Heinrich Lanz (1838–1905)

The German engineering manufacturer Heinrich Lanz created under his own name a brand of agricultural machinery and steam engines that became known worldwide.

Lanz was born at Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance in southern Germany. His father, Johann Peter Lanz, was a freight forwarding agent and imported British agricultural machinery and guano fertilizer. After his school education, to prepare for working with his father, Lanz went to Marseilles in France for a year in 1858 to study trade. He then had an apprenticeship at a colonial goods store in Mannheim and took a course at the school of commerce in Stuttgart. When he returned to the family business in 1860 he took charge of importing agricultural machinery and set up a repair workshop to service the machines that they sold.

Lanz realised there was a big market for agricultural machines and in 1867 he began manufacturing them at Mannheim. He started with machines for cutting animal feed and soon also made threshing machines. In 1878 he began making portable steam engines that could be moved on wheels around farms and industrial locations to provide power wherever it was needed. In the 1880s he pioneered safety devices for threshing machines. Lanz also planned to build steam tractors that could move under their own power and the factory began to produce them soon after his death in 1905.

The factory was highly productive and widely recognised for quality. It was calculated in 1909 that it had produced more than 550,000 machines, including 20,000 portable steam engines. At the end of his life Lanz employed 3,000 people and was nicknamed ‘the king of Mannheim’.

The factory was at first in the Schwetzingerstadt area of Mannheim and later moved to the Lindenhof area. When Lanz died aged 66 he left large bequests that were used to build a hospital and found an academy in the city. His wife Julia and his son Karl continued to run the factory until the 1920s. In 1956, the family sold the majority of their shares to the American company John Deere. The Lanz name was used until 1967. The Lanz-Leo’s Museum in Rimbach, Bavaria, preserves a collection of the company’s engines and machines.