The Krupp family is a prominent 400-year-old German dynasty from Essen in the industrial Ruhrpott area, known for their production of steel, artillery, ammunition, and other armaments. The family business Friedrich Krupp AG was the largest company in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. It was important to weapons development and production in both world wars. In 1999 the Krupp company merged with the German Thyssen AG to form ThyssenKrupp AG, now Germany’s 5th-largest company and one of the largest steel producers in the world.
Friedrich Krupp (1787–1826) first launched the family’s metal-based activities, building a pioneering steel foundry in Essen in 1810. His son Alfred (1812–87), known as “the Cannon King” or as “Alfred the Great”, invested heavily in new technology to become a significant manufacturer of steel rollers (used to make eating utensils) and railway tires. He also invested in fluidized hotbed technologies (e.g. Bessemer process) and acquired many mines in Germany and France. Unusual for the era, he provided social services for his workers, incl. subsidized housing & health and retirement benefits. The company began to make steel cannons in the 1840s—especially for the Russian, Turkish, and Prussian armies. Low non-military demand and government subsidies meant that the company specialized more and more in weapons: by the late 1880s the manufacture of armaments represented around 50% of Krupp’s total output. When Alfred started with the firm, it had 5 employees. At his death, it was 20,000, making it the world’s largest industrial company and the largest private company in the German Empire. Read more.