Refined sugar: an invention made because of a woman

In 1829, the brothers Thomas and Frantisek Grebner founded the first sugar factory in the western part of the Austrian Empire in the village of Kostelni Vidří near the town of Dacice (South Bohemia). Sugar beets were grown on three hectares of land in the neighborhood, but the soil turned out to be unsuitable, and in 1833 the production was moved to Dacice, where sugar cane was brought from Italian Trieste (switched to beets much later, in 1844). Until 1839, the manufactory developed, but then financial problems began, and the owners invited a crisis manager from Vienna.

A native of Switzerland, Jacob Christoph Rad, actively took up the matter. He expanded production, installed new equipment (in particular, the first steam engine in the city), brought the number of workers to 30 and made sure that the factory’s products were bought not only in Moravia and Bohemia, but also in Austria. Rad also opened in many large cities (Vienna, Prague, Lviv, Brno, Pest) branded stores where you could buy sugar produced in Dacice. And not only sugar - in 1841, on the advice of his wife, Jacob Rad launched a workshop for the preparation of candied fruits, sweets and chocolate, which were delivered to confectionery shops in many cities of the Austrian Empire.

In the process of sugar production, saturated syrup was poured into cone-shaped containers, where it crystallized. The final product that customers purchased in the store at that time was a sugar head - a rather large cone-shaped piece of sugar with a base diameter of up to 35 cm and a height of 80–90 cm. Housewives had to chop pieces of sugar heads with special sharp tongs, for this it was required physical strength and certain skill. On a spring day in 1841, the manager’s wife, Juliana Rad, was seriously cut while extracting sugar cubes for tea. When her husband returned home, she showed him a bandaged finger and exclaimed in anger: “That's what the damned sugar heads brought to! After all, next time I can cut off my finger! Can't you do anything less ?! ”However, Juliana quickly cooled down and forgot about this case.

The finger healed a long time ago, when three months later, in August, Jacob Rad came home with a bandaged ribbon in his hands. “This is what you so wanted to receive, ” he told his wife, handing her a present. Opening the box, Juliana saw 350 white and red cubes of sugar inside. A couple of years later, on January 23, 1843, Jacob Rad received a patent for his process of making sugar cubes by powder pressing, and in the autumn of that year, the factory in Dacice began producing this product under the name “Tea Sugar”. The last step to the world triumph of sweet cubes was made in the 1870s, when the German inventor, engineer and industrialist Eigen Langen developed an effective technology for its mass production.

The article “Sweetness in a cube” was published in the journal Popular Mechanics (No. 10, October 2012).


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