Peter Beuth (politician, 1781)

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Christian Peter Wilhelm Beuth around 1835, drawing by Franz Krüger
Honor grave , Chausseestrasse 126, in Berlin-Mitte

Christian Peter Wilhelm Friedrich Beuth (born December 28, 1781 in Kleve ; † September 27, 1853 in Berlin ) was a German ministerial official, politician and founder of the Prussian Trade Institute. As a senior Prussian ministerial official and member of the State Council, he became the so-called "father of Prussian trade promotion ".

By means of a number of suitable measures - the establishment of  clubs and schools, the transfer of technology from abroad, templates for the aesthetic design of industrial products and others - he paved the way for Prussian producers from manufacturing to competitive industrial production.


Beuth's bust in the Technikmuseum Berlin

Beuth was the son of a doctor. In 1798 he began studying law and camera science at the University of Halle . Since 1799 he was a member of the Corps Guestphalia Halle .

In 1801 he entered the Prussian civil service, in 1806 he became an assessor in Bayreuth , in 1809 a councilor in Potsdam and in 1810 a secret senior tax council in the finance ministry in Berlin . In this position, as a member of the Commission for Tax Reform and Commercial Reform in the office of State Chancellor Karl August von Hardenberg, he was involved in drafting appropriate bills. In 1813/14 he took part in the Lützow Freikorps in the Wars of Liberation against Napoleon and was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd class.

Beuth was a member of the German Table Society founded in 1811 . In accordance with the anti-Semitic attitude that was cultivated there , he spoke out against the legal equality of Jews.

According to the circular from Finance Minister Hans Graf von Bülow from July 1814, “the VIth Administrative Bureau, under the name of General Administration for Trade and Commerce, had to advise and process all factory and trade police and technical matters”. After Beuth asked Bülow at the beginning of August 1814 that he "might employ him again in Berlin", Bülow informed Gottlob Johann Christian Kunth , the director of that department, two days later that he would be "the secret chief Steuer-Rath Beuth at the same time and accordingly, Beuth was informed that he had to “take the position of a lecturing council at the General Administration for Trade and Industry” and to report to Kunth. Beuth played a key role in preparing the tax laws of 1817.

In 1821 he became a member of the State Council.

At the beginning of November 1830, Beuth's boss Friedrich von Schuckmann and Finance Minister Karl Georg Maassen applied to King Friedrich Wilhelm III. , "The secret chief financial adviser Beuth, who acts as director at the Ministry of the Interior for trade and industry affairs. Secret Upper Government Council ”.

With the application to allow Johann Albert Eytelwein , the director of the Bauakademie , to retire, Schuckmann suggested to the king in mid-November 1830 that “the Secret Chief Financial Officer Beuth should be the director of the Bauakademie with success can take over, for which the same has gladly and free of charge agreed to the prospect that a redesign is to be expected. "

Beuth's "application for dismissal" from June 1845 to Friedrich Wilhelm IV prompted the king to ask Finance Minister Eduard von Flottwell whether Beuth "should not remain in charge of the commercial institute even after his dismissal from active civil service " may. Flottwell replied in early July that “Beuth remained steadfast in his view of retiring entirely.” In the fall of 1845 he resigned from the Ministry of Finance, but remained a member of the State Council.

With his retirement at the beginning of September 1845, Beuth was appointed by the king as an “honorary member” in “the department of the finance ministry for trade, commerce and construction” in order to give the “finance minister also the rich treasure” of his “knowledge and Experience ”and his“ tried and tested advice ”.

Beuth was buried in the Dorotheenstadt cemetery near his friend Karl Friedrich Schinkel . The burial site with a reconstructed grave and granite stele with a portrait medallion, created by Reinhold Begas , is recognized as the grave of honor of the City of Berlin and is located on Birkenallee west of the Cantian family grave memorial designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel in the CAL G1 section.


The historical situation

In Prussia, as in other absolutist states, a state-controlled economy developed in the 18th century, whose exports were promoted, while it was largely protected from foreign competition by import tariffs . This closed, so-called mercantilist or protectionist system was temporarily successful, but in the long term it proved to be an obstacle to technical and economic progress. Since the end of the 18th century it has been replaced by ideas based on the teachings of the English economist Adam Smith (1723-1790). According to this, through the free competition of all economic forces, even across national borders, the greatest possible progress could be achieved, whereby social harmony and social equilibrium would come about by themselves.

At universities and among the younger Prussian officials, to whom Beuth belonged, the free trade theory met with lively approval. It was also recognized, however, that major state efforts were required to create the necessary conditions for independent, free action.

The so-called Stein-Hardenberg reforms provided the legal framework for this, primarily through the abolition of subservience and serfdom (1807) and compulsory guilds (1810) and through the abolition of traditional protective tariffs and import bans (1818).

The expected rapid upswing did not materialize, however. The deficit of the local tradesmen compared to the early industrial development in Western Europe was too great, especially in England they were way ahead. The Prussian craftsmen and manufacturers were too used to the longstanding state protectionism. Government help was needed once again, this time with the educational task of preparing future entrepreneurs for the requirements of their new role. This problem was at the center of Peter Christoph Wilhelm Beuth's working life.

Business promotion

The role models for manufacturers ...

The Warwick vase from models for manufacturers and craftsmen

In 1821, as director of the technical deputation for trade and commerce, Beuth had the first delivery of the models published for manufacturers and craftsmen . The elaborate work with large-format copperplate engravings was initiated jointly by him and Schinkel. In accordance with the classicist goal of the unity of usefulness and beauty, it was intended to contribute to the formation of taste at trade schools, but was also distributed as an award to individual manufacturers. The objects depicted were based on the forms of antiquity and were recommended as samples for new everyday objects. The role models ... had a considerable influence and were reissued in the 1860s.

The trade association

Membership card for the trade association, signature: Beuth

As head of the responsible ministerial department, Beuth was able to set in motion a comprehensive program of trade promotion. Following the example of the trade associations in England and France and the Polytechnic Association in Bavaria , he had the " Association for the Promotion of Industrial Work in Prussia " founded, and he himself became its chairman. In his opening speech on the occasion of the founding of the association, it was said "... a state that, like the Prussian, exposes its manufacturers ... to the wind and weather of competition, in my opinion also has a duty to make them known with the means to survive the competition victoriously". The first meeting took place on January 15, 1821 in the hall of the city ​​council of Berlin. The purpose of the association was to be achieved by “taking note of the state of business at home and abroad, examining discoveries and inventions, teaching, encouraging by rewarding important inventions, competition by offering bonuses”. In the year it was founded, the association had 194 Berliners and 173 foreign members, including the Minister for Trade and Industry Heinrich von Bülow , Alexander von Humboldt , Karl Friedrich Schinkel and the inspector of the royal Berlin iron foundry Johann Friedrich Krigar .

From 1822 the association published its own magazine, the negotiations of the association for the promotion of industry in Prussia . It reported about the club's internal affairs, but above all it dealt with technical questions, technical price tasks were set and their solutions were published in the following editions. In the first edition, for example, the problems with building suspension bridges were discussed , in particular the novel use of wrought iron for chains and wire strands. These articles had an impact on the later design of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York . The negotiations ... soon developed into a highly regarded specialist journal. In 1822, on Beuth's initiative, the association held its first trade exhibition in the building of the trade deputation on Klosterstrasse; However, participation and results were disappointing. Entrepreneurship that took the competition into account was not yet developed; only a few producers were willing to publicly present their forms and technical patterns. It turned out that Prussian industrial products were hardly competitive at that time.

Industrial training

In addition, Beuth was committed to better professional training. In addition to the traditional craftsmanship and artistic content, there should be new technological and economic components, it was about "education for industry", as Beuth had already explained in 1817 in a study for the Ministry of Culture . There were early forms of vocational training in the fields of civil engineering and chemistry , but not in mechanics and mechanical engineering , where the most important advances were to be expected.

Building of the commercial institute, on the right the extension building

After Beuth was given responsibility for trade schools in 1820, he was able to open a two-class trade school - a " technical institute " - with initially 13 students and four teachers in the building of his technical deputation in Klosterstrasse on November 1, 1821 . The institute, which was also open to the lower classes of the population, clearly distinguished itself from teaching at universities - here, not scientific, but practical knowledge should be imparted. Beuth wrote: “Anyone who wants to learn more can do it at the university. I exclude this more from the technical school because I consider it more an ornament than an essential influence on the prosperity of the trade and its flowering ”. Initially, “a good handwriting was sufficient for admission to the lower class; the ability to follow the oral presentation and to elaborate the presented linguistically, just like ordinary arithmetic ”. For the upper class the following were assumed: “Knowledge of geometry ( planimetry and stereometry ) without evidence; Knowledge of common arithmetic , of the use of logarithms ; Elementary knowledge in physics and chemistry; Hand drawing based on erected bodies, machine drawing based on your own recording and geometric representation. ”In 1826 the trade institute was expanded to include a third grade, and the level of training increased quickly. After merging with the Berlin Bauakademie (which was headed by Beuth in the 1830s, at that time it was called the Allgemeine Bauschule), the Royal Technical University of Charlottenburg emerged in 1879 , later the Technical University of Berlin . In the Prussian province of Westphalia, where iron was already being produced and processed at that time, Beuth set up a second industrial training facility. The Hagen trade school was opened on December 1, 1824, later became the state engineering school for mechanical engineering and electronics and finally one of the four locations of the South Westphalia University of Applied Sciences .

The building of the Technical Deputation, the former Hackescher Palais, housed the trade institute and the assembly room of the trade association, workshops, laboratories and a library as well as the deputation's collections. A machine collection, a model collection and a collection of finished products were available to the interested public. Beuth had thus created a kind of technology center, a contact point for tradespeople, where the latest knowledge in all branches of industry should be conveyed, from technology to artistic design. An extension from the years 1827-29 also made the building itself a showpiece. For the first time in Berlin, a house in skeleton construction with cast-iron supports was built; Beuth had got to know the technology on a study trip together with Schinkel in England in 1826, where numerous industrial buildings were built in this way. Shortly after their return, the two of them designed the extension together.

Import of knowledge

The transfer of technological innovations from the advanced economies of England and Western Europe to Prussia was a special item on the program in Beuth's diverse activities. He recruited foreign experts and he financed the information trips of his own engineers and technicians who studied the most modern machines and the organization of successful companies abroad. Some of these activities came at least close to what is now called industrial espionage. The diary entries Schinkel made during the trip to England in 1826 are revealing for the nature of such excursions. He himself was supposed to study new museum buildings on behalf of the king, but was also keenly interested in all technical innovations and accompanied Beuth on its explorations. Both of them visited factories and technical systems of various kinds almost every day. Beuth bought up and sent home what he thought was useful for the development of Prussia - machines or construction drawings , seeds and new breeds of farm animals . Export bans for certain machines were circumvented by directing them to Berlin via intermediate addresses, where they were then dismantled, rebuilt and possibly improved. If you couldn't buy what you wanted, Schinkel and Beuth at least tried to trace technical details. Several times, however, Schinkel also noted sentences such as: "The machine is covered and is not shown".

Successful graduation

Medal for Beuth's farewell as chairman of
Heinrich Lorenz's trade association

Since the 1830s the pace of technical progress has increased considerably, not least due to the development of rail traffic. After the Berlin-Potsdam connection was put into operation as the first line in Prussia in 1838 , there was a steadily growing need for rails and vehicles as well as machines for their production. Beuth viewed precisely this technique with skepticism - he himself was a passionate rider. Around 1840 he was able to determine that his goals had largely been achieved, and the transition from manufacturing to industrial production had succeeded. The high point and conclusion of his work in the Prussian civil service was the successful trade exhibition in Berlin in 1844, a national exhibition of all countries of the German Customs Union , which came into force in 1834. 260,000 visitors saw the presentations by 3,040 exhibitors. State-owned companies also showed remarkable products, but the management position had meanwhile been transferred to private entrepreneurs. The Berlin mechanical engineering institute, founded in 1837 by August Borsig , a former student of the trade institute, showed the 26th locomotive from their production as the highlight of the exhibition. It was called "Beuth". In 1846 Beuth gave up the chairmanship of the trade association. On this occasion, a bronze medal was minted that shows his portrait on the front and the genius of technical development on the back , which allegorically sows metal cubes as the seeds for new machines. Beuth received a gold embossed copy as a farewell.

Public appreciation and criticism

Sculptures Beuth (left) with W. v. Humboldt in front of the DIN building in Berlin
Postage stamp 1981

Immediately after Beuth's death, the idea arose to acquire his artistic estate "for state accounts and to combine it with the Schinkel Museum," which the king also liked. In the official application to him in October 1853, Minister of Commerce August von der Heydt Beuths emphasized “successful endeavors to introduce art into the trade and to raise it and bring it to perfection by perfecting the taste. In this direction he, hand in hand with his friend Schinkel, who is similar in spirit, has aroused and developed the taste of the young people belonging to the trade in the commercial teaching institutions he set up, by spreading classic models of antiquity and the art of earlier centuries and by appropriating what contemporary art and industry has to offer at home and abroad, it is important to have a broader impact. "

The numerous "hippological works" of Beuth, d. H. "Books and illustrations relating to the knowledge and breeding of horses" should, according to the building academy director Carl Ferdinand Busse to Minister von der Heydt in mid-August 1854, "should be placed in the copperplate engravings room without further use as evidence of the peculiar personality and education of the deceased Beuth" "Appropriately to the library of the Royal Veterinary School or the large university library".

In mid-July 1856, the “Königl. Curatorium of the Beuth-Schinkel-Museum “u. a. The following is known in the Vossische Zeitung : “After the objects acquired on the orders of Sr. Majesty of the King from the estate of the Real Privy Councilor Beuth, mainly consisting of valuable copperplate engravings by older masters of the German, Dutch, French and Italian schools, were sorted and labeled with the Schinkel-Museo have been united, access to this collection takes place every Tuesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. against admission tickets (...). "

On the Schinkelplatz in front of the Berlin Building Academy , a bronze statue was inaugurated on May 13, 1861, which was modeled by August Kiß . Eight base reliefs by Friedrich Drake paid tribute to Beuth's services. Both the statue and the reliefs were cast in the bronze foundry of the trade institute. The monument, which has been restored in its old beauty, partly thanks to new casts of the original base reliefs kept in the Berlin City Museum Foundation and the reconstruction of lost base areas, stands next to the statues of Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Albrecht Daniel Thaer , the founder, which were also renovated and supplemented in the 2000s of modern agriculture in Prussia. At the time, this ensemble of monuments was understood by the Prussian court as a demonstration of bourgeois self-confidence and was thoroughly disapproved of. A double statue that Beuth shows in conversation with Wilhelm von Humboldt has been in front of the German Institute for Standardization ( DIN ) in Burggrafenstrasse in Berlin-Tiergarten since 1987 . The two statues are casts of the assistant statues from the range of figures designed by Gustav Hermann Blaeser on the base of the equestrian statue of the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III. in Cologne .

Several street names are reminiscent of Beuth, such as the Beuthstrasse in Berlin-Mitte , Berlin-Niederschönhausen , Kleve and in Leipzig - Mockau . The DIN publisher is called Beuth Verlag . The subsidiary of DIN sells national and international standards and develops multimedia specialist literature for industry, science, trade, the service sector, studies and crafts. The Technical University of Applied Sciences Berlin renamed itself to Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin on April 1, 2009 ; The Beuth Engineering School was already one of its predecessor institutions. The district of Kleve is considering naming the upcoming technical college in the district of Kleve after Beuth. In memory of Beuth, the Deutsche Maschinentechnische Gesellschaft has awarded its Beuth Medal every year since 1899 - from 1899 to 1974 on the basis of a prize, and since 1975 in the form of a competition. In addition to the winners, the Beuth Medal honors personalities who have made a particular contribution to the further development of rail transport and the integration of technological innovations into the rail industry. The bust of Beuth by Christian Daniel Rauch in the National Gallery in Berlin served as a model for the embossing of the obverse of the Beuth Medal .

Removal of the memorial plaque in Kleve

A university logo smiley in the design of the anti-nuclear sticker with the text “Renaming?  Yes, please!"
AStA sticker for filing the name "Beuth" (2019)

After the public discussion about a report by the sociologist and racism researcher Achim Bühl, which Beuth attributes to a role in the social consolidation of anti-Semitic resentment , the commemorative plaque was removed from his former place of residence in Kleve in June 2018. After a complaint about procedural issues for Mayor Sonja Northing , the local council confirmed the decision. A place where the badge will be issued publicly again has been discussed since October.

Renaming of the university

Since 2017 the Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin has been discussing renaming its university. In January 2020, the university held a symposium on this, as a result of which the Academic Assembly decided to discard the name. The President had submitted the request for renaming. As a scientific institution, the university has a responsibility to clearly oppose anti-Semitism and racism tendencies, explained Ullmann. By discarding the name "Beuth", the university is setting "a clear and active signal".


Web links

Commons : Christian Peter Wilhelm Beuth  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Kösener corps lists 1910, 98/153
  2. Christine Prussky: Who reads post-doctoral theses ? In: , July 9, 2018; accessed on July 10, 2018.
  3. GStA PK I. HA Rep. 120 AI 1 No. 23 Volume 2, fol. 59 r
  4. GStA PK I. HA Rep. 120 AI 3 No. 2, fol. 1 v
  5. GStA PK I. HA Rep. 120 AI 3 No. 1, fol. 44 r
  6. GStA PK I. HA Rep. 120 AI 3 No. 2, fol. 3 r
  7. GStA PK I. HA Rep. 77 Tit. 183 c No. 1 Volume 2, fol. 154 BC
  8. GStA PK I. HA Rep. 89 No. 28509, fol. 66 BC
  9. GStA PK I. HA Rep. 89 No. 6409, fol. 6 r
  10. GStA PK I. HA Rep. 89 No. 6409, fol. 1 r
  11. GStA PK I. HA Rep. 89 No. 6409, fol. 2 r
  12. GStA PK I. HA Rep. 89 No. 6409, fol. 10 r / v
  13. a b H. Hackmann (1981): Christian Peter Wilhelm Beuth - his work and its meaning. on:
  14. ^ Negotiations of the association for the promotion of industry in Prussia. 1, Berlin 1822, p. 138.
  15. Berlinische Nachrichten von Staats- und learned things. September 5, 1822.
  16. GStA PK I. HA Rep. 89 No. 21712, fol. 20 r / v
  17. GStA PK I. HA Rep. 76 V b Sect. 4 Tit. X No. 11 Volume 2
  18. GStA PK I. HA Rep. 76 V b Sect. 4 Tit. X No. 11 Volume 2
  19. Beuthstrasse (center). In: Street name lexicon of the Luisenstädtischer Bildungsverein (near  Kaupert )
  20. ^ Beuthstrasse (Niederschönhausen). In: Street name lexicon of the Luisenstädtischer Bildungsverein (near  Kaupert )
  21. On April 1, 2009 with a new name: The TFH becomes Beuth University of Technology. ( Memento from March 9, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Press release from TFH Berlin
  22. Beuth Prize Winner
  23. Andreas Gebbink: The revered anti-Semite Peter Wilhelm Beuth. In: Neue Ruhr Zeitung. June 27, 2018, accessed September 8, 2018 .
  24. Marc Cattelaens: Dispute about commemoration. Committee postpones decision on Beuth badge. RP Online, September 7, 2018, accessed September 8, 2018 .
  25. Kai Toss: Kleve: dispute over memorial plaque for Jew haters. In: Westdeutscher Rundfunk WDR. October 11, 2018, accessed November 14, 2018 .
  26. Petra Sorge: Symposium should bring clarity: Was Christian Wilhelm Beuth an anti-Semite? January 14, 2019, accessed January 22, 2019 .
  27. ^ In the dispute over Beuth's anti-Semitism. Retrieved January 22, 2019 .