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The “Long P” in the world

It was 1872 when a young twenty-three-year-old engineer, Giovanni Battista Pirelli, returned to his homeland from a “grand tour” through Switzerland, France, Germany and Belgium, with the aim of introducing “a new or not yet widespread industry in Italy”, which was that of rubber and its production. In 1873 Pirelli products started coming off the line in the first factory in Milan, which was by the Sevesetto river. Forty workers and five office staff were employed at the factory. A few years later, the rubber articles for industrial machinery, ships and railways were joined by consumer goods such as toys, clothing and haberdashery items. Within the space of ten years, in 1883, Pirelli had brilliantly overcome the inevitable difficulties of a pioneering activity and now had more than 300 workers and constantly expanding areas of production. The company broke into the British monopoly of the cables sector thanks to the research carried out by the greatest electrical engineers of the day (Emanuele Jona, and Leopoldo and Luigi Emanueli), and also secured a contract to supply power cables for the Niagara Falls and for the Nile, and it opened factories in Spain, England, Belgium, France and Argentina.

From this time on, the company expanded exponentially, including overseas. It was in 1902, just thirty years after the first factory opened in Milan, that a plant was opened in Villanueva y Geltrù in Spain, making Pirelli one of the very first Italian multinational companies. In 1913, Pirelli arrived in England, in Southampton, and in 1917 in Argentina. By 1922, fifty years after it was founded, the company had countless commercial offices on three continents and two rubber tree plantations in Indonesia.

To celebrate its great success, the company decided to set up a historical museum – the Museo Storico delle Industrie Pirelli – in its second plant, in the Bicocca area of Milan. Infographic panels, machines, documents and an exhibition of raw materials illustrated the growth of the Group, not only in terms of its industrial development, but also in terms of its products and the plantations it had acquired. Two employees, Domenico Bonamici and Umberto Ubaldi (both graduates in Fine Arts and draughtsmen for the plans and sections of the factory and for the Tyre Technical Office respectively), were tasked with creating a series of designs both for the display installation and for the publication of a book entitled La Pirelli & C. nel suo cinquantenario.

Among the various drawings they made for the occasion were the Panel of Pirelli organisations, illustrating the firm’s many overseas offices and rubber plantations around the world, and sketches showing the increase in the production of sports goods, tyres and conductors from the founding to 1922, while others showed the growth in the production of raw rubber and its consumption internationally. Then there was that of Pirelli organisations on the company’s fiftieth anniversary, which shows the Società Italiana Pirelli as a lake from which, like streams and rivers, the foreign subsidiaries (Produits Pirelli, Société Française, Société Belge, Cauciù Pirelli, Pirelli Ltd, Comercial Pirelli, Pirelli S.A. Platense, Agenzia Cairo, and Pirelli Giava) “flow into the various international offices (from London to Seville, to Bucharest and Brussels, Paris and Zurich, Cairo and Indonesia). But there is more, for rivers representing the great factories of Milan, Bicocca, Vercurago, Southampton, Villanueva i Geltrù and Buenos Aires flow down from the mountains and into the lake of Italian society. Lastly, in the distance, we see the plantations in Malacca and Java in Indonesia, where everything begins.

150 years after it was founded, the company’s branches are even more extensive and ramified, with more than a hundred and sixty points of sale around the world and nineteen factories in twelve countries. This expansion started long ago but it is still the basis on which Pirelli builds its present and imagines its future.

It was 1872 when a young twenty-three-year-old engineer, Giovanni Battista Pirelli, returned to his homeland from a “grand tour” through Switzerland, France, Germany and Belgium, with the aim of introducing “a new or not yet widespread industry in Italy”, which was that of rubber and its production. In 1873 Pirelli products started coming off the line in the first factory in Milan, which was by the Sevesetto river. Forty workers and five office staff were employed at the factory. A few years later, the rubber articles for industrial machinery, ships and railways were joined by consumer goods such as toys, clothing and haberdashery items. Within the space of ten years, in 1883, Pirelli had brilliantly overcome the inevitable difficulties of a pioneering activity and now had more than 300 workers and constantly expanding areas of production. The company broke into the British monopoly of the cables sector thanks to the research carried out by the greatest electrical engineers of the day (Emanuele Jona, and Leopoldo and Luigi Emanueli), and also secured a contract to supply power cables for the Niagara Falls and for the Nile, and it opened factories in Spain, England, Belgium, France and Argentina.

From this time on, the company expanded exponentially, including overseas. It was in 1902, just thirty years after the first factory opened in Milan, that a plant was opened in Villanueva y Geltrù in Spain, making Pirelli one of the very first Italian multinational companies. In 1913, Pirelli arrived in England, in Southampton, and in 1917 in Argentina. By 1922, fifty years after it was founded, the company had countless commercial offices on three continents and two rubber tree plantations in Indonesia.

To celebrate its great success, the company decided to set up a historical museum – the Museo Storico delle Industrie Pirelli – in its second plant, in the Bicocca area of Milan. Infographic panels, machines, documents and an exhibition of raw materials illustrated the growth of the Group, not only in terms of its industrial development, but also in terms of its products and the plantations it had acquired. Two employees, Domenico Bonamici and Umberto Ubaldi (both graduates in Fine Arts and draughtsmen for the plans and sections of the factory and for the Tyre Technical Office respectively), were tasked with creating a series of designs both for the display installation and for the publication of a book entitled La Pirelli & C. nel suo cinquantenario.

Among the various drawings they made for the occasion were the Panel of Pirelli organisations, illustrating the firm’s many overseas offices and rubber plantations around the world, and sketches showing the increase in the production of sports goods, tyres and conductors from the founding to 1922, while others showed the growth in the production of raw rubber and its consumption internationally. Then there was that of Pirelli organisations on the company’s fiftieth anniversary, which shows the Società Italiana Pirelli as a lake from which, like streams and rivers, the foreign subsidiaries (Produits Pirelli, Société Française, Société Belge, Cauciù Pirelli, Pirelli Ltd, Comercial Pirelli, Pirelli S.A. Platense, Agenzia Cairo, and Pirelli Giava) “flow into the various international offices (from London to Seville, to Bucharest and Brussels, Paris and Zurich, Cairo and Indonesia). But there is more, for rivers representing the great factories of Milan, Bicocca, Vercurago, Southampton, Villanueva i Geltrù and Buenos Aires flow down from the mountains and into the lake of Italian society. Lastly, in the distance, we see the plantations in Malacca and Java in Indonesia, where everything begins.

150 years after it was founded, the company’s branches are even more extensive and ramified, with more than a hundred and sixty points of sale around the world and nineteen factories in twelve countries. This expansion started long ago but it is still the basis on which Pirelli builds its present and imagines its future.