Prášily – History

Prášily - the village on the slope of Ždánidla mountain in vicinity of Prášilské Lake, Poledník mountain and Laka Lake at the altitude of about 900 metres above sea level - was founded in the mid 18th century at the territory of Královský Hvozd (Royal Forest). The rich and virgin forests were rousing interest of entrepreneurs in the field of glass industry as possible source of cheap fuel for glass-works. In 1740's, Lorenz Gattermayer bought the Prášily region from the Princess of Mansfeld and founded the first glass-works in the area for the production of mirror glass in vicinity of today's Prášily in 1749. That gave origin to the village. At first, Gattermayer let built two glass-works - one directly in place of today's Prášily and the other, so-called "lower" at the territory of today's village of Doní Ždánidla. The mirror glass of Prášily was of high quality and could fairly compete to Venetian mirror. Gattermayer nevertheless run into serious debts due to low sales after the Seven Years' War and had to sell his property in 1763. The new proprietor, the Earl Joseph Kinský hired the glass-works to Kristian Ferdinand Abele, who came here in 1778 from the Bohemian Forest.

Under the management of the Abele family the glass-works were growing and became extended by further operations. They were in particular manufacturing semi-finished products for Kinský's mirror works in the North-Bohemian Sloup. During this period, Prášily went through the most significant era of development - sixty to seventy thousand mirrors were manufactured in the village each year. The products went to Prague, Nuremberg, Vienna, Saint Petersburg, or even Turkey. In 1778, an ungraded school was established in the village and the construction of a church was initiated six years later. After the disputes between Kinský and Abele, the whole estates of Prášily was purchased by the Earl of Schwarzenberg in 1798, which meant definite end of the era of glass-making in Prášily. The Schwarzenbergs were interested mainly in the sale of timber from the Šumava forests inland. This brought fort construction of Vchinicko-tetovský floating canal between 1799-1801, which enabled effective sale of timber inland. After 1815 the glass-works of Prášily declined, production of glass was not paying off and the glass furnaces gradually went out. Wood-cutters and forest workers moved into the abandoned houses of glass-makers.

Jan Kašpar Eggereth bought the abandoned premises of glass-cutting shops in 1819 to establish here production of hand-made paper. Similarly to glass-making, paper production in Prášily also gained worldwide success. The paper of Prášily could be seen at the World Exhibitions in London and Paris. J. K. Eggerth was awarded for his work a diploma signed by Napoleon I.

Paper manufacturing nevertheless went through gradual decline after 1918. The last proprietor of the paper-mill was Marie Eggerth-Böhm who was managing the operations until 25th May 1933, when the plant burnt down and the production was terminated. In course of the last years of its operation the paper-mill of Prášily won fame as the last one in Bohemia to manufacture hand-made paper  using traditional techniques. The Prášily hand-made paper was popular even at the President's office - T. G. Masaryk fancied it very much. The hand-made paper designed for graphic art and watercolour also suited the versatile artist Josef Váchal, who used to visit Prášily frequently after 1922. Váchal's mate and pupil Anna Macková perpetuated the Prášily paper-mill in her cycle of large colour wood-engravings.

The after-war development of Prášily was aggravated by establishment of the military training area Dobrá Voda with the strict border-zone regime. The soldiers of the Czechoslovak People's Army were bombarding surrounding buildings - several tens of villages, settlements and lonely houses in the region of Prášily disappeared. Even the village of Prášily itself was considered for liquidation, which has fortunately not happened. The military training area was cancelled in 1991 and Prášily could thus be opened to the world and become an attractive and plentifully visited village inside the Šumava National Park of today.