During the 18th and 19th centuries, wealthy families like Honig, Breet, Kool and Van der Ley manufactured costly white paper in the village of Zaandijk, owning windmills with imaginative names like “De Schoolmeester” (Schoolmaster), “De Vergulde Bijenkorf” (Gilded Beehive), “De Veenboer” (Peatland Farmer), “De Wever” (Weaver), “De Zwarte Bonsem” (Black Polecat), “De Eendracht” (Unity) and “Het Fortuyn” (Fortune).
At first, the mills produced crude wrapping paper and cardboard. From 1674, writing paper was added to the product range. This was the result of the development of a new technology: the “Hollander” grinding facility was improved by changing the shape of the cutting knives and replacing the iron by an alloy of red and yellow copper, thus preventing rust stains in the paper.
To make white paper, clear water is needed. This was obtained by pumping up groundwater and collecting it in ponds. The pumping was done by small, self-adjusting windmills with a long tail called “petmolens” (well mills). The water was subsequently filtered through layers of sand and shells and finally collected in huge containers. From there, wooden piping would transport it to inside the mill where it was mixed with rags.
The whole process of making white paper can still be witnessed inside paper mill “De Schoolmeester” which dates from 1692. It is located on the other side of the road to the south of this bench and it is the oldest working paper windmill in the world!
In the Lagedijk (Low Dyke) in Zaandijk you will find the “Honig Breethuis” (Honig Breet House), an historic paper merchant’s residence. Inside, the story of the Honig Breet family is shown in a video documentary and well-preserved rooms. The museum also houses temporary exhibitions about the history of paper making in the region.