András Mechwart (1834–1907)

The inventor and businessman Andras Mechwart led the Ganz engineering company at Budapest after the death in 1867 of its founder, Abraham Ganz. He joined the company in 1859 and remained with it for 40 years. During this period the group contributed to the Hungarian economy and influenced technological development, especially in flour milling and electrical engineering.

Mechwart grew up at Schweinfurt in Bavaria. He was apprenticed as a locksmith until the council gave him a scholarship to study mechanical engineering at the polytechnic in Augsburg. From 1855 he worked with the engineering company of Cramer and Clett at Nuremburg. Then, in 1859, he was introduced to Abraham Ganz, who needed a supervisor for the machine factory he was adding to his foundry. Mechwart became central to the expanding business. By 1865 it employed 370 people. When Ganz died, Mechwart became joint managing director, and from 1873 he was sole director. He opened an additional machine works at Ratibor in Prussia (now Racibórz, Poland), iron furnaces at several locations, an electrical department and a wagon factory in Budapest, and finally another machine works at Leobersdorf in Baden, Austria.

Many patents were issued in Mechwart’s name. The first were for flour mills. Budapest was a major centre of milling, using roller mills that were invented in Switzerland and brought to Hungary by Ganz. Mechwart improved the mechanisms and replaced the porcelain rollers with grooved cast-iron ones. His milling units were highly successful and exported widely. In 1889 he patented a rotary plough driven by steam engine. Later, the ploughs used internal combustion engines, for which the company developed an improved carburettor in 1893.

Mechwart established an electrical engineering department in 1878, where the engineers Zipernowsky, Déri and Bláthy developed the three-phase transformer and the direct-current dynamo. The company produced its first electric vehicle in 1892 and subsequently fulfilled many orders for street tramway systems and the electrification of main-line railways as well as for generating and switching equipment.

By 1895 the group employed 6,000 people. Mechwart retired in 1899 but continued to consult on technology until his death in 1907. The company continues today as Ganz-Ansaldo. Products are displayed in the Abraham Ganz Foundry Collection at Budapest.