Ludwig Loewe & Co. and Isidor Loewe

602aLRSome time ago, Jon Speed and I were discussing Ludwig Loewe AG and the man that led the company to its greatest achievements; while Ludwig Loewe, his older brother founded the company and established its essential character, which is as a firm that took advances and concepts of American machine design and techniques and adapted them to the German market, it was Isidor Loewe that led the company to the massive international conglomerate it became, largely with help of his brother (Ludwig was a politician, Germany industrialization was unique, different than England’s or America’s in that it relied heavily upon government contracts and support-intrusion, it is probably the main reason why Germany went from a backward country to an equal of England and a serious competitor to America in a little over 70 years) and banking interests.


In the companies early years, all the early machines they made, the sewing machines through machine tools, were essentially American designs adapted to German conditions, where as American methods focused upon mass production of simple but robust designs, often designed to make one thing in enormous number and of the greatest simplicity and durability, the European model was not as dependent upon sheer numbers, rather versatility was more important, small shops with lower capacity for a smaller market. One of the motto’s the firm professed in 1899 was “Das Beste ist das Billigste” which Wolfgang defined as meaning, in the German context as “The best is the cheapest (low cost/cost efficient/value for money)”, he explained the concept as “Highly skilled workers (with higher salary), working with high quality machinery/tools (expensive) are cheaper (monetary) in the long term, than less qualified workers (with less salary), working with no or poor machines/tools. Because they manufacture products of higher standards/quality. No rejections/junk”, which in many ways mirrors the American theory of production in the 19th century, though by the turn of the last century that was changing due to labor concerns (American skilled workers were the highest paid in the world, far more than in England or Germany), which was forcing a reconsideration of methods, eventually the concept of simple, more automated machines which less skilled men, fewer and lower paid, could operate took hold.

Under Isidor’s leadership the company would grow to enormous proportions, largely due to relationships with large banking syndicates (the Darmstädter Bank, the Disconto-Gesellschaft, the Dresdner Bank, the Privatbanken Born und Busse and the Bankhaus Bleichröder), which were instrumental to the growth of Germany industrialization. Back then banks were different, they had connections to government, especially in Germany, but they looked long-term to investment and generally selected the most able men to direct the company with the least intrusion, only intruding when major financial decisions were made, they sought long term stability and profits (not short term windfalls, looking to each quarter and year end profits, they also valued profit through funding research and seeking out innovation) DWM united with several US firms to create a research laboratory-proving ground outside of Berlin to develop new advances in fields the companies specialized in, primarily in ball bearing research, but they employed a wide range of engineers to develop many ideas. He also sought relationships with American pioneers in aviation and especially electrical technology, unfortunately his death in 1910 and the war undermined the American German ties Isidor Loewe tried so hard to nurture.

Isidor Loewe is probably best known for his ties to American industrialists and companies, in period literature (professional machinery-machinist publications), he is possibly the most well known of German industrialists, dozens of articles were written about the company, its techniques, how they cared for and paid workers, their machines, the products they made and how he courted his friends in America, – his company routinely hired American engineers, when he and Julius Pajeken (General Superintendent of Ludw. Loewe AG) traveled to America to develop concepts for the new Huttenstraße facility (a state of the art factory, some said the most advanced in the world in 1899), it made the headlines in several American and English professional journals. Just to gauge the companies importance to the world, it was rare for the American Machinist to publish obituaries of foreign industrialists, only the greatest men get special coverage, especially in a stand alone piece with portraits, you can count the Germans on one hand, Isidor Loewe, Julius Pajeken and Rudolf Diesel are the very few that were covered in such prominent stories, all full of their accomplishments and their efforts to create good relations between the two countries.

Perhaps what intrigues me most about the man, Isidor Loewe, was the same thing that attracted me to Josef Werndl (Steyr fame), it was their incredible insight and ability to see greatness in other men, nurture it and then harness it to create great things. Their personal greatness was not so much in their own ability, though both were accomplished men, business men with great insight or inventors themselves, but rather it was in their ability to allow other men to develop ideas and inventions they otherwise would not have been able to. Even more impressive their lack of conceit, not taking the credit for the achievement of others, – we all know the names of Paul Mauser, Luger, Mannlicher, etc.. but few know Isidor Loewe’s or Josef Werndl.



Jon Speed, noting my enthusiasm for the subject, and having probably the largest collection in the world of Ludw. Loewe AG documents, letters and correspondence sent me a letter that Isidor Loewe wrote to Paul Mauser in 1890, the text concerns board members activities, but the signature and the originality of the document is the most appealing thing. A true piece of history of possibly the greatest German corporation of its time, its leadership covering several sectors of the German economy that German led in the 1890’s, – small arms, machine tools, and soon to include a leading role in the electrical field. Note this letter dates to before many of the great accomplishments were developed, before DWM, before the Modell98, before Huttenstraße and before the relationship with America and England were truly developed (in 1889 the American Machinist and English “Engineer” was accusing them of copying American designs, which was incorrect, they had purchased rights, but they were a nobody in 1890 outside of Germany).


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