Some 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.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Germany’s industrial revolution, which began in the 1830’s and came to it fullest expression just prior to World War One, is the breath and scope of the achievement and the speed with which it occurred.
No other company represents this achievement better than Ludwig Loewe & Co., which began so modestly in January 1870 making sewing machines and had achieved world renown just two decades latter, being the largest privately owned armaments conglomerate in Europe.
The man who was behind this phenomenal achievement was Isidor Loewe, the founders brother, who took over shortly after Ludwig died in 1886. Isidor was a man of many passions, he was inquisitive and was attracted to any new development, like his brother, he saw the promise in the American System of manufacture, which in part played a role in the companies early success, but he also was an early proponent of electrical development and aviation in Germany.
Gewehr98 production is perhaps one of the most interesting of the 1898-1919 period. The reasons are many, but perhaps most of all due to its relationship with the German Imperial Navy (Kaiserliche Marine). DWM was the primary supplier of Gewehr98’s to the KM prior to the war; although a handful of Erfurt (1899) and Mauser Oberndorf (1910-1911) rifles are known to have been made.
The vast majority of rifles delivered to the Kaiserliche Marine prior to 1908 were manufactured by DWM, they are known in number every year from 1899-1908, except for the year 1900, and they are amongst the scarcest and most desirable rifles of the period. Due to the fact that the state arsenals were making most of the Gewehr98’s for the Prussian Army, the patent holders (DWM and Mauser were the only commercial makers making the Modell98 due to their ownership of the patent) were left to fend for themselves. DWM having a relationship with the Kaiserliche Marine due to the P.04 (Pistole 1904 Navy Luger) and the MG08 (Maxim), they found a willing buyer working for the German Navy. Mauser Oberndorf found a client with the Württemberg Army, neither client was a large contract and relatively few rifles were made by either firm until the Modell98 carbine was taken up by the state arsenals. Fortunately, the firms were well positioned to make a lot of money on the switch, their parent company, Ludwig Loewe AG made the machines for the arsenals, and the process took sometime to undertake. DWM and Mauser Oberndorf production of the Gewehr98, for the Prussians start to develop in number starting in 1905, though it isn’t until 1906-1907 that production is significant.