Abraham Ganz (1815–67)

Abraham Ganz founded an engineering company in Budapest that became the largest in Hungary and influenced developments in technology, particularly in roller milling and electric traction, beyond the bounds of the Hapsburg Empire.

He was born at Unter Embrach, Switzerland, and served his apprenticeship at a foundry in Zurich before gaining working experience in France, Germany, Italy and Austria. He moved to Pest in 1841where he was involved with the construction of the Szechenyi Mill, which utilised innovative roller mill technology. Splashing metal caused him to lose an eye in 1843.

In 1844 he opened his own foundry in Buda, with seven employees. He specialised initially in the manufacture of wheels for railway vehicles and in 1856 obtained a patent for a process by which they were cast in moulds lined with powdered antimony. He also made trackwork for railways, and castings for bridges, and employed 371 people at the time of his death.

The company continued under the direction of Andras Mechwart (1834-1907), whom Ganz had invited to Budaptest in 1859. Mechwart was born at Schweinfurt, and studied engineering at the University of Augsburg. He himself developed roller milling technology substituting chilled cast-iron rollers for the porcelain rollers previously used, and roller milling plant, with water turbines, were the basis of the company’s prosperity in the 1870s. An electrical engineering department was established in 1878, where three employees developed the three-phase transformer in 1884. The company produced its first electric vehicle in 1892, and subsequently fulfilled many orders for street tramway systems and the electrification of main line railways as well as for generating and switching equipment. The company was merged with an Italian concern in 1991 to form Ganz-Ansaldo.

Many of its products are displayed in the Ontodei Museum, in the foundry buildings constructed in 1858 which continued in use until 1964.