The Krupp family is a prominent 400-year-old German family from Essen, famous for their steel production and manufacture of ammunition and armaments. The family business, known as Friedrich Krupp AG in modern times, merged with Thyssen in 1999 to create ThyssenKrupp AG, a large industrial conglomerate.
The metal business was started by Friedrich Krupp (1787–1826), who built a small steel foundry in Essen in 1811. His son, Alfred (1812–1887), known as "the Cannon King" or "Alfred the Great," invested heavily in new technology to become a significant manufacturer of railway material and locomotives. He also invested in fluidized hotbed technologies (notably the Bessemer process) and acquired many mines in Germany and France. He also invested in subsidized housing for his workers and started a program of health and retirement benefits. The company began to make steel cannons in the 1840s for the Russian, Turkish, and Prussian armies especially. Low non-military demand and government subsidy meant that the company specialized more and more in weapons, by the late 1880s the manufacture of armaments represented varied around 50% of the total output. When Alfred started the firm, it had five employees. At his death there were twenty thousand - the world's largest industrial company.
During World War I some criticized Krupp's policy of selling cannons to the Central Powers as well as to the Entente, a policy which turned out to be highly profitable. Ford and GM are accused of doing the same during World War II, however the German subsideries of GM and Ford were not controlled by the American parent company during the war.
After Hitler came to power, the Krupp works became the center for German rearmament. In 1943, by a special order from Hitler, the company was reconverted into a family holding, and Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach (1907-67), son of Gustav Krupp, took over the management. After Germany's defeat and the incapability of Gustav to be tried, Alfried was tried as a war criminal before the U.S. Nuremberg Military Tribunal (in the so-called Krupp Trial) for his company's use of slave labor and was sentenced to 12 years and ordered to sell 75% of his holdings. In 1951, as the Cold War developed and no buyer could be found, he was released and in 1953 he resumed control of the firm.
The first historical appearance of the Krupp family is 1587, when Arndt Krupp joined the merchants' guild in Essen. Arndt was a trader who arrived before an epidemic of plague and became one of the city's wealthiest men by purchasing the property of families who fled the epidemic. He died in 1624 during the Thirty Years War. His son Anton took over the family business; his tenure is notable for extensive gunsmithing during the war, beginning the family's long association with weapon manufacturing.
For the next century the Krupps continued to prosper, generation after generation, becoming Essen's most powerful family and accumulating more and more property in the city. By the mid-eighteenth-century, the head of the Krupp family was Friedrich Jodocus Krupp, Arndt's great-great-grandson. In 1751 he married Helene Amalie Ascherfeld (another of Arndt's great-great-grandchildren); Jodocus died 6 years later, which left his widow to run the business - a family first. The Widow Krupp greatly expanded the family's holdings over the decades, acquiring a mill, shares in 4 coal mines, and in 1800, an iron forge located on a stream near Essen.
In 1807 the modern progenitor of the Krupp firm, Friedrich Krupp, began his business career at age 19 when the Widow Krupp appointed him manager of the forge. Friedrich's father, the Widow's son, had died when Friedrich was 8; since that time, the Widow had tutored the boy in the ways of business, as he was the logical family heir. Unfortunately, Friedrich proved too ambitious for his own good, and quickly ran the formerly-profitable forge into the ground. The Widow was soon forced to sell it away.
Afterward, Friedrich continued to stumble into ways to lose the family's money. But in 1810, the Widow died, and in what would prove a disastrous move, left virtually all the Krupp fortune and property to Friedrich. Newly enriched, Friedrich decided his goal would be to discover the secret of cast (crucible) steel. Benjamin Huntsman, a clockmaker from Sheffield, had pioneered a process to make crucible steel in 1740, but the British had managed to keep it secret since then, forcing other Europeans to import the material. But after the Royal Navy began its blockade of Napoleon's empire, this option was no longer open, and so Napoleon offered a prize of four thousand francs to anyone who could replicate the British process. It was this prize that piqued Friedrich's interest.
Thus, in 1811 Friedrich founded the Krupp Gusstahlfabrik (Cast Steel Works). He soon discovered, however, that he would need a large facility with a power source if he was to succeed, and so he built a mill and foundry on an Essen stream. Soon Friedrich was pouring huge sums of time and money into the small, waterwheel-powered facility, neglecting all other Krupp business. After much work, Friedrich produced his first smelt steel in 1816.
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Alfred Krupp (Alfried Felix Alwyn Krupp April 26 1812 - July 14 1887), son of Friedrich Carl, was born in Essen. Friedrich's death in 1826 left his widow as owner of the works. Alfred was forced to leave school at the age of fourteen and take on the direction of the works. The prospect was a cheerless one. His father had spent a considerable fortune in the attempt to cast steel in large blocks: in order to keep the works going at all, the family had to live in extreme frugality, while the youthful director worked besides the workmen by day, and carried on his father's experiments at night. For the next fifteen years, the works made barely enough money to cover the workmen's wages. In 1841, his invention of the spoon-roller brought in enough money for Alfred to enlarge the factory and spend money on casting steel blocks. In 1847 he made his first cannon of cast steel. At the Great Exhibition of 1851 he exhibited a 6 pounder (2.7 kg) cannon made entirely from cast steel, and a solid flawless ingot of steel weighing 2000 pounds (907 kg), more than twice as much as any previously cast. Krupp's exhibit caused a sensation in the engineering world, and the Essen works at once sprang into fame. In 1851, another successful invention, this time for the making of railway tyres, supplied a profit, which was devoted partly to enlarging and equipping the factory, and partly to his long-cherished scheme - the construction of a breech-loading cannon of cast steel. Krupp himself was strongly convinced of the superiority of breech-loaders to muzzle-loaders, on account of the greater accuracy of firing and the saving of time, but this view did not win general acceptance in Germany till after the Franco-Prussian war, when the army was supplied throughout with Krupp's perfected field-piece. Once the quality of its output was recognised, the factory developed with amazing rapidity. At the time of Alfred Krupp's death in 1887, he employed 45,000 men, and including those in works outside Essen, his rule extended over 75,000 people.
Special "colonies" were built for the employees and their families, with parks, schools and recreation grounds, while the widows' and orphans' and other benefit schemes ensured the men and their families against anxiety in case of illness or death.
After Alfred's death, the works were carried on by his only son, Friedrich Alfred.
World War I
- Friz, D. M.: Alfried Krupp und Berthold Beitz—der Erbe und sein Statthalter, Z�rich: Orell-F�ssli 1988; ISBN 3-280-01852-8.
- Manchester, William (1968). The Arms of Krupp: 1587-1968. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. Paperback edition 2003: ISBN 0-316-52940-0.de:Krupp
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