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Emma Metzler – a gracious hostess and influential pen pal

Otto von Bismarck invented the term "metzlern”. What does that mean and how did he come up with it? He was inspired by Emma Metzler.

In her day, Emma Metzler, born on May 18, 1827, was one of Frankfurt’s most famous citizens. She was married to banker Wilhelm Peter Metzler and ran one of the city's most popular and well-known salons. In those days, salons were private social gathering places where discussions, readings and musical events were held. From the 18th to the 20th century, rigid class structures and religious boundaries were overcome by the nobility, intellectuals, upper middle classes, Jewish citizens, military, politicians and artists that came together in salons.

Emma and Wilhelm Peter Metzler’s place located at Frankfurt’s Taunusanlage became a center of attraction for important artists, musicians and politicians. Emma's most famous guest was Otto von Bismarck. As Prussian envoy, he became a great fan of the city of Frankfurt and its society. In Emma's salon, he regularly exchanged ideas with Frankfurt citizens and other envoys. Today, one would speak of "networking"; at the time, Bismarck invented the charming word "metzlern". He and Emma Metzler shared not only a warm friendship, but they also discussed serious political issues. On several occasions, Emma also championed the interests of her hometown in letters to Bismarck.

In those times, Frankfurt was one of Europe’s most politically important places. The Federal Assembly, the equivalent of today's German Bundestag, met here, and envoys from the individual states of the German Confederation passed laws here. In the individual states, a Court was the center of cultural life, but in Frankfurt, there was no Court because neither king nor prince ruled here – so the citizens took cultural and social life into their own hands and founded salons.

Today, Emma Metzler is a central figure in Frankfurt's cityscape once again. A restaurant named after her on the “Museumsufer”, an area of museums along Frankfurt’s riverbank, reminds us of the gregariousness and artistic creativity that came together in the salons of the 19th century. 

Emma Metzler