Tableware of a «Verdingbub» [Contract Boy]

Canton of Berne, 1950─1960

The tableware on display serves as a reminder of a dark chapter of Swiss history. Up until the middle of the 20th century, children from poor families were used and abused as cheap labourers completely unprotected by the law: as «herdschildren» on the alps, as «Schwabengänger» [“Swabian Children”] on south German farms or as «Spazzacamini» [chimney sweeps] in northern Italy.

This set of tableware accompanied the «Verdingbub» Ruedi through his childhood. Beginning when he was three years old, he had to serve in more than 30 workplaces in the Swiss midlands. He experienced violence, abuse and neglect. He never had the opportunity to serve an apprenticeship. As an adult he moved to a remote Graubünden mountain valley.