The company's founding fathers
After completing his apprenticeship as a cutler and working as a journeyman in the major European centres for instrument manufacture, Gottfried Jetter (1838-1903) opened a small surgical instrument maker’s workshop in Tuttlingen in 1867. He was very successful, mainly because he quickly started to produce instrument series en masse, whilst his competitors were still crafting small numbers of instruments by hand. Gottfried Jetter expanded his production facilities and increased his workforce in rapid succession. By 1878 he already had 120 employees, and when ill health forced him to retire from his business activities in 1890, he had as many as 440.
With his commercial training financed by his brother-in-law Gottfried Jetter, Karl Christian Scheerer (1857-1938) took over the commercial management of the firm in 1877. His brother Wilhelm was in charge of the technical side of the business until 1904, after which Karl Christian became the sole director of the company.
The rapid growth of the firm required a correspondingly high level of investment in machinery and buildings. However, it became increasingly difficult to raise enough capital for this as a family business, and it was necessary to change the company structure. Converting the firm into a public limited company and floating it on the stock market in 1895 brought in fresh capital to allow the vigorous expansion process to continue.
Karl Christian Scheerer visited customers all over the world, opened company branches on important sites from Berlin to New York, and successfully steered the company through the First World War and the period of inflation that followed. The small Tuttlingen instrument manufacturer quickly became the largest producer of surgical instruments in the world. “Kommerzienrat“ Scheerer remained the determining influence on the company until 1930.