Henryk Lubieński (1793–1883)

In the early industrialisation of Poland, Henryk Łubieński was a central figure. He was behind the creation of many diverse industrial enterprises from the 1820s to the 1840s, especially through his work with the national bank of Poland.

Łubieński came from a wealthy landowning family. He was born in Prague and studied law in Warsaw and Paris. He acquired estates in several regions and explored opportunities for industry in them and the estates of his father and brothers. He was a founding director of the national bank of Poland in 1829 and its vice-president in 1832. The bank took a strategic role in industrial policy and directly controlled investment in mining and ironmaking from 1833.

As a private entrepreneur Łubieński established two factories to make sugar from beet, one at Guzów in 1829 and another at Częstocice in 1839. With his brother Tomasz he opened the Łubieński Brothers department store in Warsaw in 1830. He also moved into the manufacture of gunpowder, military boots and uniforms. In 1833 he was co-founder with the French textile specialist Philippe de Girard of a linen factory and settlement on land owned by his father in central Poland – the town was later given the name Żyrardów after Girard. At Lubartów in 1840 he established a ceramics factory to make faience. Nearby at Serock he opened an ironworks. He also established foundries to make scythes and agricultural machinery.

For the national bank Łubieński initiated the establishment of the ironworks in Dąbrowa Górnicza near Katowice, commissioned in 1840. From 1835 he promoted a railway line from Warsaw which opened in 1844 and in 1848 was connected to Vienna. However, his career in investment came to an end suddenly in 1842 when he was accused of misusing funds from the national bank for personal gain. After a long trial he was convicted in 1848 and sentenced to a year in prison and three years in exile at Kursk in Russia. Much of his property was seized. He lived in retirement until the age of 90 but he had no further involvement in industry. Nevertheless, the industrialisation of his country continued following his energetic investments.