Friedrich Schiller’s popularity in the 19th century is characterised by a political usurpation of the poet at bourgeois memorial celebrations. Especially the festivities on the occasion of Schiller’s 100th birthday in 1859 signify the highpoint of these honourings. They assumed the character of mass demonstrations and seemed like a utopian imagination of a bourgeois and national unity that had failed in the political reality. The Austrian reception of Schiller as a ‘classic’ of German literature had its roots in a delayed enthusiasm for the writer in the second half of the century. The ‘Schillerfeier’ of 1859 in Vienna in the context of political and social crises appears as a distinct phenomenon, in which the collective aspirations and illusions of the German-Austrian bourgeoisie are reflected. This article deals with the role of the theatres as agents of knowledge transfer and national identity. While the stylisation of the ‘Burgtheater’ as the most important German stage played a major part during the Schiller-festivities in 1859, a political and aesthetical functionalisation of Schiller can also be observed in plays of the Viennese popular theatres, such as Friedrich Kaiser’s earlier ‘Volksstück’ Die Industrie-Ausstellung from 1845.