Carl Ferdinand Stumm (1836–1901)

Carl Ferdinand Stumm (later von Stumm-Halberg) was a German steel magnate and politician. He expanded his long-established family business, Gebrüder Stumm (Stumm Brothers) and become one of the richest people in the German Empire.  

He was born in Saarbrücken, Saarland. His family had been ironmasters for more than a century. Gebrüder Stumm was founded in 1806 by his grandfather, Friedrich Philipp Stumm, and his brothers. By the 1830s they had three ironworks for smelting and a puddling works for wrought iron. Stumm’s father, Carl Friedrich Stumm, was sole proprietor from 1835 until he killed himself in the economic crisis of the 1840s. As Carl Ferdinand was only 12, his mother’s brother, Carl Böcking, managed the firm. After technical school at Siegen, Stumm gained experience working in the family’s Neunkirchen and Sayner ironworks for two years and toured ironworks elsewhere. He then did voluntary military service and studied law, politics and metallurgy in Bonn and Berlin. He joined the company at the age of 22 as manager of the Neunkirchen ironworks. He took sole control in 1871.

Stumm-Halberg carefully but steadily expanded the company into a market leader in the German steel industry. The three ironworks at Fischbacker, Halberg and Neunkirchen produced pig iron, castings, armour plates and bar iron. In 1860, the company sold the ironworks at Fischbacker and Halberg and concentrated production in Neunkirchen. By 1870, 1,350 employees produced an annual output of 10,000 tons of pig iron. Coal and iron ore mines were acquired in several regions. After the introduction of the Thomas process, Stumm-Halbert began steelmaking at Neunkirchen and in the 1890s built a new steelworks at Uckange in Alsace-Lorraine (then Germany but now France). Total annual production increased to some 270,000 tons of pig iron by 1901. At this time Stumm-Halberg employed over 8,000 people.

Stumm-Halberg had a dominating approach to personnel: he banned union membership and certain newspapers and ruled that staff could marry only with his permission. As a paternalist, he also provided medical insurance, social institutions and housing for his employees. He was cofounder of the Free Conservative Party, a centre-right protestant party that opposed socialism. In 1867, he obtained seats in the Reichstag and in the Prussian House of Representatives, and in 1882 he was appointed to the Prussian House of Lords.

Stumm-Halberg’s contemporaries considered him so powerful, especially in his base in the Saarland, that they nicknamed him ‘Sheikh of Saarabia’. As he had no male heir, after his death the company did not continue in sole ownership. It became a limited liability company in 1903, with Stumm-Halberg’s younger brother as chairman and his son-in-law as deputy chairman.