In the chaotic circumstances of post-World War I Germany, Rudolf Steiner had been giving lectures on his ideas for a societal transformation in the direction of independence of the economic, governmental and cultural realms, known as Social Threefolding, to the workers of various factories. On April 23, 1919, he held such a lecture for the workers of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany; in this lecture he mentioned the need for a new kind of comprehensive school.
On the following day, the workers approached Herbert Hahn, one of Steiner’s close co-workers, and asked him whether their children could be given such a school. Independently of this request, the owner and managing director of the factory, Emil Molt, announced his decision to set up such a school for his factory workers’ children to the company’s Board of Directors and asked Steiner to be the school’s pedagogical consultant. The name Waldorf thus comes from the factory which hosted the first school.
The original Waldorf school was formed as an independent institution licensed by the local government as an exploratory model school with special freedoms.
At the end of August, 1919 seventeen candidates for teaching positions attended what would be the first of many pedagogical courses sponsored by the school; twelve of these candidates were chosen to be the school’s first teachers. The school opened on September 7, 1919 with 256 pupils in eight grades; 191 of the pupils were from factory families, the other 65 came from interested families from Stuttgart, many of whom were already engaged in the anthroposophical movement in that city.
For the first year, the school was a company school and all teachers were listed as workers at Waldorf-Astoria, by the second year the school had become an independent entity.