Rudolstadt was first mentioned as "Rudolfestat" in a document around the year 776 and has got a town charter since 1326. The town came into the possession of the Count of Schwarzburg around 1340. As the capital of the principality of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, it flourished as part of the cultural triangle of Weimar, Jena and Rudolstadt, associated with the life and work of famous poets and scholars, like Friedrich Schiller, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Wilhelm und Alexander Humbold, the musicians and composers Richard Wagner, Franz Liszt and Niccolo Paganini as well as the founder of the first kindergarten, Friedrich Fröbel.
Apart from a porcelain manufactory, founded in 1762, industrialization arrived late in Rudolstadt that was mostly inhabited by townspeople who farmed a smallholding. The railway was built in 1874 and Friedrich Adolf Richter established a factory that produced medicine as well as the famous building blocks, known under the trademark "Anchor".
After the last prince of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt had resigned in 1918,
Rudolstadt became a county town in 1922. After building a factory for
producing synthetic fibres in Rudolstadt-Schwarza in 1935, the place
became, and still is, an important location of chemical industry.
Rudolstadt is also known as the "Stadt der Tanzfeste" and famous for its theatre and the public festival "Vogelschießen" (shooting the bird), which is more than 275 years old.