Reinhard Mannesmann (1856–1922)

Reinhard Mannesmann was a member of a family with deep roots in the iron-working traditions of the Bergisches Land, who made a series of technological innovations which enabled him to set up a company that had interests throughout Europe and further afield.

He was the eldest of six sons of a manufacturer of steel files who had workshops in Remscheid-Bliedinghausen. In 1885, with his brother Max, he designed a rolling mill that could manufacture seamless steel pipes. The process was granted a patent in 1888, and was further refined as the pilger mill in 1891. A mandrel was employed to pierce a red hot cylinder of steel as it passed through a set of rolls. The resulting tube was then passed through a succession of other rolls to produce the diameter required. The process dramatically reduced the cost of manufacturing steel tubes, which were widely used in the manufacture of bicycles, and in the first pressurised oil pipeline, built in the Caucasus Mountains in the 1890s.

The Mannesmann company added to its original works at Remscheid a seamless pipe mill at Bous, in the Saarland, a plant that made both seamless and welded pipes at Dusseldorf-Rath, a mill supplying Eastern Europe, Russia and the Mediterranean at Komatau, Bohemia, in the Habsburg Empire, another at Landore near Swansea, supplying the United Kingdom, the British Empire and North America. These works formed part of Deutsch-Osterreichische Mannesmannroehren-Werke Aktiengesellschaff, established in 1890, based initially in Berlin, but from 1893 in Dusseldorf. The company established an Italian subsidiary in Milan in 1906 which constructed the tube mill at Dalmine near Bergamo in 1908. In 1906 Saarbrucker-Gussstahlwerk AG, the principal supplier of steel to the mills at Bous, was taken over.

Reinhard Mannesmann died in 1922, but the company continued under family control, integrating vertically, in an upstream direction by the acquisition of a steelworks at Duisburg- Huckingen, and downstream by taking over a piping systems fabricator at Bitterfeld, and the engineering concern, Gebruder Meer of Monchengladbach. The company was split into three parts in the post-war settlement of 1952, but the parts were re-united three years later. New technologies for making tubes from stainless and nickel steels were developed, and the pipe-making interests of the Thyssen Corporation were taken over in 1970, the year after the Mannesmann coal mines became part of Ruhrkohle AG.

From 1990 Mannesmann diversified into telecommunications, which made the company the subject of a hostile and controversial takeover bid by the British Vodafone company in 1999-2000.

Mannesmann’s traditional steel and engineering activities are continued by Brueder Mannesmann Aktiengesellshaft with a base in Remscheid, and Salzgitter Mannesmann International AG, whose headquarters are in Düsseldorf.