Ludwig Knoop (1821–94)

Ludwig Knoop was one of the most successful entrepreneurs in nineteenth-century Europe. He worked in several countries but especially in Russia, to which he brought industrialised cotton industry.

He was born in the merchant city of Bremen in north-western Germany. He was sent for an apprenticeship to his uncle Johan Frerichs in Manchester to learn about the cotton industry. When his uncle’s company, De Jersey, expanded its business into Russia in 1840, Knoop went to Moscow. He was only 19 years old but he saw opportunities to expand the textile industries in the Russian Empire, bringing his direct knowledge and his connections with English cotton suppliers and machine makers. With the Russian entrepreneur Savva V. Morozov in 1849 he built the first mechanised spinning mill in the country, at Nikolskoye near Vladimir, 190 kilometres east of Moscow.

After 1852, Knoop diversified into several business interests in Russia on an enormous scale. Some of his business was with his bother Julius who took over the De Jersey company and opened offices in Liverpool and New York. He founded over a hundred separate textile operations, for weaving, dyeing and printing cotton. Many of his factories were very large: the cotton spinning works near Narva in Estonia employed 4,500 people who were provided with houses, health care and schools. He was also involved in banking and insurance and developed trade between Germany and Siberia.

He was awarded the title of baron in Russia but he made his home back at Bremen, where he bought the Mühlenthal estate in 1859 and built a mansion and an English-style landscape garden. His sons continued the business in Russia. He died at Bremen in 1894.