The trade of the GELDREICH
In order to have acquired the property described in the chapter "The Properties", our ancestors must have earned a lot of money over a short perio. Also, to have held public office they must have been wealthy. Given conditions at the time, this would not have been possible working as an ordinary farmer, weaver or blacksmith. They were engaged in the trading of goods. It can be assumed that the Gäldrich earned their initial fortune in wine growing. There is evidence of a Geldreich Torquel (grape crushing and pressing plant and cellar) in Ravensburg and also of them selling wine.

The first indications that we have found of the origin of our ancestors’ wealth, was their membership of the Great Ravensburg Trading Company.

The Great Ravensburg Trading Company was founded in 1380. From 1380 until approx. 1530, judging by the extent of its financial assets and the magnitude of its trade routes, it was the biggest German commercial concern of the late Middle Ages. It was formed by the amalgamation of the merchant families Humpis and Mötteli which were presumably related by marriage. The first Geldreich mentioned was Hainz Gäldrich in 1397. Another well known members families were the Ankenreutes and Täschlers.

In the early days, linen and fustian (a fluffy material made from linen and imported cotton) were traded. In Swabia, the Allgäu and in the area around Lake Constance there were mainly fields of flax, the raw material for linen weavers. The most important regions for textile at that time were the cities of Biberach, Constance, Memmingen and Ravensburg. In the beginning, therefore, linen and barchent were sold here.

The trading network of the Great Ravensburg Trading Company extended wide and far. The company was based in Ravensburg with branches in St Gallen, Constance, and Memmingen. Additionally there were the mutual close relationships with cities in the region such as Biberach, Ulm, Kempten and Lindau, and connections with the important trade at fairs in Frankfurt and Nuremberg. The main branch offices were in Italy: Venice, Milan, Genoa; in Switzerland: Geneva; in France: Lyon and Avignon; in Spain: Barcelona, Saragossa and Valencia; in Flanders, Bruges. Additionally there were agencies in many places which were run partly by shareholders and partly by locals. There is no indication up to now if a Geldreich ran a foreign branch or agency. We’re still searching.

As an example, trade between Ravensbourg and Lyon was took place as follows. One sold linen, barchent, silk, spices, exotic fruits, sugar, rice, oil, dyes to Lyon and bought the same goods in Lyon.This means that goods were bought in one place and resold in the next. The trade route, for example,  from Ravensburg to Lyon, passed through Constance, Zurich, Bern and Geneva  overland by carriage. If one wanted to transport goods further to Valencia, the route continued on to Avignon, then to Aigues Mortes and from there, by boat to Barcelona and Tortosa and finally to Valencia. In Nuremberg, Cracow and Vienna predominantly metal goods were bought and spices and tropical fruits  were sold. Gold or silver were not traded and neither did financial transactions take place.

Cargo ship with barrels with the markings of verious companies.
Portrayal of an engraving on glas from Daniel Lindtmayer, 1582

The task of members was the transportation, purchase and sale of goods. Key members probably ran the businesses only from their central seat in Ravensbourg. At the end of the 15th century, the Gäldrich has assets of 36.000 fl (Gulden) in the Trading Company and were therefore the sixth largest shareholder. This corresponds today to about eight millions Euro.

In 1477, the Gäldrich split away from the Great Ravensburg Trading Company and joined the Ankenreute Trading Company. This split was a result of disputes over trade in Spain. The Ankenreute Trading Company was in competition with the Ravensburg Trading Company.

In 1510 Hans Gäldrich was in chairman of the Ankenreute Trading Company which, however,  broke up again around 1530. The Gäldrich probably rejoined the Ravensburg Trading Company again. Around 1600, due to increasingly strong competition from Fugger and difficulties within their own organization, the Ravensburg Trading Company also broke up.

- - -Company sign of the Ravensburg Trading Company.