Deutsches Drahtmuseum

There are good reasons why the German Wire Museum is located in Altena: Since the Middle Ages, the town has been considered the German wire capital. Visitors experience what this means economically at every turn: wire has always been indispensable - from chain mail to superconductors. That's why Altena wire reached the Ruhr region and as far as Scandinavia and Eastern Europe early on via various trade routes ...

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… In the museum, visitors become wire-drawers themselves: sometimes by muscle power, sometimes on water-driven drawing benches – what progress! – and finally in a fully operational 20th century industrial wire drawing mill. They analyse wire under the microscope, test its conductivity, send Morse codes – in short, they learn in a playful way what wire can do, how it is made and who is behind it.

Gustav Selve, for example. In the late 19th century, the Lüdenscheid industrial magnate is something like the Krupp of Altena. He expands the brass rolling mill he had taken over from his father, relocated to Altena in 1869 due to lack of space, and proves his foresight when, considering the automotive industry and airship travel, he opts for casting aluminium earlier than others. Very soon he employs 2,000 people in Altena alone. But the name Gustav Selve not only stands for business success, but also for social and political commitment. He campaigns vigorously for the founding of the Altenaer Baugesellschaft (Altena Building Society) to promote the construction of workers' housing. He establishes a school and a baths, supports the setting up of a pulmonary sanatorium to combat tuberculosis and, with his social benefits, fuels the fears of other entrepreneurs of an exodus of their employees.

Selve, by the time of his death in 1909 owner of a multinational corporation, is reminiscent of the biographies of the neighbouring Ruhr region. Altena offers attractive conditions for this. As early as the Middle Ages, local craftsmen turn to the iron trade and it is no coincidence that one of them is the first to succeed in drawing steel wire around 1600. News of the quality spread quickly and make wire the flagship and export hit of Altena. Things have not changed – Altena still boasts a thriving, highly specialised and export-oriented wire industry. The wire museum covers the exciting history of this industry in a state-of-the-art hands-on exhibition.


The "Steel Time Travelers" Luise & Alfred: Deutsches Drahtmuseum


Get off your duff - what are you hesitating about? A wiry pioneer like you can also walk up to the castle - on foot! ...

Full dialog text
Lu: Get off your duff - what are you hesitating about? A wiry pioneer like you can also walk up to the castle - on foot! And on the way there, we'll see what makes this city so attractive.

Al: Attractive? You're talking about chain mail? They dress poor knights - drafty, cold and unwearable. I'd rather warm up in finer threads.

Lu: When I said attractive, I was thinking of the hesitants who pull the wire here until the finest metallic yarn can be spun from it - and no one can fool the people of Altena: Wires from here were brought to Iserlohn or Lüdenscheid via forest and high-altitude routes ...

Al: ... and all over the world. I know my way around wire, Lu. I'm not hollow after all. I've long had good contracts with local entrepreneurs.
In return, I get coal from the Ruhr and machines so that the work doesn't drag on so much.

Lu: Then tell me who pulls the best wire for my harp and the piano - or do you have nothing to do with music?

Al: Well, well, but after that we'll look for a hostel for the night, after all I'm not the youngest anymore ... hopefully the beds are well sprung ...

Visitor information

Fritz-Thomée-Straße 12
58762 Altena
Phone. 02352/9667411

Opening hours:
Tue-Fri: 9.30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sat/Sun/Holidays: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

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In the Sauerland of the Marks, Part 2: From iron to plastic (1965) + Through beautiful Westphalia (1929)

Short description (film without sound)

The film shows Altena as "the wire town of the Mark" and various products of the wire industry.

The German Wire Museum and Altena in pictures

Deutsches Drahtmuseum

EisenStahl 21 Drahtmuseum

There are good reasons why the German Museum of Wire is located in Altena: this town is known as national wire capital since the Middle Ages. What this means in economic terms is evident to visitors at every turn: wire has always been indispensable – from chain mail to superconductors. That's why Altena wire was traded long ago in the Ruhr area and as far as Scandinavia and Eastern Europe …

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Lennepromenade and city center Altena


The Lenne flows intoxicatingly fast through this arch. Even the castle hardly protects its citizens when the snow melts in the Sauerland or the rain pelts down and consequently the water level rises. But when the sun is shining, there is hardly a better place for a promenade along the river and the railroad. A place to linger, don't you think, Luise? Tss - she's disappeared again in one of those neat little shops!?

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Historic Industrial Trail "Drahtrollenroute"


Twelve wirehouses in one fell swoop. And you want to be an industrial pioneer, Al? Here you can see what led to creative power with water power long before you Ruhrpottlers: The Springer Bach is the lifeblood of the Zöger and drive at the same time. The needles, which are manufactured here, go also through toughest leather and into all world, dearest Mr. "Steel Baron"!

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