repertoire. In short, people came here to do good business, learn about the world and breathe in the atmosphere of a well-appointed European city. One should not be surprised, therefore, by reactions such as the emotional note in the diary of the Polish aristocrat Teofila Konstancja of Radziwill Morawska, who, travelling through Gdansk in 1773, wrote that Gdansk was “the most commercial, free, rich, orderly, large and beautiful city in our country”. Increasingly, however, visitors enjoying the charms of the city on the Motlawa River expressed concerns about whether Danzig would be able to defend itself against the designs of King Frederick II of Prussia. During the first partition of Poland, the city resisted pressure from the Prussians, but this was mainly with the patronage and support of the Russian Tsarina, Catherine II. Twenty years later, in a political constellation less favourable to Danzig, the cession to the Kingdom of Prussia became a reality.
For several more decades, right up to the end of the Napoleonic era and the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the centre struggled to maintain at least a modicum of its former autonomy. The cultural heritage developed in the modern era, especially in the 18th century, first became the subject of sentimental admiration and then the object of care, protection and scientific and journalistic inquiry.
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