Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History

Explore the extraordinary past of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through the pages of the book 'Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History.' Uncover political events, economic development, and cultural heritage of these Banat towns through richly documented stories. Follow the evolution from the earliest days to the present, delving into the intricate threads of political intrigues, economic transformations, and cultural ascensions. Experience the past through the eyes of the author as the pages of the book unfold before you, providing a unique perspective on the life and legacy of these significant locales.

Paths of industrial development: The story of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo

The forerunners of industry were craftsmanship, followed by further division of labor into manufacturing, machine industry, automation, and electronics in further progress. When it comes to Novi Bečej, we should also add mills, dryers, windmills, and oil mills to the aforementioned forerunners, as well as steam sawmills, mills, and brickworks. Unfortunately, that is all the industry with which Novi Bečej and Vranjevo entered the twentieth century.

In the first half of the twentieth century, Novi Bečej with Vranjevo did not record the corresponding industrial development that was taking place in surrounding cities: Kikinda, Bečkerek, and Žombolj, and Semikluš was not far behind either—all belonged to that part of Torontal County. The brick and tile industry, which developed throughout Banat, primarily served to meet the growing needs of the local population. Only larger brick factories in cities also served the needs of wider areas. At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century (1910), there were twelve brickworks in Torontal County, including "Brejtkopf K. és Társai elsö tiszai tégla, cserép és agyagárú gyára" (First Potiska Brick, Tile, and Clay Goods Factory) in Törökbecse, which started operating in 1906. It covered an area of sixteen cadastral acres, operated on steam, had a steam engine of one hundred and thirty horsepower, and employed one hundred and forty-four workers, twenty-four of whom were women.

There was already a brickyard established in Vranjevo in 1869, which, at the beginning of the century, operated under the name Wagner Andras tegla és eserépárúgyár.

In 1910, Vranjevo also had the Adolf Sörgyar Aracs brewery. The steam engine power was 24 horsepower, employing five workers and producing 228 hectoliters of beer.

In addition to the brewery, Vranjevo had two roller mills. The mill that produced flour for the market was purchased in 1931 by Anton Lenihardt for 800,000 dinars. During the economic crisis, the mill operated at 50% capacity and in that mode, in 1934, it ground 240 railway wagons of wheat and 48 wagons of corn annually. The mill employed fourteen workers. The other mill in Vranjevo was built before the First World War by Ivan Kovačev. Between the two wars, it was owned by the Bunjevci, of smaller capacity, and served local milling.

In Novi Bečej, there was the steam mill Milko Vilmos és Fiai gözmalma, Török Bacse, which employed eight workers. The same owner, Milko Vilmoš with his sons, besides the mill, also owned a steam sawmill, considered the first of its kind in Banat, established in 1867. The company headquarters, Milko Vilmos és Fiai-gezfüresztelepe-Fötelep, was in Budapest, with branches not only in Novi Bečej but also in Szeged, Romulus 1, and several other places. Before the First World War, the sawmill in Novi Bečej had a 35 HP engine, employing five officials, thirty permanent workers, two apprentices, and sixty casual workers. It produced lumber and railway sleepers for the local market, as well as for other places in Austria-Hungary and for export to Serbia.

At that time, Novi Bečej also had a domestic crafts company, Istvánfi Istvánné, with one to three hundred employed women who worked at their homes.

This was a period when industry was just emerging in these exclusively agricultural regions of Austria-Hungary, but it was already felt that Novi Bečej was not attractive for industrial development. Comparisons of industry in surrounding cities show that even in related industries, it had much smaller capacities than industries in Žombolj, Kikinda, or Bečkerek. Moreover, in those places, other branches of industry were emerging, such as textile and metal industries.

After the First World War and the annexation of Vojvodina to Yugoslavia, the development of industry in Novi Bečej and Vranjevo not only did not accelerate but slowed down even more compared to other larger places in the former Torontal County. Indeed, in the post-war period, the construction of power plants emerged, which undoubtedly represented significant progress not only for the cultural life of the residents but also in terms of creating conditions for economic development.

In 1923, Novi Bečej acquired a generator for electricity production, and its power could meet the needs of the Royal cinema, which was located in the courtyard of the then Royal hotel. Besides the cinema, the closest part of Novi Bečej's center was also supplied with electricity. During 1926, an electric grid was constructed, and an electric plant was erected, which started operating in the autumn of 1927. The owner of the plant was the company Romanic and Butor.

Vranjevo even received electric power from Novi Bečej slightly earlier. The distribution network and plant were built in 1926, and the production of electricity began on January 21, 1927. The Vranjevo plant belonged to a Swedish company, later transferring to the company Subotička električna železnica i osvetljenje, d.d., Subotica, which also acquired the electric plant in Novi Bečej.

In the same year that Novi Bečej received electricity, 1926/27, there was the liquidation of the brick and tile factory in Bereka, Breitkopf K. és Társai, which had three kilns in the early years after the war.

The Vranjevo brickyard of Wagner Andraš was bought by the well-known brick and tile manufacturers in Kikinda, Žombolj, and some other places, the Bohn brothers. They acquired the remnants of the Wagner brickyard and expanded it in Vranjevo, mainly focusing on tiles, thus managing to withstand the blows of the great economic crisis, operating seasonally from spring to autumn with a workforce of three to three hundred and fifty workers.

The liquidation of the Breitkopf brickyard in Novi Bečej was partly due to the fact that in the post-war period, all surrounding villages: Kumane, Melenci, and Novo Miloševo had their own brick factories that could mostly meet the needs of those places with bricks.

Not only did the Breitkopf brickyard in Novi Bečej cease to operate, but the already small brewery became unprofitable during the economic crisis and also ceased production, initially becoming a kind of branch of the brewery in Stari Bečej, a warehouse for Stari Bečej beer.

The same fate befell the Senćanska steam sawmill, which, after the First World War, was called the planer and mill Milko Vilmoš és Fiai. During the crisis period, the planer was liquidated, leaving about two hundred workers unemployed, while the mill with about ten workers operated until the end of the Second World War when the Germans, during their retreat, set it on fire in early October 1944.

After the First World War, domestic handicrafts also ceased to operate until they were revived sometime before the end of the economic crisis in 1934—35, with lace and curtain production organized by the Russian immigrant Ozorov. In fact, this was not any special organization; rather, women, mostly of Hungarian nationality, worked at their homes and sold their products to Ozorov, who supplied them to appropriate merchants in Belgrade.

As seen until the Second World War, Novi Bečej and Vranjevo did not have industries. All industry consisted of the Bohn Brothers' tile factory in Vranjevo, two mills in Vranjevo, and one in Novi Bečej. One of the mills in Vranjevo and the one in Novi Bečej directed their activities towards commercial milling, while the other, smaller mill in Vranjevo only had custom milling.

Just before the Second World War, in 1938, the Jew Gerber, who had been dealing with feather purchase until then, opened a small workshop in Vranjevo for cotton fabric production. This workshop was steam-powered (driven by a threshing machine engine) and had twelve looms. It operated until the outbreak of the Second World War.

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