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Łódź grew into a city only in the 19th century although its roots date back to the Middle Ages. The village of Łodzia was first mentioned in 1332 and in 1423 it was granted the city charter by King Władysław Jagiełło. However, until the end of the 18th century Łódź was a small agricultural town. For almost 400 years, the number of inhabitants was a few hundred people and their main activity was farming, crafts and trade. In 1820, following the decision of the Kingdom of Poland on transforming Łódź into a textile manufacturing centre, the city started to develop dynamically.

Weavers began to arrive in Łódź - from Great Poland, Silesia, Saxony, the Czech lands, Brandenburg and Moravia. The settlers were granted plots of land and government loans. In 1821–1823, the city authorities established a clothiers’ settlement called Nowe Miasto (New Town) with a centrally located marketplace which is today’s Plac Wolności. In 1824–1827, another settlement of manufacturers was established – Łódka, situated near today’s Piotrkowska street. It is there that the first linen and cotton yarn mills sprang up by the numerous creeks and mill ponds.

A dynamic development of Łódź started in the middle of the 19th century. In several dozen years, Łódź changed from a small town into an industrial metropolis and at the turn of the 19th and 20th century it had 300 thousand inhabitants. The beginnings of the great industrial Łódź were connected with the establishment of large manufactories, among others, Ludwik Geyer’s factory complex (the White Factory), the industrial empire of Karol Scheibler or the factory of the third “cotton king” who competed with the latter – Izrael K. Poznański, as well as many others who belonged to famous industrial families. The traces of their activities are still present in the city landscape – the huge factory complexes, eclectic palaces, and Art Nouveau tenements. One of the symbols of the power of the industrial Łódź is the palace of Poznański, called “the Łódź Louvre”, which hosts the collection of the Museum of the City of Łódź.

In the 19th century Łódź became the proverbial promised land for resourceful inhabitants of this multinational and multicultural city. Until 1939, more than 600 thousand people lived there, including 52% of Poles, 33% of Jews, 10% of Germans and less numerous representatives of other nationalities. After World War II, only a scarce number of the 200 thousand Jewish Diaspora and 60 thousand German citizens remained in Łódź.

Despite several crises and historical turbulence Łódź was the capital of Polish textile and light industry for over 150 years. The period of economic transition at the beginning of the 1990s turned out to be the most difficult time. Efforts to protect hundreds of cotton, wool, silk, clothing and leather factories against bankruptcy failed. The city has been forced to look for a new growth path in recent decades and decided to focus on branches of industry different than before. Such industries have been introduced as electro-technical industry, household goods manufacturing, services for businesses, logistics, as well as cultural and artistic traditions of Łódź, in particular, in cinematography (the famous film school) and the avant-garde (Museum of Art). In the former factory buildings, high class office blocks, hotels, galleries and commercial centres are situated nowadays, using new technologies and innovative solutions. The lofts of the old spinning mill in Księży Młyn, formerly owned by Scheibler, have been adapted for housing, and the factory of Poznański (later the seat of POLTEX) is now a huge commercial and entertainment complex called Manufaktura, vibrant with life.

Łódź invests in modern industries and creativity, the development of the fashion industry, of design and art. An investment project worthy of a new phase of the city’s history is planned in the coming years – the construction of an underground railway station and the New Centre of Łódź. This is a challenge of the 21 century stature to be accomplished with the participation of architects of world-renown, such as Daniel Libeskind, who comes from Łódź. In the former EC1 power station a modern science and technology museum is being constructed and the multi-storey station will be ready by the end of 2014. Above it, the new heart of the city is to be erected on 90 hectares, including, among others, Rynek Katarzyny Kobro (Katarzyna Kobro Marketplace) with Polish, Jewish, German and Russian streets inspired by the four cultures present in Łódź before World War II, and a Special Art Zone.

Hanna Zdanowska
President of the City of Łódź