Abstract from the German text (edited 1996)
Copyright: Charles Halbeisen, Münchenstein 1996.
Picture: The Halbeisen (Halbisen)
coat of arms; Black-White
Picture: The Halbeisen (Halbisen) coat of arms; Color (368 kB)
Picture: The Halbeisen watermark
Halbisen, Halbysen, Halbeysen, Halbeisen
In the Middle Ages the name was written as Halbisen or Halbysen. When the medieval German turned into Modern High German, many monophthongs changed to diphthongs. In the 16th and 17th century both forms Halbeysen and Halbeisen were used. Today only the latest form Halbeisen is left. Christian Wurstisen, the author of the Basel Chronicle from 1580, mixed all those spelling forms. (The German vowels "a" and "ei" are spelled like in "half" and "iron". And this is also the meaning of the name.)
Heinrich Halbisen the older
The most important person in our story is the Basel trader and paper maker Heinrich Halbisen. He lived from about 1390 to 1451. He traded in Europe, mainly as a representative of the Halbisen trade company. He knew the Italian language (and his German mother tongue, of course) and was in many diplomatic missions for the Basel city in Switzerland. At the same time he was a member of the government representing the saffron-guild, these were all the merchants of his city. His name is mentioned as "Henricus Albisen de Basilea" in the peace-treaty with the later French King Louis after the battle of St. Jakob near Basel in 1444. In the year 1432, Heinrich escorted the German King Sigismund to his emperor's coronation.
Heinrich founded the Basel paper industry. In 1433 he bought a mill which he transformed into a paper mill. One of his paper mills is still intact and a part of the Basel Paper Museum. The watermarks on the Halbisen papers show a part of the Halbeisen heraldic figure, this is the half of a horse-shoe.
Heinrich Halbisen was one of the richest citizen. In 1429 he owned 8000-8500 Gulden, worth about one million dollars today. He owened about 15 houses and two entire villages, Ober-Hagenthal and Niederhagenthal in the Elsass country (France) near Basel. In 1445 he was captain of the Basel troops. He died on August 24, 1451 because of the pestilence.
Heinrich Halbisen the younger
After his father's death he went on to produce paper in Basel for twenty years. In 1469 he and his employees were arrested and investigated for a crime. His wife Agnes had cut off the nose of another woman. Heinrich the younger was still very rich. On September 16, 1471 he an his brother Lorenz received the confirmation of their coat of arms by Emperor Friedrich III. From now on they were called "Juncker", which means young noblemen. Heinrich lived in the Klybeck Palace on the Basel countryside. He died in about 1480.
In the Swiss telephone directory there are 250 Halbeisen listed, in Germany 80 and in the USA 80. The greatest concentration of the name exists in the Swiss Village "Wahlen" with 50 phonebook entries. Most Swiss Halbeisen's have their family roots in one of the two villages near Basel, "Wahlen" and "Dittingen".