Stepping outside the company’s door, Jules Fester can experience the era’s social and political transformations up close. Otto von Bismark forces Hamburg to become a member of the Prussian initiated Norddeutsche Bund (Northgerman Federation.) The relinquishing of sovereignty over customs, the creation of a free port and the building of a new warehouse district (Speicherstadt,) result in the elimination of thousands of workers’ quarters.
At the same time, the city begins a phenomenal rise towards becoming a center of international trade. The ever-increasing movement of trade, resulting from the growing number of steamships reaching all corners of the globe (the volume of the entire fleet grew between 1866 and 1895 from 190,000 to 850,000 register tons), gives Hamburg its distinctive image, and creates an inspiring setting for Jules’s entrepreneurial thinking.
Jules Fester, who is described as very intelligent, self-confident and energetic, spends his first years as company owner in an environment that has been described as new, outrageous and revolutionary. Thanks to the enormous advantages of being a free port, goods such as glass, jewelry, furniture, pianos, biscuits, liqueur, canned fish, and soap can be exported duty-free, and goods like zink, cloverseed, grain, cane sugar, tobacco, rice, cotton, tea and, of course, coffee arrive at Hamburg’s port and cause the shipping-insurance business to blossom.