HANAU, a town of Germany, in the Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau, on the right bank of the Main, 14 m. by rail E. from Frankfort and at the junction of lines to Friedberg, Bebra and Aschaffenburg. Pop. (1905) 31,637. It consists of an old and a new town. The streets of the former are narrow and irregular, but the latter, founded at the end of the 16th century by fugitive Walloons and Netherlanders, is built in the form of a pentagon with broad streets crossing at right angles, and possesses several fine squares, among which may be mentioned the marketplace, adorned with handsome fountains at the four corners. Among the principal buildings are the ancient castle, formerly the residence of the counts of Hanau; the church of St John, dating from the iyth century, with a handsome tower; the old church of St Mary, containing the burial vault of the counts of Hanau; the church in the new town, built by the Walloons in the beginning of the xyth century in the form of two intersecting circles; the Roman Catholic church, the synagogue, the theatre, the barracks, the arsenal and the hospital. Its educational establishments include a classical school, and a school of industrial art. There is a society of natural history and an historical society, both of which possess considerable libraries and collections. Hanau is the birthplace of the brothers Grimm, to whom a monument was erected here in 1896. In the neighbourhood of the town are the palace of Philippsruhe, with an extensive park and large orangeries, and the spa of Wilhelmsbad.
Hanau is the principal commercial and manufacturing town in the province, and stands next to Cassel in point of population. It manufactures ornaments of various kinds, cigars, leather, paper, playing cards, silver and platina wares, chocolate, soap, woollen cloth, hats, silk, gloves, stockings, ropes and matches. Diamond cutting is carried on and the town has also foundries, breweries, and in the neighborhood extensive powder-mills. It carries on a large trade in wood, wine and corn, in addition to its articles of manufacture.
From the number of urns, coins and other antiquities found near Hanau it would appear that it owes its origin to a Roman settlement. It received municipal rights in 1393, and in 1528 it was fortified by Count Philip III. who rebuilt the castle. At the end of the 16th century its prosperity received considerable impulse from the accession of the Walloons and Netherlanders. During the Thirty Years' War it was in 1631 taken by the Swedes, and in 1636 it was besieged by the imperial troops, but was relieved on the 13th of June by Landgrave William V. of Hesse-Cassel, on account of which the day is still commemorated by the inhabitants. Napoleon on his retreat from Leipzig defeated the Germans under Marshal Wrede at Hanau, on the 30th of October 1813; and on the following day the allies vacated the town, when it was entered by the French. Early in the 15th century Hanau became the capital of a principality of the Empire, which on the death of Count Reinhard in 1451 was partitioned between the Hanau-Munzenberg and HanauLichtenberg lines, but was reunited in 1642 when the elder line became extinct. The younger line received princely rank in 1696, but as it became extinct in 1736 Hanau-MUnzenberg was joined to Hesse-Cassel and Hanau-Lichtenberg to Hesse- Darmstadt. In 1785 the whole province was united to Hesse-Cassel, and in 1803 it became an independent principality. In 1815 it again came into the possession of Hesse-Cassel, and in 1866 it was joined to Prussia.
See R. Wille, Hanau im dreissigjahrigen Krieg (Hanau, 1886); and Junghaus, Geschichte der Stadt und des Kreises Hanau (1887).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)