Alfred Krupp

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Alfred Krupp

Alfred Krupp (born April 26, 1812 in Essen , † July 14, 1887 , actually Alfried Felix Alwyn Krupp ) was a German industrialist and inventor . He expanded the Kruppsche Gussstahlfabrik founded by his father Friedrich Krupp , which is now part of ThyssenKrupp AG , into what was then the largest industrial company in Europe. He achieved this initially with the production of seamless wheel tires , which found huge sales with the expansion of the railway system, and later mainly with the production of armaments . Alfred Krupp was the largest arms manufacturer of his time, which earned him the nickname of cannon king. Its improved artillery pieces contributed greatly to the German victory in the Franco-Prussian War .


The beginnings

Birthplace of Alfred Krupp and his father Friedrich Krupp in Essen, around 1850–1880
Alfred Krupp, first painting by Julius Gruen
Alfred Krupp, in equestrian garb

Alfred Krupp was the eldest son of Friedrich Krupp and his wife Theresia Helena Johanna Wilhelmi . The house where he was born was a town house at Flachsmarkt 9 in Essen, where his father was born. The ancestors of the Krupp family were Essen councilors and respected merchants. The Dutch religious refugee Arndt Kruipe († 1624) is considered to be the progenitor .

Alfred's father had never succeeded in putting the cast steel factory he founded in 1812 from a fulling mill north of Essen, consisting of a hammer mill with molten stone, on a healthy economic basis. This first productive plant remained in Krupp's possession until 1839. In 1819 the factory was relocated to the family property on Altendorfer Chaussee . This new building soon used up all financial resources. In 1824, the house where they were born on Flachsmarkt went to the creditors, so that the family moved into the supervisor's house of the new factory, which Alfred Krupp later declared to be the Krupp parent company .

When Alfred was 14 years old, his father, who had previously instructed him in the manufacture of cast steel , died. At that time, the family was living with Friedrich Krupp's sister Helene von Müller in Metternich , as supplies were only guaranteed there. The company, which at that time employed seven workers and was in debt with 10,000 thalers , was passed on to Friedrich's wife, who together with her sister-in-law founded a company for the production of cast steel. The articles of association were signed jointly by all of Friedrich's heirs and his sister as the new partner. Alfred, who at that time was attending the Royal High School on Burgplatz , dropped out of school and took over the management of the company from his mother and aunt, which initially continued to produce with a few employees. The situation did not change until around 1830. Due to the development of the railroad in Germany and Europe, the demand for cast steel, which was needed for the manufacture of rails and axles, increased sharply. Krupp succeeded in manufacturing cast steel rollers and delivered them for the first time to the Hüsecken company in Hohenlimburg on August 26, 1830 .

The establishment of the German Customs Association in 1834 promoted freight traffic in Germany. In 1836, Alfred Krupp employed around 60 workers, who he looked after throughout his life: he introduced health insurance and, starting with the Masters' Houses  , had company apartments built from 1861 onwards . In return, he demanded loyalty and identification with the company.

In 1838 Krupp registered a patent for a spoon roller made of cast steel for the manufacture of spoons and forks. In the years that followed, Alfred Krupp traveled all over Europe, always looking for customers to keep the business going. His company expanded, but Krupp lacked capital and was constantly faced with the risk of bankruptcy . In Berndorf , Lower Austria , he founded the Berndorfer Metallwarenfabrik with the banker and businessman Alexander von Schoeller , where first silver cutlery was made , but soon it was made from alpacca . When Krupp returned to Essen, his brother Hermann took over the factory.

Before his first trip to England in 1838/39, Krupp began to write to Alfred and kept this from then on.

The manufacture of weapons began as a hobby: after a seven-year trial period, Krupp forged his first rifle barrel by hand in 1843. First attempts to sell steel firearms failed miserably because the military preferred to rely on solid bronze . In their eyes steel was too closely related to cast iron , which was too brittle and therefore unsuitable for the purpose of making guns.

He maintained a friendly relationship with Friedrich Carl Devens (1782–1849) and his family. During his visits to the nearby Knippenburg, Krupp presented members of the Devens family with the cast steel barrels for hunting rifles and target pistols made in his factory . He was also a frequent guest at Welheim Castle , where he used the firing range to test his new rifle barrels.

In 1847 the first Krupp cast steel cannon was manufactured and presented to the Prussian War Ministry for inspection. However, it was taken straight to the Arsenal and not tested until two years later. The results were excellent, but the ministry saw no reason to order such cannons.

In 1848, Alfred Krupp became the sole owner of the Essen cast steel factory, where in the years that followed, rollers and cutlery were mainly made from cast steel.


The three seamless railway tires from Krupp

Alfred Krupp achieved his final breakthrough in 1852/53 with the invention of the seamless wheel tire : a forged, elongated piece of steel was split in the middle, driven apart in a ring, stretched and finally rolled. As a result of this growth spurt, the company employed around 1,000 workers in the 1850s. For decades, wheel tires were Krupp's core product, which was mainly due to the fact that he succeeded in winning the majority of the US railroad companies as customers for them. To this day, the ThyssenKrupp Group's logo represents three offset wheel tires.

About 1857 developed Alfred own version of a breech-loading , as the unreliability of the -Kanone which he vainly offered to purchase the Prussian military 1858 closure existed for reasonable doubt about the weapon. However, Alfred Krupp continued to pursue his goal of establishing himself as an arms manufacturer, and in April 1860 he finally sold the first 312 six-pounder steel muzzle-loaders to Prussia.

Cast steel factory in Essen in 1864

Weapons sales increased very quickly. Krupp supplied cannons to all major European powers with the exception of France . Associated with this was further growth of the company, which was supported by the introduction of innovative production techniques. In 1861 Krupp developed "Fritz", which at the time weighed 50 tons, was the world's heaviest forge steam hammer . At the same time, Krupp was the first German entrepreneur to mass-produce steel with the help of the Bessemer process , which he discovered in England and then bought, and the Siemens-Martin process : Krupp was the first company in Germany to use both processes.

In 1861, Krupp founded a photography department within the company, thus laying the foundation for one of the largest historical photo collections in the world. The archive of the historical archive of the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation today contains around 2 million of these photographs, including daguerreotypes , which represent the first recordings of the process of industrial steel production.

Not least because of the superiority of the Krupp steel guns over the Danish bronze cannons, Prussia won the German-Danish War in 1864 . In 1866, armies, both of which had been equipped by Krupp, faced each other for the first time in the German War . But one year later the breech-loading cannon was perfected by Krupp's development of the round wedge lock. The Franco-Prussian War , which was decided, among other things, by the Prussian steel cannons being twice the range of the French bronze cannons, finally made Krupp rich. The newest of the Krupp guns at the time was the 4-pounder field cannon C / 67 , a breech-loading gun that achieved its devastating effect through a combination of high cadence (up to ten rounds per minute) and long range (with a caliber of 8 cm, a maximum of 3,450 m) proved with good hit performance, especially during the Battle of Sedan .


In the founding years after the formation of the German Empire , production in German heavy industry doubled and the company , as Krupp was now generally called, became the largest industrial company in Europe. Essen became Kruppstadt and grew by tens of thousands of residents. Nevertheless, Krupp was constantly in danger of going bankrupt , for example after the founder crash of 1873, as a result of which German heavy industry got into difficulties due to high excess capacities. As a result, Krupp owed the banks the considerable sum of 30 million gold marks , but was able to pay off the debt very quickly thanks to the rail boom in the USA.

Villa Hügel (garden side), on the left the library, connecting the Gobelinsaal in the middle, on the right today's Krupp Museum

It was also during this period that the Villa Hügel was built , the splendid "family palace" of Krupps, the technical interior of which was designed by Alfred Krupp himself. For fear of fire it was built without any combustible materials and with its technical facilities - u. a. Heating, food elevators - a symbol of industrialization.

In response to a in 1871 by the Social Democratic Labor Party organized (SDAP) general strike in 1872, he published the General Directive , which was distributed to all workers. In its 72 paragraphs, which remained valid until the end of the company as a family business in 1967, the rights and obligations of the "Kruppians" are meticulously described:

"Infidelity and betrayal must be pursued with all legal severity ... for just as the fruit emerges from the seed and, depending on its type, food or poison, so does the spirit - good or evil."

The duties imposed on workers were strict, but extensive social benefits were given in return. In this way, employees could use cheaper housing and they received health insurance coverage. For the first time in Germany, those who worked for Krupp all their life were also granted a company pension . If a worker was laid off, he lost all of these privileges. The later social legislation of Otto von Bismarck was largely based on Krupp's general regulatory.

In the 1880s, competition from the American steel industry became stiff. Krupp lost the American market and with it its main sales area for wheel tires. From then on he concentrated on arms production and development. The same was true of his two biggest competitors, the French Henri Schneider and the English William Armstrong . The three together supplied the weapons for the European arms spiral, which later resulted in the material battles of the First World War .

In Germany, Alfred Krupp fought against the Socialist Workers' Party . So he not only feared bankruptcy if the socialist ideas were to be implemented, but also regarded his workers as his property, to whom he also wanted to impose rules on expressing opinions and voting behavior. A blacklist of workers who took part in demonstrations was kept; whoever was noted on it was dismissed or not hired at all. Before every Reichstag election , workers were asked not to vote for the SDAP.

His son Friedrich Alfred Krupp inherited the company, which now had 20,000 employees.


Alfred Krupp, second painting by Gruen

At the age of 17, Alfred had already become the father of an illegitimate son. This emerged from an affair with the 23-year-old daughter of the small farmer Wickenburg-Löbbert, whose farm was not far from the cast steel factory at the time. With a closed settlement of over 300 thalers, which was equivalent to the annual income of three workers, the young mother renounced any claims against the Krupp family for herself and her child to be given birth. The subsequent worldwide success of the cast steel factory was by no means predictable at that time.

Alfred Krupp married Bertha, née Bertha, who was around twenty years his junior in 1853 . Eichhoff (born December 13, 1831 - † September 4, 1888). The two had a son together, Friedrich Alfred . Overall, the marriage was probably not very happy. Alfred Krupp was almost exclusively interested in the company in which he invested all his time. His wife couldn't make friends with the city of Essen because of the industrial pollution. Bertha therefore spent most of the year with her son Friedrich in Italy.

Alfred Krupp was, on the one hand, a tireless worker who never rested on success and, on the other hand, he was a first-rate hypochondriac who suffered from depression and then stayed in bed for weeks and months. His personal physician was Moses Hirschland , whom he probably got to know when he was still at school.

His attitude as an employer was that of a patriarch who demanded not only respect but also obedience from his employees and who provided comprehensive care in return. In terms of business, Krupp was convinced of himself. It was with this pronounced self-confidence that he received the European rulers at Villa Hügel. Kings and emperors came to visit, not for social reasons, but as customers. Therefore, in 1865, he also refused the title of nobility that had been offered to him by the Prussian king . That is "not according to his wishes". His name was Krupp, and that was enough. Krupp's guiding principle, which he formulated in 1873 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his takeover of the cast steel factory, is interpreted as an example of the Protestant work ethic : "The purpose of work should be the common good, then work brings blessings, then work is prayer."

Krupp's graphomania is known . He had a great need to communicate and in the course of his life wrote several thousand letters - sometimes several to the same person in one day. He also wrote a myriad of memoranda to his workers. In 1877 Krupp addressed "a word to my relatives". It said: “I introduced the inventions and new productions, not the workers. He is resigned to his wages, and whether I win or lose on it is my own business ”. For the rest he ordered his workers: “Enjoy what is yours. Engaging in higher politics requires more free time and insight into the circumstances than is given to the worker. "

Tomb at the Bredeney cemetery : black sarcophagus with two figural bronze sculptures

The anecdote that Krupp loved the smell of horse manure and therefore had his study built above the horse stables of the Villa Hügel in order to insure himself of the country air flavored with the smell of manure via ventilation shafts is unproven.

In 1887, Alfred Krupp died of a heart attack at the age of 75 . He was buried in the then cemetery at Kettwiger Tor on Hohenburgstrasse in Essen. Due to the expansion of the station forecourt in 1910, the grave was relocated to Freiheit south of the main station. In 1955, municipal building measures again forced the burial site to be relocated. Since then, it has been located in the Bredeney municipal cemetery on Westerwaldstrasse in Essen. Several monuments were erected in honor of Alfred Krupp, including the Alfred Krupp memorial at the Marktkirche , which was erected two years after his death, and the Alfred Krupp memorial from 1892, which was once at the gate to the cast steel factory Had space and was donated by the workforce. As early as 1862, the Association of German Engineers (VDI) had named Alfred Krupp an honorary member at its general meeting in September 1862.


April 26, 2012 marked the 200th anniversary of Alfred Krupp's birthday. On this occasion, the Ruhrmuseum presented the special exhibition 200 years of Krupp until November 4, 2012 .


  • Peter Märthesheimer: Krupp or the invention of the bourgeois age. WDR radio play, 2002.


  • Wilhelm Berdrow: Krupp, the cannon king and industrial prince . In: ders .: Book of famous merchants. Men of energy and enterprise . 2nd Edition. Verlag von Otto Spamer, Leipzig 1909 (reprint Reprint-Verlag-Leipzig, ISBN 3-8262-0208-2 ), pp. 246-290 ( Textarchiv - Internet Archive ).
  • Franz Maria Feldhaus:  Krupp, Alfred . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 55, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1910, pp. 528-537.
  • Lothar Gall : Krupp - The rise of an industrial empire. Siedler Verlag, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-88680-583-2 .
  • Gert von Klass : The three rings. Life story of an industrial company. Reiner Wunderlich Verlag - Herman Leins, Tübingen and Stuttgart 1953.
  • Renate Köhne-Lindenlaub:  Krupp, Alfred (Alfried). In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 13, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1982, ISBN 3-428-00194-X , pp. 130-135 ( digitized version ).
  • William Manchester: The Arms of Krupp. Michael Joseph Ltd., London 1968.
  • Ernst Schröder: Alfred Krupp (1812-1887). In: Rheinisch-Westfälische Wirtschaftsbiographien , Volume V. Aschendorff, Münster 1953, pp. 46–78.
  • Frank Stenglein: Krupp - ups and downs of an industrial company . New edition. Klartext-Verlag, Essen 2011, ISBN 978-3-8375-0518-4 , pp. 20-27.
  • The cannon king . In: The Gazebo . Issue 52, 1866, pp. 819-821 ( full text [ Wikisource ]).

Web links

Commons : Alfred Krupp  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Harold James: Krupp - German legend and global company . CH Beck, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-406-62414-8 . P. 51
  2. William Berdrow: The Krupp family in Essen from 1587 to 1887 . Graphic institute of Friedrich Krupp AG, Essen 1931.
  3. ^ Krupp - photographs from two centuries . Deutscher Kunstverlag, Berlin 2011, p. 7
  4. Cf. also Alfred Krupp's appeal to his workers of June 24, 1872, printed in: Collection of sources for the history of German social policy 1867 to 1914 , Department I: From the time when the Empire was founded to the Imperial Social Message (1867–1881), 4. Volume: Workers' Law, edited by Wolfgang Ayaß , Karl Heinz Nickel and Heidi Winter, Darmstadt 1997, No. 102.
  5. ^ Notarial files in the North Rhine-Westphalia State Archives, Rhineland department
  6. Harold James: Krupp: German legend and global company . Munich 2011, p. 81
  7. Printed in: Collection of Sources for the History of German Social Policy 1867 to 1914 , Section I: From the Founding of the Reich to the Imperial Social Message (1867–1881), Volume 8: Basic Social Policy Issues in Public Discussion: Churches, Parties, Associations and Associations , edited by Ralf Stremmel, Florian Tennstedt and Gisela Fleckenstein, Darmstadt 2006, No. 138.
  8. ^ Fifth general meeting of the association on September 3 to 6, 1862 in Eisenach . In: Journal of the Association of German Engineers . tape 6 , no. December 12 , 1865, p. 575 .
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on June 26, 2006 .