Alfred Krupp (1812–87)

The records of the Krupp family in the Rhineland date from 1587, and by the early 19th century their possessions included a forge in Essen that was inherited by Friedrich Krupp (1787-1826). In 1811, when supplies of crucible steel from England were interrupted by Napoleon`s continental system, he established a steel foundry in Essen, although he did not produce his first cast steel until 1816, and steel production had almost ceased by the time of his death.

The development of this small concern into the largest industrial company in Europe was due largely to his son, Alfred Krupp. When the building of main line railways was proposed in Germany he adapted his works to roll rails and to build locomotives, rolling stock and structural ironwork. He introduced a new means of manufacturing tyres for railway rolling stock in 1851, the year in which he displayed at the Great Exhibition in London a flawless 907 steel ingot, and a 2.7 kg cannon. 

He followed the pattern of earlier generations of English ironmasters by vertically integrating his company, acquiring mines from which his furnaces could draw iron ore and coal, and establishing engineering shops where castings from his foundries and wrought-iron from his forges could be finished and assembled into machines. He was an early investor in the Bessemer process for making mild steel. Krupp began to make cast steel cannon in the 1840s, and by the late 1880s armaments comprised 50% of the output of his company, which, with 20,200 employees was claimed to be the largest industrial concern in the world.

Krupp gained a reputation as a benign employer. The company`s workers settlements, particularly Altenhof I and II, and Margarethenhohe, built by Alfred`s daughter-in-law in 1906, are well-planned and spacious. Health and retirement benefits were also provided for the workforce, but they were a means of enforcing industrial discipline, as well as means of philanthropy. Krupp`s own mansion, the Villa Hugel in Essen-Bredeney, is conserved as a museum.

Krupp's family continued to control the concern in the 20th century. Alfried Krupp (1907-67) was charged but not tried with war crimes for his use of slave labour during the Third Reich, but regained control of the company in 1953.

After many subsequent changes Friedrich Krupp AG Hoesch-Krupp merged in 1999 to form ThyssenKrupp AG, which remains a powerful force in the economy of the Ruhrgebiet.