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The founding father of the Bayer Group was born in the Barmen-Heckinghausen district of the present-day city of Wuppertal in 1825. As the son of a silkworker, Friedrich Bayer grew up at a time when the textile industry was flourishing. At the age of 14 he joined the chemicals dealer Wesenfeld und Co. in Barmen as an apprentice. During his apprenticeship, Bayer became familiar with both the fundamentals and the problems of the dyeing trade.
By the age of 20 he had already begun to deal in natural dyes. Three years later he founded his first sales company and established a European distribution network. The natural dyestuffs initially offered by Bayer were extracted from dyewoods. Due to their high quality, Bayer did brisk business with these products in the European capitals of London, Brussels and St. Petersburg, and even as far afield as New York.
The discoveries of inorganic chemistry in the field of dyestuff manufacturing and the market potential associated with these advances prompted Friedrich Bayer to expand his distribution program. The first artificial dyes imported by Bayer — aniline and fuchsine — were superior to natural dyes in terms of purity and brightness. Together with his future business partner Friedrich Weskott, Bayer experimented with production and testing of these tar dyes by his own company. They ultimately succeeded in producing dyes that were of far better quality than the first generation.
The successful partnership between Bayer and Weskott led to the establishment of a first small production facility. The seed for what would later become Bayer AG was planted on August 1, 1863, with the entry of "Friedr. Bayer et comp." into the commercial register.
In the wake of further dyestuff developments based on aniline, fuchsine and alizarin, the company's founders managed to considerably expand production capacities despite the now tense economic situation. When Friedrich Bayer died in 1880 at the age of 54, he left behind a flourishing family business. The founders' sons and sons-in-law, who had been integrated into the company as partners, created an important foundation for Bayer's future success by transforming it into a joint stock company.