Those grounds were originally a home for Prussian tribes.
The tribes of Scandinavia were frequent visitors to those lands.
In IX century English adventurer Wofstan
mentions settlement called Truso. Archeological studies in 1982 locate this
settlement in the place of today's Janów Pomorski at Druzno Lake.
First historical mentions about Elblag are dated on first half
of XIII century after the conquest of nearby Kwidzyn by Teutonic Order in 1233.
In 1237 Teutonic Knights from Malbork organized expedition to mouth of a river Vistula
to start a fort and a port. The fort was located on a small island at the mouth of the river
to Visula lagoon. Elblag was start on the right bank of the river. In 1238 the
Dominican Order received this ground to build a monastery.
In 1240-42 the Teutonic Order
was building a castle made of brick in southern part of the city.
City's location rights based on Lübeck Law were granted to Elblag
in 1246. The city was occupying ground of 300 by 500 meters of size, and besides wharf of port
and small marketplace it consisted of 5 crosswise to port streets. The main occupation
of the city inhabitants was trade and manufacturing of goods from amber and bones. This period
was also the time of intense war of local people with Teutonic Order.
This is why the construction of the castle and occupying it by Teutonic country master
is dated 1251.
The master was holding office in Elblag until 1309, when grand master
came from Venice to Malbork and there organized his base.
Elblag became an office of marshal and Grand Hospitaller. The first sacral buildings
were churches of St. Nicolas, of the Holiest Virgin Mary (dominican)
and of Holy Spirit (functioning also as a hospital located at the castle).
Other buildings within defensive walls remained wooden. That's why great fire in 1288
consumed almost all the building completely. Except above facilities made of brick
with the walls, outside the walls the churches of St. Jacob and not existing today
of St. George were also saved.
As a result of war with local tribes in 1308-1309,
Teutonic Order occupied the whole Gdansk area. Those lands were called Prussia.
After the great fire, Elblag was rebuilt intensively in 1315-1340
and 1370-1395. Most of new city's buildings were made of brick now.
In 1288 the construction of defensive walls was started, and was finished in XIV
century. In 1364 the port crane was built. In 1295-1310 on
opposite island - called the Island of Silos, eight new silos were built. In
the northern part of there was a shipyard.
In 1347 (behind the walls of the Old City in south-eastern
direction) a new settlement was formed and was granted privileges of Lübeck Law,
and was named the New City. The residents of this city were mainly the natives of these lands.
Thanks to the participation in Hanseatic League, the city was growing fast thanks to trade.
It became a dangerous rival for Gdansk. It was one of most active
cities of Prussian Union - the organization of the nobles and the citizens opposing
lawlessness and greed of Teutonic Order. Faked by the order papal bull
and emperor's verdict sentencing 300 members of Prussian Union to death
or banishment - caused anti-order uprising to break out on February 4th, 1454.
Simultaneously a delegation of Prussian Union went from Cracow,
and gained consent of Polish king - Casimir IV Jagielon for military
help of Poland. On February 22, 1454 the king declared a war on the order.
On March 6, 1454 the king announced the incorporation of Prussia to the Crown (Poland).
Even before that Polish nobles had gained control over most of Polish cities
(including Elblag). The Teutonic Knights kept only: Malbork, Sztum i Chojnice.
Those events gave beginning to Thirteen Years War (1454 - 1466).
Elblag and Gdansk organized and financed a fleet that successfully blocked
deliveries to the order. The citizens of Elblag in 1454
conquered and destroyed the order's castle. On October 19th, 1466 in Torun
the peace between Poland, Lithuania and the Teutonic Order was made, ending
the Thirteen Years War. By virtue of the agreement Elblag was granted to Poland. It
becomes a part of Royal Prussia. Elblag was dynamically evolving until XIV century.
Gdansk dominated the sea trade. Very disadvantageous for city's evolving was the fact
of high sludge in of the tributary to the sea. The new canal connecting Elblag
with Vistula, called Jagielon Canal, was dug as late as 1495.
From 1466 through 1772 Elblag was under rule of the kings
of Poland. In 1478 the Old City and the New City had joined. In XVI
century, a very modern for those times, shipyard was built. In 1577 king Stefan
Batory for city's support, granted in a war against Gdansk, increased city's
privileges. The English East Company was formed (Eastland Company).
Period of XVI and XVII centuries is a period of constant of prosperity and of great
interest of the English of eastern markets. In 1570 there was an attempt of
built first fully equipped war ship called Dragon (pol. Smok). The death of the king
caused giving up the construction. At that time many beautiful houses were built,
especially near the Old Market and at Masztowa and Linka Streets. In 1651 the
house Under the Camels (pol. Pod Wielbladami) was built.
The activity of Eastland Company caused a considerable animation of the port. Annually
few tens of ships of different countries was sailing out. There was also
clock manufacturing started. As the population was growing, a new religious
movement appeared - the Lutherans.
Wilhelm van der Voldergrandt of Dutch came to the city
and started a gimnasial school. The school was the center of education as well
as popularization of the Lutheran movement.
A turning point in city's history was the aggression
of Swedish king Gustav II Adolf on Poland. On July 14th 1626 Elblag was
surrendered to Swedes. In 1631 a man named Axel Oxesntiern became
governor and chancellor of the Royal Prussia. The Swedish occupation
badly influenced the city. Even after granting permission to the city for
producing its own money, the city was not evolving. The citizens were forced
to financing the construction of city walls and moats, as well as forced to pay
high taxes. The war with Swedes concluded with 6 years long peace
in Altmark (Old Market) and left Elblag and other ports in Swedish hands.
The Swedes occupied those lands until the agreement in 1635 in Sztumska Wies.
In 1665 the next king of Sweden Charles X Gustav invaded
Poland. This time also the Elblag authorities signed capitulation of the city
on December 22nd, 1665 and surrendered. The occupation took place through May 23rd, 1660
and ended with peace signed in Oliva. This time the Swedes did much greater damage
in Elblag and nearby cities. On top of it there were numerous pestilences decimated
city's population. Until the beginning of the XVIII century in Elblag and surroundings
approximately 10 thousand people died.
Elblag, because of its location, was involved in conflicts
between Prussia, Russia, Sweden and Poland. Since 1640, the prince of the Ducal Prussia
was Frederick William Hohenzollern, who paid a lot of attention to nearby
Konigsberg. His son Frederick I Hohenzollern was crowned in 1701 in Konigsberg
and became the king of Prussia. As a result of first partition of Poland in 1772, among
others, signed by Frederick II Hohenzollern, Elblag became a part of Prussia.
On December 12th of 1772, the Prussian army, after short siege, marched into surrendered
without fight town.
That period was beneficial for Elblag. Gdansk, which was
a Polish city, was charging merchant marine with high fees.
Prussian administration was charging a lot lower fees -
this caused an increased naval traffic through Elblag.
The Nogat route was deepened and widened. Travelers from
other countries started settling. In 1837 a man by the name of Schichau
started a workshop for mechanical machinery. With the time he specialized
in manufacturing of wide variety of mechanical machinery. In 1854 he
bought a shipyard from Mitzlaff and changed a profile of the company to
manufacturing of steel naval units. The next big step in the history of
Elblag was building of railroad route. Schichau started manufacturing
locomotives. Built in 1850 - 1872 canal connecting with Ostroda,
for naval units of up to 50 tons of weight, had increased trade of wood and various
other merchandise. The canal is unique in Europe effect of technical thought
of Dutch design engineer A. Steenke and local constructors. The canal
has 62,5 km of length (159 km with branches). 4 sluices and 5 slipways were also
built with custom designed carriages for transporting of naval units.
Prosperity of the city lasted until worldwide economical
crisis in 1918. The next stage of city's development is associated with
Hitler's politic. The thirties of this century means a big growth, mainly associated
with Schichau's company. There was an airport and military garrison built in the city.
Many schools and universities were organized. Also brewery, dairy and cigar factory
were built. Consulates of Sweden and Switzerland are open. A citizens commuting
is based on tramlines.
During the war Elblag had up to 100 thousand citizens.
The Germans plan a big defense of the city in the end phase of war.
The city was defended from January 23rd, 1945 to February 10th. As a result
the city was greatly damaged. People of the city and surrounding areas
tried to escape using Vistula Lagoon. Soviet army took the remaining factory
equipment and machinery to Russia.
See also: Old postcards