Johann Baptist Czjzek Edler von Smidaich (1841 – 1925)

Johann Baptist Čžjžek Edler von Smidaich was one of the leading entrepreneurs in the Habsburg Empire with interests in several major industries as well as in finance.

His father was the geologist Johann Baptist Čžjžek (1806-55), who compiled the first geological map of Bohemia. He studied chemistry at Horni Slavkov (Schlaggerwald) in western Bohemia and in 1867 in partnership with his cousin Georg Haas von Hasenfels (1861-1914) took over the Paulus-Porzellan porcelian works, established in Slavkov in 1793 by Johann Georg Paulus which prospered under the management of Johann Georg Lippers (d 1843) and Wenzel Haas (1772-1830). By 1867 the company was known as Haas und Lippert, and subsequently as Haas und Čžjžek. The quality of its porcelain was high and its customers included the Emperor, the Pope and many aristocrats. In 1872 Hass and Čžjžek purchased the porcelain works of Portheim und Sohne at Chadau (now Chodov, in the Czech Republic), and the two factories between them employed more than a thousand people. Their porcelain was skilfully marked through outlets in Paris, Vienna and Budapest.

Čžjžek left the porcelain company in 1875 after disagreements with his relations. He had already developed interests in textiles. He purchased the Fritsch textile company, which had six factories and subsequently diversified into mechanical engineering, establishing, with his Ignác Šustala (1822-1901), Straudinger Waggenfabrik AG based in Māhren, Moravia. The company produced a variety of engineering products, and later evolved into the Tatra motor vehicle firm, but was chiefly notable for building what is generally recognised as the first multiple unit passenger train (Triebwagenzug) to run on a European railway. Čžjžek was involved in banking, having been a founder of the Wiener Bankverein (Vienna union of banks) in 1869. He made a world tour in 1898 to promote the Empire’s exports and was subsequently knighted. He was also a substantial landowner but both he and his companies suffered severe losses in the years after the First World War, and he did not live to see the subsequent prosperity of Czech industry.