In the nineteenth century, fifteen to twenty per cent of the population belonged to the higher classes: distinguished ladies and well-to-do gentlemen. The people consisted primarily of workers and their families. A middle class of independent craftsmen, shopkeepers, skippers, civil servants and merchants was evolving rapidly at this time.
All kinds of changes were also taking place in industry. In this way, the Zaanstreek (area around the River Zaan) could escape the economic misery of bygone times. Large companies began to prosper, including Wessanen, Verkade, and Duyvis, the edible oil and ground-nut manufacturer and processor. The last-named firm was the first firm to deploy a steam engine. This building was inhabited by the Vis-Duyvis family, whose members belonged to the well-off locals.