- Krupp, Alfred
- (1812–1887)Known as the “cannon king,” Alfred Krupp turned the factory inherited from his father, Friedrich Krupp, into the biggest steel conglomerate in the world. Krupp started his early career by selling cutlery-producing machines, copying the English cast iron technique. As his works in the town of Essen were part of Prussia, Krupp profited from the formation of the Zollverein . In 1848, his experiments with cast iron cannons yielded fruit and his business slowly but inevitably grew. Nevertheless, when revolution broke out in Germany he hardly employed a hundred workers. Only a few years later, he had more than a thousand laborers under contract. This first expansion was made possible by the transport revolution. As Krupp started to produce seamless railroad wheels, patented in 1852, his business grew in proportion to the extent of the German railway system. When the patent expired after seven years, the company had outperformed its main competitors and faced a glorious future.Krupp was now eager to take on other fields of production. He was an able technician but an even better businessman. More than once on the brink of bankruptcy, Krupp reinvested nearly all his earnings in new machinery, huts, and mines. His economic success was largely based on his embrace of innovation, quick adaptation of new technology and outstanding managerial skills. But most of all, Krupp was a marketing genius. Being present at the first world exhibition in London in 1851, his products attracted huge crowds and earned him an excellent international reputation. Although for some time he vainly tried to sell his cast iron cannons, in 1854 his long-term marketing efforts proved successful. On June 15, Prince Wilhelm, later emperor of the Reich, visited the Krupp factory in Essen on a tour through the province of Westphalia. The prince showed great interest in the modern artillery and after Wilhelm had become regent, the Prussian army finally ordered the first 300 cannons in 1859. This was the beginning of a mutually beneficial bargain: the Prussian army was equipped with state-of-the art weaponry and the monarchy bailed Krupp out whenever he was in financial trouble; however, Krupp also sold his artillery to other European powers. During the Schleswig-Holstein War in 1864, Krupp’s cannons stood on both sides. Napoleon III also took a keen interest in Krupp’s products. To appease angry French weapon manufacturers, however, he had to refrain from buying in Germany.From 1859 onward, the Prussian army became Krupp’s single most important customer, and his provision of cutting-edge steel cannons played a major role in the explanation of the resounding German victory in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. The Krupp guns proved to be decisively superior to the traditional bronze cannons fielded by the French. With the war ending, Krupp was at the height of his powers. Employing more than 10,000 workmen, he owned the biggest ironworks in the German Empire. Moreover, Krupp was on excellent terms with many members of the Reich’s political and military elite. Especially generals of the German army were regular guests at his private palace, the Villa Hügel in Essen. Germany had been lagging behind in economic modernization until the middle of the nineteenth century, and Krupp increasingly epitomized German ascent in the age of industry. After Krupp’s death, his heirs continued to equip the empire’s army until its demise in 1918.See also <
>; < >.FURTHER READING:Gall, Lothar. Krupp: Der Aufstieg eines Industrieimperiums. Berlin: Siedler, 2000;Manchester, William. The Arms of Krupp, 1587–1968. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1968;Mühlen, Norbert. The Incredible Krupps. New York: Holt, 1959.ULRICH SCHNAKENBERG
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.