Mansfeld and the German Economy in the Nineteenth Century

Banks, Suppliers and Markets of the Central German Copper Mining and Smelting Industry, 1830 - 1900

Research Paper (postgraduate) 2012 24 Pages

History Europe - Germany - 1848, Empire, Imperialism



In the framework of accelerating globalization in the nineteenth century, the genesis of a world market for homogenous bulk goods was one of the basic preconditions for the steady industrialization of Western- and Central Europe and North America. Of all metals, copper ranked third after iron and steel until the rise of aluminium in the 1890s.[1] Ore, raw and refined copper, belonged to the first investment goods that were traded on a global market in the truest sense of the word.

The copper mining and smelting industry delivered important raw materials and semi-manufactured goods, regardless of whether the final costumer was from civil society or the military. Refined copper and alloys of red metal, such as bronze or brass, were extremely important for the construction of mechanic or electromechanical components. This type of industry played a key role during different waves of industrializations that fundamentally changed the Northern Atlantic World over the course of the nineteenth century.

Consequently, the copper mining and smelting industry was closely connected to the different leading industries that drove Germany’s take off during the 1850s and 1860s and its ongoing industrialization after the foundation of the Kaiserreich in 1871. The copper mining and smelting industry provided the railroad-sector with essential preliminary products, already before Germany’s take off began by 1850, as well as the electric industry and the new chemical and manufacturing branches after 1870.[2]

For that reason, it is surprising that the interdependences among the German copper mining and smelting industry and other industrial branches in Germany have never been investigated systematically, and that the history of the German copper branch in the context of nineteenth century globalization has never been researched either.

Which companies dominated the German copper industry?

Who provided them with plants, equipment and fuels?

How did those companies finance their investments?

Who were their customers?

All of these questions still need to be answered.

The Mansfeld Region

Looking at the copper mining and smelting industry that was located in the area of the German Zollverein (Customs Union) from 1834 to 1900, its high concentration catches one’s eyes at first glance: In the nineteenth century, copper ore of significant quantities was mined in Germany in Stadtberge-Niedermarsberg (Westfalia), on the Rammelsberg near Goslar (Harz), in Frankenberg (Hesse), in Kupferberg (Silesia), in the district of Arnsbach (Hesse) and in the eastern and south-eastern forelands of the Harz Mountains, the Mansfeld area.[3]

However, the copper mining and smelting industry in the eastern and south-eastern parts of the Harz produced by far the highest share of all German copper ore and raw copper. Mansfeld’s mines extracted 89 per cent of all German copper ore in the years from 1837 to 1852. From 1862 to 1900, their average share of the German production was 79 per cent. The proportion of the raw copper that was produced by Mansfeld’s copper works amounted to 62 per cent of the entire Prussian production in the decade 1851-60. In the 37 years from 1863 to 1900, 65 per cent of all raw copper that had been produced in the area of the German Zollverein came from Mansfeld.[4] Thus, Mansfeld’s copper mining and smelting industry almost monopolized the German production of copper ore and raw copper during the seven decades between 1830 and 1900.

For that reason, any serious research on the German copper branch and its contributions to Germany’s industrialisation has to focus on Mansfeld. The copper districts that were located in the eastern and south eastern forelands of the Harz were part of the governmental district of Merseburg in Prussian Saxony. That economic region covered the area that ranged from Sangerhausen in the west to Rothenburg on the river Saale in the east, from the line Hettstedt – Gerbstedt – Friedeburg in the north to the Hornburger Sattel (Hills of Hornburg) and the Mansfeld Lakes in the south. The boundaries of that economic region were set by the strata drifts of the typical copper ore that was mined there, the Mansfeldian slate of copper. These strata follow along the different rupture zones of the Harz Mountains and their foreland.

The most advanced description of the geological conditions in the Mansfeld region can be found in a long report about the Mansfeld Company dating from 1931. According to this report, the geological conditions were the following: The veins of slate were 35 to 40 cm high. However, only 15 to 29 cm consisted of ore that was worth exploiting.[5] In the pits in the Mansfeld region, the longwalls used to have a height of less than one meter. The low height of the lodes made mining a difficult business. And it remained a complicated pursuit until copper mining and smelting ceased in 1990.

The slate of copper that was mined in Mansfeld was a bituminous black mass, which had a grade of copper of 3 to 4.5 per cent. The share of silver ranked from 170 to 180 gram per ton of slate.[6] The Mansfeldian slate of copper consisted of sulphur, lead, and selenium, besides other elements too. The layer above the veins consisted of potash and rock salt. For the characteristics of the extracted product, high amounts of hydrochloric, sulphuric, and sulphurous acid were generated as by-products during the smelting process.

Those by-products threatened to damage the furnaces of the smelting works, as long as the equipment was not protected by appropriate technologies. In the case of the smelting works in the Mansfeld region, a permanent search for innovation was the consequence. Without appropriate solutions for those problems, the copper mining and smelting industry in the eastern and south eastern parts of the Harz would never have had a chance to increase the efficiency of its production as well as the quality of their products.

These difficult geological conditions in place forced the miners and smelters in Mansfeld to create a close and permanent cooperation from an early stage. In the long term, the result of that tight cooperation was the concentration of the whole copper mining and smelting industry in Mansfeld in the hands of one company, the Mansfeld’sche Kupferschieferbauende Gewerkschaft (Mansfeld Company).

The history of the genesis of that company started 33 years after the Peace of Westphalia. On 28 April 1671, the Duke of Saxony, Johann Georg, declared the mining and smelting industry of Mansfeld to “be free”. A new mining law came into force in 1673. The “liberation” of the mining and smelting industry of Mansfeld meant that anybody could start to run his own business in the area. The reason for this new expansive policy was due to the complete decline of Mansfeld’s mining industry during the Thirty Years War and the build-up of huge debts of the Counts of Mansfeld. His creditors were the Duke of Saxony and several merchant houses in Leipzig. It is evident that several families of the Saxon high nobility, for example, held shares in the Mansfeld companies over many generations, from the reign of August the Strong (1697–1733) until the eve of World War One. Members of those families were deputies of the company boards for long periods or played an important role as lobbyists in politics or on the financial market. Outstanding examples were the Houses of Hohenthal and Ponickau.[7]

Several creditors from Leipzig started businesses in the area after 1673. The result was the foundation of some key mining companies in 1674, when a bigger share was transferred to them. In 1788-89 the Bergamt in Eisleben came under the direct control of the secret council in Dresden.[8]

The outcome of the Napoleon Wars involved another deep transformation in Mansfeld. The integration of the former larger Saxon part of Mansfeld into the new Prussian province of Saxony after the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) resulted in a very specific distribution of competences and properties.

Since 1809 the Bergamt (Board of Mines), which was responsible for the copper mining and smelting industry in the Mansfeld area, was located in Eisleben. The Board of Mines in Eisleben was subordinated to the Oberbergamt (Supreme Board of Mines) in Halle (Saale). Civil servants of the Board of Mines in Eisleben managed the copper mines and works in the eastern and south-eastern parts of the Harz until 24 September 1865, when the Allgemeine Berggesetz (General Mining Act) came into force in Prussia.[9]

From the End of the Napoleon Wars to the middle of the century, Mansfeld divided its corporative organization among several different companies. Before their unification in 1852, the Mansfeldian companies had already cooperated as a trust. For example, all of their businesses had been conducted via one central chase in Eisleben before 1852 already.

„As is well-known, the companies operating under the common name Mansfelder, Eislebener and Hettstedtsche Kupferschiefergewerkschaften (Copper Slate Companies of Mansfeld, Eisleben and Hettstedt) consist of single companies like those of the Oberhütte (Upper Work) and Mittelhütte (Middle Work) near Eisleben, the Kreutzhütte (Cross Work) in Leimbach, the Silberhütte (Silver Work) in Mansfeld and the Kupferkammerhütte (Copper Chamber Work) near Hettstedt.”[10]

Twice a year at the Easter and the Michaelis Trade Fairs in Leipzig, the directors of the companies and the deputies of the shareholders gathered to negotiate the business plans and to establish further agreements. The first group of representatives consisted of civil servants of the Prussian Boards of Mines in Halle (Saale) and Eisleben, who were responsible for the Mansfeld companies. The second group consisted of merchants from Leipzig, members of the Saxon government in Dresden, and mining engineers from the Bergakademie in Freiberg (Saxony). The latter already had extensive knowledge of the conditions in Mansfeld, as they had been directors of the works and mines in the former Saxon part of the area before 1815.

Outstanding figures of the first group were the mining administrator (Berghauptmann) Martin, who acted as the agent of the Board of Mines in Halle (Saale), and Friedrich Ludwig Eckardt, the administrator of the Board of Mines in Eisleben for many years. From 1834 to 1852, both were present at 22 conferences of the Mansfeld Companies in Leipzig.[11]

Since the administrator of the Bergamt in Eisleben was directly responsible for the mines and works of all companies in Mansfeld, Eckardt played a key role as mediator among shareholders, the Mining Boards, and the directors and engineers of the single works during the conferences in Leipzig. The Saxon mining administrator, Geheimrat von Freiesleben from Freiberg, and his deputy Seeberg, a member of the local council of Leipzig for many years, represented the second group.[12]

According to their own statistics, the proprietary capital of the Mansfeld companies was divided into 128 mining shares (Kuxen). The total capital of the united Mansfeld Company should consist of 768 mining shares.

Deputies at the Conferences of the Mansfeld Companies in Leipzig

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt, Abt. Magdeburg, Bergamt Eisleben, Rep. F4, Aa 197, „Die zu den Leipziger Conferenzen der löblichen Gewerkschaften abgefassten Propositionen und darauf geschehenen Declarationen. (Meß=Conferenz=Act.)“, 1827—57, Vol. 24– 27

The Mansfeld Companies and their Banks

Since its liberation in 1673, Leipzig’s merchant banks, as for example Vetter & Co. or Frege, had served as Mansfeld’s creditors. Due to its strong bonds with the banking centre of Leipzig, Mansfeld’s growth in the nineteenth century correlated with the rise of the Allgemeine Deutsche Kreditanstalt (ADCA), one of the first stock banks in Germany, founded in 1856.[13] After 1852, the united Mansfeld Company was only able to satisfy its growing hunger for capital by a network of financial institutions, which primarily consisted of the ADCA, the Disconto Gesellschaft in Berlin and the Bank für Handel und Industrie (Darmstädter Bank, Berlin). Above all, those three joint stock banks issued Mansfeld’s debt instruments and paved the way for progressively increasing investments. Those growing investments enabled Mansfeld’s copper mining and smelting industry to participate in the several stages of German industrialization in the middle and last third of the nineteenth century. In the long run, those financial injections fuelled the transformation to a highly integrated mining, smelting, and modern manufacturing company.

There was no alternative to those investments due to the difficult geological conditions in the eastern and south eastern parts of the Harz and the specific features of the ore. Without regular investments in modernization, the Mansfeld region would never had been able to benefit from the boom of such German leading sectors as the railroad–coal–steel–sector from the 1850s until Germany’s unification or the rise of the electrical, chemical and new manufacturing industries during the following decades.[14]

Mansfeld’s deliverers of equipment, explosives, and fuel

The deliverers’ portfolio of investment goods for the copper mines and works in the eastern and south eastern forelands of the Harz is also a clear indicator of Mansfeld’s deep involvement in the intensifying networks of manufacturers in Germany. Thus experiments were conducted in mines of the company with all kind of new explosives that had been purchased from German suppliers, apart from Alfred Nobel’s company in Sweden. The first experiments with nitroglycerin that the Swedish Nobel’s company had sent to Mansfeld were carried out in 1865. In 1868, tests with dynamite followed. It had been delivered by the Gustav Seidel Company, a merchant house in Magdeburg which offered Nobel’s products in the Rhineland, Westphalia and Prussian Saxony. Regular contacts with the Swedish company are verifiable until 1883, when the Mansfeld Company ordered small amounts of Nobel's blasting gelatine for tests that were conducted in one of the copper mines.[15]

In the years from 1867 to 1882, sheets of metal, railed vehicles and apparatuses for the lubrication of iron ropes were bought from the Dillinger Hütte (Saar), the Maschinenbauanstalt Weilig & Comp. (Quedlinburg / Harz), and from the „Eisengießerei und Maschinenwerkstatt Wilhelm Schulde“ (Dudweiler / Saar). Siemens & Halske (Berlin) equipped mines in the Mansfeld area with an modern warning system in 1873. In 1882, the Mansfeld Company ordered telephones for a new underground communication system at the “Telegraphen Bauanstalt – Werkstatt für mathematische und optische Geräte” in Halle (Saale). Tests with a new rapid alert system that had been installed by Winkler (Dresden Neustadt) were carried out in 1890.[16]

In the field of smelting technology, Mansfeld became a leading company in 1864. The first Gerstenhöfer furnaces, which were the most appropriate equipment to enable the separation of sulphurous acid from raw copper during the smelting process, were installed in Mansfeld at the work “Eckardthütte” near Hettstedt in 1864. The installation and the start of the production, on 20 December 1864, was directed by the inventor Moritz Gerstenhöfer. The leading Welsh copper smelter, Vivian & Son, installed the first Gerstenhöfer furnace one year later, in 1865. The bricks and additional equipment for the Gerstenhöfer furnaces, which were installed at the Eckardthütte in the three succeeding years, were delivered by the Seilitz-Schlettaer-Schamotte-Waren-Fabrik in Meißen (Saxony) and by the Buckauer Porzellanmanufaktur (Buckau near Magdeburg).[17]

With regard to the use of coal, Mansfeld was one of the first of all Central European mining areas that started to substitute charcoal and wood for hard coal and coke. The advancing clearance of forests in Central Germany forced the smelters in the Mansfeld area to search for enduring alternatives. The first successful tests with hard coal were made at smelting works in the Prussian part of Mansfeld between 1785 and 1787. The waterways connection between Central Germany and Silesia, which had existed since the opening of the Friedrich Wilhelm Kanal (Friedrich Wilhelm Channel) in 1668, guaranteed a sustained supply of coal from Waldenburg in Lower Silesia. The coal supply had been maintained subsequently, with the exception of a short interruption during the Napoleonic Wars.[18]

After the foundation of the German Zollverein in 1834, Mansfeld followed the example of Germany’s heavy industry and railroads in the fuel market: In the 1830s and 40s, British deliverers and German gas works benefited from Mansfeld’s demand for fuels. When Central Germany was connected with the Rhineland and Westphalia via railroad, Mansfeld’s smelting works switched their order for hard coal and coke to the Ruhr Basin. Finally, the Mansfeld Company purchased the coal works Colonia and Urbanus in Langendreer east of Bochum in 1873 and 1875.[19] In the long period from 1870 to 1900, between 70 to 90 per cent of all fuels for the Mansfeld’s furnaces came from Westphalia.[20]

According to Mansfeld’s lists of installations, the company’s exchange of letters with manufacturers of mining and smelting equipment as well as the correspondence with producers of explosives, one can come to the following general conclusion:

Machines and installations of average quality, such as steam engines, used to be constructed by companies that were located in Prussian Saxony or other adjacent parts of Central Germany.[21] On the other hand, investment goods of higher specification, such as aggregates for galvanization, compressors, or dynamite, were ordered from the technical pioneers in Germany, Great Britain, Sweden, or from somewhere else.

With regard to the use of coal and coke, the works of the Mansfeld’sche Kupferschieferbauende Gewerkschaft were not distinguishable from other economic regions, which were characterized by too short a supply of hard coal.

The Costumers of the Mansfeld Companies

In the case of Mansfeld’s copper industry, benefitting from Germany’s industrialization meant that the leading German copper company only delivered its raw copper to German producers of semi manufactured goods of copper, bronze or brass. The rolling mills in Rothenburg (Saale) and Eberswalde (Brandenburg), which were run by the Mansfeld Company, were examples of those producers.In the charts of Mansfeld’s accounts department, one can identify a larger group of companies which obtained regularly large quantities of raw copper from Mansfeld. Mansfeld delivered copper for 20,267,405 Taler all together in that period.

Larger quantities of raw copper were regularly delivered to the Königliche Oberberghauptmanschaft in Berlin, Frege & Co. in Leipzig, Niederauerbacher Messinghandlung (Saxony), Püttner & Sohn in Hof (Bavaria), Gebrüder Heitefuß and Gebrüder Bethmann in Frankfurt (Main), Aron Hirsch & Söhne in Halberstadt (Province of Saxony), Hörmann & Gutenberg, Volkamers Witwe & Forster in Nuremberg, and to the copper works in Grünthal (Saxony). The company sent 59.5 per cent of all deliveries at a minimum value of 1.000 taler to those costumers.[22]

One of the most noticeable features of Mansfeld’s costumers is that they were not concentrated geographically in the Central German states or provinces. Establishments of the German copper processing industry, which represented the lion’s share of Mansfeld’s raw copper costumers, were spread all over Germany. Due to geologic reasons, many modern copper works had replaced old hammer works, which had processed copper from local ores.

The works in Grünthal (Saxony) and in Kupferdreh (Ruhr) near Essen were examples of these copper processors. Other companies, as Heckmann in Berlin, ran newly founded establishments. Those new factories were located in industrial regions and districts that benefited from the rise of the new electrical and electro chemical industry.

Customers of the Mansfeld Companies (1)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Landeshauptarchiv, Abt. Magdeburg, Bergamt Eisleben, Notizen und Nachweisungen zu den Hauptberichten Rep. F8 Ia 134, Vol.1—3, 1836—52

Customers of the Mansfeld Companies (2)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt, Abt. Magdeburg, Bergamt Eisleben, Rep. F8 Ia 134, „Notizen und Nachweisungen zu den Hauptberichten”, Vol.1–3, 1836—52

Chart 1 Exploration of Slade of Copper in the Mansfeld Area in metric tons

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Mansfeld AG (Eisleben) ‘Leistungsnachweise der Berg- und Hüttenleute‘, Landeshauptarchiv

Sachsen Anhalt, Abteilung Merseburg, Titel Ib1 Nr. 66 Vol. 1–4, 1863—1904

Chart 2 Employees of the Mansfeld Union

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Hofmann (1925), p. 41

Benefiting from its continuing investments, the Mansfeld Company experienced an incredible rise in its production in the 1860s and early 70s. Ironically, the company rapidly increased its production in the decade after the 1870s’ crash, from 1875 to 1885.

The production of the mines and smelters, the output of the rolling works and the number of workers skyrocketed in that short period. Thus, the quantity of mined and smelted ore rose by 180 per cent, up to 559,040 metric tons. At the same time, the Mansfeld Company further diversified its production. The smelting works alone managed to extract nine different products from the slate of copper. Besides raw and refined copper and silver, sulphurous and salt acid, vitriol and stones of slack were important raw materials that were merchandised by the Central German copper company.

The continuing expansion and modernization of Mansfeld’s copper industry after the panic in 1873 illustrates clearly that the long cycle from 1873–74 to 1895–96, which was regarded by contemporary observers as a “Great Depression”, should be understood as a long phase of reorganization and restructuring, above all in the German as well as in the US economy.

That process liberated an immense force of expansion. An expansion that was realized above all by the new leading sectors: the electrical industry, the chemical sector and the new engineering industries. Metaphorically speaking, Mansfeld was caught and pulled ahead by these new leading industries. But, after a decade of dramatic growth, the Mansfeld Company experienced an enormous turnaround in its fortunes. The massive increase in exploration in the Mansfelder Mulde (Mansfeld Basin) east of the Harz Mountain had pushed the copper mines to the limits set by the geological conditions in that area. The deepening of the pits resulted in water inrushes that made immense investments for reconstructions necessary, above all for a new drainage system, which was supposed to link all copper mines in the Mansfeld region.

The consequence of those investments for the company was a rising indebtedness with its banks. The financial burden, the stagnation of output, and the fall in prices for copper on the world market were reflected by stagnating productivity and a declining net profit ratio.

For several years, the Mansfeld Company was forced to interrupt the payment of dividends. For the miners, the decade from 1885 to 1895 was a period of increasing intensity of labour and reduced nominal wages. This meant that the same number of workers had to extract a stagnating amount of ore but more and more dead rock too. At the same time, the physical working conditions in the mines worsened significantly.

During those difficult years, the Mansfeld Company undertook several serious efforts to influence Germany’s tariff policy in order to improve its own opportunities. Mansfeld’s unsuccessful struggle for a tariff on importations of raw copper revealed the specific problems the most important German copper mining and smelting company faced in Germany’s national market in the years from 1878 to 1890. As the last relevant producer of raw copper in Germany, the Mansfeld Company was forced to compete against a whole phalanx of copper processing industries alone.

The first intention to form a league of allies was undertaken by Mansfeld’s chief executive Ernst Leuschner in 1877. Leuschner contacted the companies that had been organized in the Verband der deutschen Kupferwalzwerke (Cartel of the German Copper Rolling Mills) to convince them to support his demand for the introduction of a tariff on raw copper of 2 Mark per cwt. The Mansfeld Company had also been a member of that cartel since its foundation on 26 November 1872.

Leuschner’s initiative met with disapproval, above all on the part of the copper company Heckmann in Berlin. On 27 November 1877, Karl Heckmann, the chief manager of the company, sent a letter to the executive of the cartel Dr. Reuß. He argued that the existing tariffs on commodities of copper had corresponded with the interests of the German industry, and, therefore, there had been no need to change them. Reuß and the other members of the cartel followed Heckmanns’s arguments and the topic was not put on the agenda of the following meetings until 1879. In 1879 the Mansfeld Company began its second initiative for a tariff on raw copper.[23]

On 7 January 1879, Mansfeld’s executives sent a petition for the revision of the present tariffs to the Kaiserliche Kommission (Imperial Commission). In that letter, Leuschner demanded a new tariff on imports of raw copper of 3 Mark per cwt.

Until the German French commercial treaty of 1 July 1865, the tariff on raw copper had amounted to 0,5 Taler (1,5 Mark) per cwt. The tariffs on importations of different commodities of copper had developed from 1845 to 1865 as follows:

Import Duties of the German Zollverein on Copper and Brass, 1846–1865

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt, Abt. Merseburg, Mansfeld AG (Eisleben), Titel XXVI No. 25a Vol. 1‚ Einfuhrzoll für fremde Kupfersorten‘, 1877—80, p. 2–4

Leuschner’s new initiative provoked a flood of protesting letters, which were sent to the Mansfeld Company and to the Government in Berlin. The other German copper companies were in the first line of the protesters. In the name of the members of the cartel of copper rolling mills, Karl Heckmann sent a petition to the Imperial Commission to reject any revision of the present tariff on raw copper.[24]

At the previous general meeting of the cartel in Berlin on 23 January 1879, Mansfeld’s petition had already been due for approval. Apart from the Mansfeld Company, all the other 17 members had refused it without any further discussion. However, the majority argued in favor of introducing new import duties on intermediate goods of copper, like pipes, sheets or cables, and brass. In the case of an implementation of a duty on raw copper, the majority argued that those tariffs should be increased by the level of that.[25] In the end, Mansfeld’s second initiative failed just as the first had done one and half a year ago.

The third advance for a new import duty was undertaken by the executives and lobbyists of the Mansfeld Company six years later. The mayor of Leipzig, Dr. Otto Robert Georgi, and Graf v. Hohenthal, both members of Mansfeld’s supervisory board, sent a letter, including a report by Leuschner, to Otto v. Bismarck on 11 May 1885, to win the Chancellor over regarding the implementation of a tariff on raw copper. In his report, Leuschner referred to the “superior Northern American competition”, which he considered to be the main reason for the decline in prices in the world market.

During the following winter, the rank and file was mobilized by the company. According to a letter from 18 January 1886, a group of Mansfeldian workers had already planned to send its own petition for a new import duty to Bismarck. Leuschner ordered the directors to seize the idea and to distribute sign-up lists in all mines and works of the Mansfeld Company.[26] That new petition was signed by 13.009 employees in the end.[27]

The cartels of the heavy industry the Verein zur Wahrung der gemeinsamen wirtschaftlichen Interessen in Rheinland und Westfalen and the Centralverband Deutscher Industrieller (CVDI)decided to join Mansfield’s rivals. The members of the first assumed that a new tariff on raw copper - at that time the Mansfeld Company was demanding a tariff of 6 Mark per centner - would seriously damage their fortunes on the world as well as on the national market. Furthermore, they doubted that the Mansfeld Company was in a serious crisis, since it had increased its production and had paid high dividends. They also referred to the fact that there were no new deposits of copper ore in Germany that one could exploit in future.[28]

The CVDI suggested that a commission should be formed to deal with the topic. The Mansfeld Company could delegate its own deputies who should represent its interests in that commission. The discussion on that proposal, however, did not lead to any result either. Hence, the German national market for raw copper remained free from any tariffs that would have eliminated the comparative advantages of the producers of raw copper in the USA, in Spain or in Australia.[29]

The history of Mansfeld’s struggle for an import duty on raw copper revealed two specific features of the company concerning its place in the German as well as in the global capitalist economy in the last third of 19th century:

1. Mansfeld’s works almost only delivered their products to German companies. The copper works that were located in the area smelted all of the slate of copper that had been exploited in the eastern and southeastern parts of the Harz.
2. The enterprises which processed Mansfeld’s copper, however, were exporters to a high extend, including the two rolling works of the company that were located in Rothenburg (Saale) and Eberswalde (Mark).[30]

Mansfeld’s Rescue

Suffering from massive geological problems and a decline in prices, and without any protection by the political authorities, the situation of the Mansfeld Company appeared to be rather hopeless in the long run.

The history of the rescue of Mansfeld’s copper mining and smelting industry during that decade shows distinctly how far mutual dependences and common experiences and hopes determine economic decisions. Several loans, which the Mansfeld Company received from its banks, are documented for the 1880s and 1890s. They served it to enable it to carry out a major restructuring of its mining industry and the construction of a new infrastructure in the eastern forelands of the Harz.

According to a letter from the ADCA bank from 14 June 1881, the company already thought of borrowing 3,000,000 Mark, with an interest rate of 4 per cent, to finance the construction of its own railroad, which would link the works and mines in the district.

The unfavourable conditions of the contract distinctly show two things:

Mansfeld faced deep structural problems, a fact that, of course, had been realized by its creditors too. In addition, Mansfeld’s bonds had to be issued on the financial market where the investors, who had grown increasingly cautious in the wake of the 1870s’ crash and the downturn of the profit rates of most industries, preferred to buy public bonds or shares in the Prussian railroad that had been nationalized in 1878. For all those reasons, there could hardly be another loan that gained less popularity than that of a mining company such as the Mansfeld Company.[31]

The company was forced to accept contracts which fixed its issues below their nominal value, and that meant that it had to approve losses from the very first moment. On 22 February 1882, the Mansfeld’sche Kupferschieferbauende Gewerkschaft and the ADCA made the following agreement:

The ADCA issued bonds at a parity value of 1,800,000 Mark for a market value of 98.75 per cent (=1,777,500 Mark). The par value of all new bonds that the bank would issue amounted to 2,100,000 Mark. The directors of the company confirmed the agreement, which had been arranged by the financial director of the Mansfeld Company and the directors of the ADCA List and Wachsmuth, on 23 February 1882.[32] Ten years later, the drainage of the Salty Lake near Röblingen, southeast of the Harz – new massive water inrushes into the pits had been the reason for that decision – forced the company once more to ask the banks for new loans.

The negotiations and the deterioration in the conditions of the contract, which the Mansfeld Company had to accept, showed how deep the company had been in crisis, and how difficult the sale of its bonds had become. On 18 April 1893, the Mansfeld Company sent a petition for six million Mark to the bank Vetter & Co., the ADCA and the Leipziger Bank. According to that demand, the interest rate should be fixed at four per cent, the amortisation should begin after eight years and the rate of repayment should be two per cent. The Mansfeld Company proposed an amount of 2,500,000 Mark, which would be deposited at the provincial government in Merseburg. From the very beginning, the banks announced that they could only issue the bonds for a course at 96 per cent of their nominal value.[33]

On 25 May 1893, the representatives of the banks and the Mansfeld Company met in Leipzig. The contract that they agreed upon can be considered as kowtow of the company to the dictate of its creditors.[34] The company had to accept the condition to issue the new bonds for a market price of 96.5 per cent. The issue of the new bond for a market value of 96.5 per cent and the suspension of the payment of dividends between 1885 and 1887, and from 1892 to 1895, were two sides of the same coin.[35]

But in the end, the new bond was a milestone: It provided the Mansfeld’sche Kupferschieferbauende Gewerkschaft with the capital that was necessary to restructure the whole copper mining industry in the eastern and south eastern parts of the Harz Mountains. That transformation of a whole mining and smelting region resulted in greater and more efficient production.

The “technological escape forward” seemed to result in profits again and again, as long as the high demand for copper in the German national market continued. The prospects of high marginal profit, in spite of growing marginal costs, seemed to legitimate further investments into the copper mines and works in the Mansfeld region. Finally, the banks granted the Mansfeld Company further credit, even when it underwent its deepest crisis. Those were necessary to realize huge projects of modernization.

In the long run, the need to pay off the invested capital and long periods of repayments forced the investors to continue to get involved in Mansfeld’s businesses. The former successes of Mansfeld’s copper mining and smelting industry seemed to justify further engagements too. The savings of many small holders of Mansfeld’s bonds would have been seriously menaced if the banks had refused to provide further capital. It is hard to estimate the real risk for the financial market. However, the responsible contemporaries estimated that the risk was too high than to dare to give up the Mansfeld Company.


[1] Pohl, Hans, Aufbruch in die Weltwirtschaft. Geschichte der Weltwirtschaft von der Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts bis zum Ersten Weltkrieg, (Wiesbaden, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1989), pp.132; Suhling, L., Vom Erz zum Metall – zur Montangeschichte des technisch wichtigsten Buntmetalls.in Westfälisches Freilichtmuseum Hagen – Landesmuseum für Handwerk und Technik (ed): Der Schlag der in den Ohren schallt. Zur Geschichte der Kupfergewinnung und Kupferverarbeitung. (Hagen: Landschaftsverband Westfalen – Lippe, 1990), pp. 27 f. and pp. 66—69

[2] Tilly, R., Vom Zollverein zum Industriestaat, (München : Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1990), pp. 39–41

[3] Beckmann, U., ‘Kupfergewinnung in Westfalen: Stadtberge-Niedermarsberg. In Westfälisches Freilichtmuseum Hagen – Landesmuseum für Handwerk und Technik (ed): Der Schlag der in den Ohren schallt. Zur Geschichte der Kupfergewinnung und Kupferverarbeitung. (Hagen: Landschaftsverband Westfalen – Lippe 1990),pp. 13 f. and 15—23 and Suhling, 1990, pp. 28

[4] Fischer, W., ‘Statistik der Bergbauproduktion Deutschlands, 1850-1914‘ in Fischer, W. (ed): Historische Statistik, Vol. VIII: (St. Katharinen: Scripta Mercaturae Verlag, 1989), pp. 250

[5] Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt, Abt. Merseburg, Mansfeld AG (Eisleben) Vx10 „Subventionen“ (1930), pp. 21-40

[6] Ibid., pp.45

[7] Members of the family von Ponickau already participated as deputies on the general meeting of the Mansfeld unions (Gewerkschaften) at the Michaelis Trade Faire in Leipzig in 1779 – one councilor Ponickau had also been mentioned in the report on the general meeting at the Easter Trade Faire in 1749. Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt, Abt. Magdeburg, Bergamt Eisleben, Rep. F4, Aa 261, ‘Meß–Conferenz–Act‘, Vol. I, pp. 174 and Vol. II pp. 18–33

[8] Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt, Abt. Merseburg, Mansfeld AG (Eisleben) Vx10, ‘Subventionen‘,pp. 42–64. Ernst Blümel, ‘Die Entstehung des gewerkschaftlichen Betriebes des Mansfelder Kupferschiefer-Bergbaus‘ in: Mansfelder Blätter (Eisleben), Vol. 17, 1903, pp.141–154

[9] Kaufhold, K. H. and Sachs, W., ‘Statistik der Bergbauproduktion‘ in: Kaufhold, K. H.; Sachse, W.; Albrecht, U.; Holschulmacher, B. und Bathow, Y. (ed): Gewerbestatistik Preussens vor 1850. Quellen und Forschungen zur historischen Statistik von Deutschland. Göttingen, 2000, Vol. II, XIV–XVII

[10] Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt, Abt. Magdeburg, Bergamt Eisleben, Rep. F4, Aa 197a Vol. 26 ‘Meß–Conferenz–Act.’, 1845—1847, pp. 234–238

[11] Friedrich Ludwig Erhard, as successor of Bergrat Leopold Friedrich Zimmermann (1778–1836), was the director of the Bergamt in Eisleben from 1835 to 1855. Mirsch, Rudolf and Rommel, Ludwig, Das Königlich-Preußische Mansfeldische Bergamt zu Eisleben, 1815–1861. (Eisleben, 2001), pp. 13–15

[12] Johann Karl Freiesleben can be seen as the “incarnation of managerial continuity” in Mansfeld. He had already worked as administrator and director of the Saxon Mansfeld companies from 1800 to the Peace Contract of Vienna (1814-15). Until his death, Freiesleben served for the, above all Saxon, shareholders as capable lobbyist and deputy. Jankowski, Günter, Protokollband zum Kolloquium anlässlich der ersten urkundlichen Erwähnung Eislebens am 23. November 1994. (Verwaltung der Lutherstadt Eisleben, 1995), pp. 348–349

[13] On 31 July 1807, the representatives of the Saxon Mansfeld companies Johann Friedrich Wilhelm von Ponickau (Zeitz), Johann August Otto Wehler, member of the local court of Leipzig, and Christian Gottlob Vetter (Leipzig) agreed that the Bank Vetter should manage the savings of the Central Chase of the Mansfeld Companies in Eisleben, starting at 1 October in the same year. Officially, the contract finished in 1816. However, according to a note from 15 May 1833, Vetter had continued to manage Mansfeld’s savings without any interruption. Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt, Abt. Magdeburg, Bergamt Eisleben, Rep. F4, Cc Nr. 118, ‘Vermögensangelegenheiten’, Vol. I, 1793—1847, pp. 42–43, 101

[14] Zachäus, A., Chancen und Grenzen wirtschaftlicher Entwicklung im Prozess der Globalisierung. Die Kupfermontanregionen Coquimbo (Chile) und Mansfeld (Preußen/Deutschland) im Vergleich, 1830–1900 (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Verlag, 2012), pp. 270 f.

[15] Since 1868 Gustav Siegel (Magdeburg) merchandized Alfred Nobel’s products in the Province of Saxony. Besides Nobel’s nitroglycerin, employees of the Mansfeld Company conducted experiments with explosives other than dynamite from 1870 to 1896 which had been delivered by Neumeyer in Altenburg (Thuringia), Cramer & Buchholz in Rönsahl (Westfalia), by the Rheinische Dynamitfabrik, the Westfälisch-Anhaltinische Sprengstoff AG and by Brothers Krebs & Comp. in Deutz (Rhineland). Apart from Nobel, the company received dynamite from Gustaf Défert in Berlin in 1870 and the Sebastian Joint Stock Company in Stockholm in 1877. Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt, Abt. Merseburg, Mansfeld AG (Eisleben), VIIa Nr.35 ‘Versuche im Bergbau’, Vol. I, 1864—68, pp. 58–65, 78–80, Vol. II, 1869—74, pp. 142, Vol. IV, 1875—83, pp. 75, Vol. V, 1884—97, pp. 16.

[16] Ibid., Vol. III, pp. 40f und Vol. V, pp. 23f

[17] Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt, Abt. Merseburg, Mansfeld AG (Eisleben), VIIIa, No.13, ‚‘Einführung erfundener und verbesserter Verfahren beim Hüttenprozess‘, Vol.I, 1864—66, pp. 1–8, 15, 85

[18] Gericke, Hans Otto ‚ ‘Von der Holzkohle zum Koks. Die Auswirkungen der „Holzkrise“ auf die Mansfelder Kupferhütten.‘ In: Vierteljahresschrift für Wirtschaftsgeschichte (VSWG), 1989, Vol. 85, pp.156– 195

[19] Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt, Abt. Merseburg, Mansfeld AG (Eisleben), VI No. 44‚ ‘Ankauf von 1.500.000 Mark preuß.: 4 ½%er Consuls und Aufnahme einer Anleihe in gleicher Höhe zur Regelung des Vergleichs wegen Beseitigung der Geistlich – Fünfzigsten Abgabe‘, Vol. I, pp. 14, 19c–19f, and 20–21

[20] Zachäus, 2012, pp. 128–135 and 265–269

[21] The equipment required for every single work was listed in the so called “Economic Plans” (Ökonomiepläne) of the smelting works. In the “Economic Plans” for 1895, for example, the deliverers of steam engines, pumps, compressors, hammer works and mills, which had been in use since the 1860s at five works of the company, were also recorded. Almost 80 per cent of those machines (28 of 35) had been delivered by Central German companies. Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen Anhalt, Abt. Merseburg, Mansfeld AG (Eisleben), Titel VIII6a ’Ökonomiepläne’, 1894—95

[22] The copper work in Grünthal (Saxony) had already existed since 1537, the work in Ohrdruf (Thuringia) since 1482, and that in Eberswalde (Mark Brandenburg) since 1532. Kleinert, Christian ‘Kupferhammer und Kupferschmiede. in: Westfälisches Freilichtmuseum Hagen – Landesmuseum für Handwerk und Technik (ed.): Der Schlag der in den Ohre n schallt. Zur Geschichte der Kupfergewinnung und Kupferverarbeitung. (Hagen: Landschaftsverband Westfalen – Lippe, 1990), pp. 74—75

[23] Die Zollsätze für Roh- und Bruchkupfer lagen bei null, die für geschmiedete und gewalzte Stangen, Bleche und Draht bei 5,25, die für Bleche und Draht bei 8, die für Kupferschmiedearbeiten, Messing und Drahtgewebe bei 8 M. pro Ztr. Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen Anhalt, Abt. Merseburg, Mansfeld AG (Eisleben), Titel XXVI No. 25a ’Einfuhrzoll für fremde Kupfersorten‘, Vol. I, 1877, pp. 2–4

[24] Ibid, pp. 2–4

[25] Ibid, pp. 62–63

[26] Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen Anhalt, Abt. Merseburg, Mansfeld AG (Eisleben), Titel XXVI No. 25a Vol. III ’Einfuhrzoll für fremde Kupfersorten‘, 1883—85, pp. 59

[27] Ibid, pp. 58

[28] Ibid, pp. 11–23

[29] Ibid, pp. 80

[30] Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt, Abt. Merseburg, Mansfeld AG (Eisleben), Titel XXVI No. 25a Vol. 4, ’Einfuhrzoll für fremde Kupfersorten‘, 1886—90, pp. 7b

[31] See for example: Rosenberg, Hans, Grosse Depression und Bismarckzeit. Wirtschaftsablauf, Gesellschaft und Politik in Mitteleuropa. (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1967), pp. 38–40;

Dieter Ziegler, Eisenbahnen und Staat im Zeitalter der Industrialisierung: die Eisenbahnpolitik der deutschen Staaten im Vergleich (Stuttgart: Steiner-Verlag, 1996), pp. 226–229 and 288–292

[32] Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt, Abt. Merseburg, Mansfeld AG (Eisleben), VI No. 47, Aufnahme einer vierprozentigen Anleihe von 3 Mio. Mark zur Anlage einer schmalspurigen Lokomotiveisenbahn und einer Brotbäckerei‘, Vol. I, 1881–1903, pp. 18, 32–33, and 75–78

[33] Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt, Abteilung Merseburg, Mansfeld AG (Eisleben), VI No. 52 ‚Aufnahme einer vierprozentigen Anleihe von 6 Millionen Mark zur Kostendeckung für Enteignung und Entwässerung des Salzigen Sees und Auslosungen‘, Vol. I, 1892–1902, pp. 1–7

[34] Ibid., pp. 45–46

[35] Landeshauptarchiv Sachsen-Anhalt, Abt. Merseburg, Mansfeld AG (Eisleben), VI No. 52, ‘Aufnahme einer vierprozentigen Anleihe von 6 Mio. Mark‘, Vol. 1, 1892–1902, pp. 1




Title: Mansfeld and the German Economy in the Nineteenth Century