1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dessau
DESSAU, a town of Germany, capital of the duchy of Anhalt, on the left bank of the Mulde, 2 m. from its confluence with the Elbe, 67 m. S.W. from Berlin and at the junction of lines to Cöthen and Zerbst. Pop. (1905) 55,134. Apart from the old quarter lying on the Mulde, the town is well built, is surrounded by pleasant gardens and contains many handsome streets and spacious squares. Among the latter is the Grosse Markt with a statue of Prince Leopold I. of Anhalt-Dessau, “the old Dessauer.” Of the six churches, the Schlosskirche, adorned with paintings by Lucas Cranach, in one of which (“The Last Supper”) are portraits of several reformers, is the most interesting. The ducal palace, standing in extensive grounds, contains a collection of historical curiosities and a gallery of pictures, which includes works by Cimabue, Lippi, Rubens, Titian and Van Dyck. Among other buildings are the town hall (built 1899–1900), the palace of the hereditary prince, the theatre, the administration offices, the law courts, the Amalienstift, with a picture gallery, several high-grade schools, a library of 30,000 volumes and an excellently appointed hospital. There are monuments to the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn (born here in 1729), to the poet Wilhelm Müller, father of Professor Max Müller, also a native of the place, to the emperor William I., and an obelisk commemorating the war of 1870–71. The industries of Dessau include the production of sugar, which is the chief manufacture, woollen, linen and cotton goods, carpets, hats, leather, tobacco and musical instruments. There is also a considerable trade in corn and garden produce. In the environs are the ducal villas of Georgium and Luisium, the gardens of which, as well as those of the neighbouring town of Wörlitz, are much admired.
Dessau was probably founded by Albert the Bear; it had attained civic rights as early as 1213. It first began to grow into importance at the close of the 17th century, in consequence of the religious emancipation of the Jews in 1686, and of the Lutherans in 1697.
See Würdig, Chronik der Stadt Dessau (Dessau, 1876).