The Social Integration of Entrepreneurs in Westphalia 1860–1914

A Contribution to the Debate on the Position of Entrepreneurs in Society of Imperial Germany
Conference paper
Part of the German Yearbook on Business History 1981 book series (BUSINESS, volume 1981)


The extensive discussion on the role of the entrepreneur in the state and society during the second half of the nineteenth century1 often makes us overlook that the entrepreneurs were not only a separate and distinct, economically determined interest group in society but that they were also bound to the other groups by personal ties. An examination of the direction, intensity and motivation of these ties and the extent to which they may have been influenced by economic and social factors will enable conclusions to be drawn about the entrepreneurs’ image of themselves and their image as a group. These two aspects in turn give rise to the question of the social position of the entrepreneurs and its determinant features. The following article is an attempt to outline this.2


Public Servant Social Integration Social Contact Senior Management Chief Executive 
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  1. 1.
    See for example Kaelble: Industrielle Interessenpolitik in der Wilhelminischen Gesellschaft. Der Centralverband Deutscher Industrieller 1895–1915, Berlin, 1967;Google Scholar
  2. 1a.
    Kaelble: Industrielle Interessenverbände vor 1914, in: W. Ruegg, O. Neuloh (ed.): Zur soziologischen Theorie und Analyse des 19. Jahrhunderts, Göttingen, 1971;Google Scholar
  3. 1b.
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    J. Kocka: Unternehmer in der deutschen Industrialisierung, Göttingen, 1975.Google Scholar
  9. 2.
    These are the results of a preliminary and as yet incomplete examination of material which is being prepared on the social behaviour and social structures of the West German propertied class (“Besitzbürgertum”). On the educated classes (“Bildungsbürgertum”) see H. Henning: Das westdeutsche Bürgertum in der Epoche der Hochindustrialisierung 1860–1914, Part I. Das Bildungsbürgertum, Wiesbaden, 1972. Studies undertaken so far in this field are very helpful but they are very superficial in regard to the questions raised here.Google Scholar
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    Kurt Weidenfeld: Die Herkunft der Unternehmer und Kapitalisten im Aufbau der kapitalistischen Zeit. Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv 72 (1954);Google Scholar
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  13. 2d.
    Helmuth Croon: Die wirtschaftlichen Führungsschichten des Ruhrgebietes in der Zeit von 1890 bis 1933. Blätter für deutsche Landesgeschichte 108 (1972). Dittrich comes closest to indicating some of the basic trends in the recruitment of entrepreneurs, but he does not succeed in assessing them. Croon only touches on the problem, while Adelmann only examines the occupational origin, again without quantification.Google Scholar
  14. 2e.
    Friedrich Zunkel: Der rheinisch-westfälische Unternehmer 1834–1879, Cologne and Opladen, 1962, gives helpful information, although he aims to describe the type rather than the group behaviour. The study by P. H. Martes (see below) is also very informative.Google Scholar
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    Westfälische Lebensbilder. Ed. A. Börneret al. Vol. I ff. Münster 1930.Google Scholar
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    Collection in the State Archives. Detmold.Google Scholar
  18. 5.
    State Archives, Münster, quoted as StAM: Oberpräsidium 1458–1490, 1514–1515, 3794–3797.Google Scholar
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    For more detail on the procedure see H. Henning: Bildungsbürgertum… loc. cit. p.67ff.Google Scholar
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    See Kurt Weidenfeld: Die Herkunft… loc. cit. p.256.Google Scholar
  21. 8.
    The lack of stress on functional differences is to prevent the many persons who fulfilled several different functions or parts of functions from not being included per definitionem in the social field under review or from being too strongly aligned in patterns whose relevance for social behaviour still has to be examined. On functional differences between entrepreneurs, managers and capitalists see J. Kocka: loc. cit. p.14f. Kocka, who follows the usual terminology, overlooks the importance of “independence” (self-employment) as a constituent feature of the bourgeoisie’s self-awareness. The formal recognition of this by the state was the precondition which enabled members of the boards of joint stock companies to be elected to Chambers of Commerce after 1872. Cf. H. Henning: loc. cit. pp.34 and 106 and Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk: Die große Zeit des Feuers. Tübingen, 1958, Vol. II, p.29.Google Scholar
  22. 9.
    Cf. the Order by the Prussian Minister for Trade, Commerce and Public Works of October 8, 1890, only the contents of which are known. The general file StAM 190–1 (old register) has not been kept nor is it in the archive. Strangely enough the Order was not published in the circulars on general administration by the Ministry either, from which we may take it that the expectations and actions of prospective. Commercial Councillors were not to be made too public. On the general aspect see the Order by the “Oberpräsident” (Lord Lieutenant) to the “Regierungspräsident” (Chief Executive) of Minden of February 25, 1895: the main requirement for the appointment as Commercial Councillor is in addition to considerations of the general public interest “considerable, secure capital assets, independent of the business concerned.” StAM Oberpräsidium, 1514, Vol. II.Google Scholar
  23. 10.
    Cf. records StAM Oberpräsidium 1515, Vol. I.Google Scholar
  24. 11.
    Adelmann would appear to indicate this. loc. cit. p.337.Google Scholar
  25. 12.
    Cf. records StAM Oberpräsidium 1515, Vol. I.Google Scholar
  26. 13.
    The census gives c. 152,000 self-employed without members of families helping in the business. Of these c. 56,000 were independent craftsmen who do not count for our purposes. On the scope of the samples see Hans Kellerer: Statistik im modernen Wirtschafts- und Sozialleben. Hamburg, 1962, p.124ff.Google Scholar
  27. 14.
    Cf. Henning, loc. cit., p.286f.Google Scholar
  28. 15.
    Cf. Friedrich Zunkel: Beamtenschaft und Unternehmertum beim Aufbau der Ruhrindustrie 1849–1880. Tradition 9, 1964, pp.263, 265.Google Scholar
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    Henning, Beamtenschaft und Unternehmertum beim Aufbau der Ruhrindustrie 1849–1880. Tradition 9, 1964, p.507, Diagram 13.Google Scholar
  30. 17.
    Henning, Beamtenschaft und Unternehmertum beim Aufbau der Ruhrindustrie 1849–1880. Tradition 9, 1964, p.504, Diagram 7.Google Scholar
  31. 18.
    Cf. for instance the attitude of the banks to L. Baare and Fr. Grillo. Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk: Die große Zeit des Feuers. Vol. I.Tübingen, 1957, pp.592 and 533.Google Scholar
  32. 19.
    Cf. Walter Serlo: Die preußischen Bergassessoren. Essen (5th ed.), 1938.Google Scholar
  33. 20.
    Cf. for example Gerhard Adelmann: Führender Unternehmer in Rheinland und Westfalen, 1850–1914. Rhein. Vjbll. 35, 1971, p.338.Google Scholar
  34. 21.
    On the terminology see Wolfgang Zapf: Wandlungen der deutschen Elite. Munich, 1965, p.35f.;Google Scholar
  35. 21a.
    Wilhelm Stahl: Der Elitekreislauf in der Unternehmerschaft. Frankfurt, Zurich, 1973, p.12ff.Google Scholar
  36. 22.
    Cf. Henning, Der Elitekreislauf in der Unternehmerschaft. Frankfurt, Zurich, 1973, pp.288 and 484.Google Scholar
  37. 23.
    Cf. Nikolaus von Preradowich: Die Führungsschichten in Österreich und Preussen (1804–1918). Wiesbaden, 1955, p.162. The further remarks which are based on this observation on the effects on the bourgeoisie as a whole are largely doubted.Google Scholar
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    Cf. e. g. on the educated classes Henning, Die Führungsschichten in Österreich und Preussen (1804–1918). Wiesbaden, 1955, p.489.Google Scholar
  39. 24.
    A comparison with research up to now is difficult as these writers either do not consider the entrepreneurs at all as a social group or take them globally. To name those who take the first approach — and this is not to diminish the wide recognition which the many individual achievements have earned — Adelmann, Die Führungsschichten in Österreich und Preussen (1804–1918). Wiesbaden, 1955, p.489,Google Scholar
  40. 24a.
    Helmuth Croon: Die wirtschaftlichen Führungsschichten des Ruhrgebietes in der Zeit von 1890–1933. Blätter f. dt. Landesgeschichte 108 (1972)Google Scholar
  41. 24b.
    and Helmuth Croon: Die wirtschaftlichen Führungsschichten des Ruhrgebietes in der Zeit von 1890–1933. in: Herbert Helbig (ed.): Führungskräfte der Wirtschaft im 19. Jahrhundert (1790–1914). Part II. Limburg, 1977;Google Scholar
  42. 24c.
    Konrad Fuchs: Wirtschaftliche Führungskräfte in Schlesien. Zs. f. Ostforschung 21 (1972)Google Scholar
  43. 24d.
    and the otherwise very valuable study by Friedrich Zunkel: Der rheinisch-westfälische Unternehmer 1834–1879, Cologne and Opladen, 1962.Google Scholar
  44. 24e.
    The second approach is chosen by Wolfgang Huschke: Forschungen über die Herkunft der thüringischen Unternehmerschicht des 19. Jahrhunderts (= 2nd supplement to the periodical “Tradition”), Baden-Baden, 1962;Google Scholar
  45. 24f.
    Erich Dittrich: Zur sozialen Herkunft des sächsischen Unternehmertums, N. A. f. sächs. Geschichte 63, 1942,Google Scholar
  46. 24g.
    and Wilhelm Stahl, Zur sozialen Herkunft des sächsischen Unternehmertums, N. A. f. sächs. Geschichte 63, 1942. The three authors recognise a high inflow from the crafts to the groups of entrepreneurs and they conclude from this that the entrepreneurs were highly mobile.Google Scholar
  47. 24h.
    See e. g. Stahl, Zur sozialen Herkunft des sächsischen Unternehmertums, N. A. f. sächs. Geschichte 63, 1942, p.107. Admittedly Stahl may be very restricted by his material which was limited to the selection criteria of the Neue Deutsche Biographic However, Hartmut Kaeble, who uses the same material and therefore must be subject to the same limitsGoogle Scholar
  48. 24i.
    (Sozialer Aufstieg in Deutschland 1850–1914, in: Konrad Jarausch (ed.): Quantifizierung in der Geschichtswissenschaft. Düsseldorf, 1976, p.286) comes to the conclusion, although he uses the concept “entrepreneur” without differentiation, that the main recruitment tendencies were “self-recruitment and supplementation from the ranks of the commercial middle classes. In its most general form this observation corresponds with the regional results in this study. “Restaurateurs and above all the craftsmen”, in Kaelble’s view, play virtually no part in the inflow to the ranks of the major entrepreneurs, and this refutes the thesis that the industrial sector was a “launching pad”Google Scholar
  49. 24j.
    (W. Köllmann: Der Prozess der Verstädterung in Deutschland in der Hochindustrialisierungsperiode, in: R. Braun et al.: Gesellschaft in der industriellen Revolution. Cologne, 1973, p.251ff.) for this sub-group; Kaelble would also like to see this modifiedGoogle Scholar
  50. 24k.
    (W. Köllmann: Der Prozess der Verstädterung in Deutschland in der Hochindustrialisierungsperiode, in: R. Braun et al.: Gesellschaft in der industriellen Revolution. Cologne, 1973, p.296).Google Scholar
  51. 24l.
    A comparison with Kocka, Der Prozess der Verstädterung in Deutschland in der Hochindustrialisierungsperiode, in: R. Braun et al.: Gesellschaft in der industriellen Revolution. Cologne, 1973, p.37ff., is not necessary as his periods have only vague limits and he does not reflect the latest state of research in every regard. Otherwise he would presumably have noticed that during the second half of the nineteenth century the self-awareness of the educated classes continues to dominate and remarked upon its affinity with the entrepreneurs — using the term in the widest senseGoogle Scholar
  52. 24m.
    (Henning, Der Prozess der Verstädterung in Deutschland in der Hochindustrialisierungsperiode, in: R. Braun et al.: Gesellschaft in der industriellen Revolution. Cologne, 1973, pp.286 and 291f.), for the upper ranks of the public service were increasingly recruited from the entrepreneurs — not vice versa — who copied the career patterns of the public service. Hence — consciously or unconsciously — they took the principle of performance as a suitable, democratic means of selection in the industrialisation process as well. It was with this concept that the enlightened bourgeoisie had largely broken the privileges of the nobility at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Kocka cites the “national overtones” of the “progress rhetoric” (cf. pp.39 and 40) in vain! As the barrier to mobility between the educated classes and the entrepreneurs was already being broken down particularly in the highly industrialised areas before the beginning of the national over-estimation of industrial interests, the national element did not give rise to any affinity between the two groups.Google Scholar
  53. 24n.
    Toni Pierenkemper, Die westfälischen Schwerindustriellen 1852–1913, Göttingen 1979, p.43ff. comes to a similar conclusion. Yet, when interpreting his figures, he neglects the perceptable differentiation of the social throng and speaks of a “recruitment mainly from the same social strata.” For Pierenkemper this is representative of the German society (p.169). Even though he rightly stresses the most important trend, he completely undervalues the perceptable throng from ranks with the same status, but with a lower economic position or from other classes. Most of all he distorts the mobility of other middle class groups within the period under review, which was not determined by self-restrictment.Google Scholar
  54. 24o.
    Of the regional studies Paul Hermann Martes: Zum Sozialprofil der Oberschicht im Ruhrgebiet, dargestellt an den Dortmunder Kommerzienräten, Beiträge zur Geschichte Dortmunds und der Grafschaft Mark 67 (1971), p.167ff., esp. pp.195f. and 200ff. comes to roughly the same conclusion as this study. However, it still needs to be shown that Martes decided not to weight his material and preferred the genealogical survey.Google Scholar
  55. 25.
    On the integration within industry shown in Table 2 see e. g. the relations of the Berger-Harkort, Bröckelmann, Delius-Tiemann, Kisker and Klein (Siegen) families. For approaches on the comparable trend among members of the senior management see W. Serlo: Westdeutsche Berg- und Hüttenleute. Essen, 1938, pp.69 and 240.Google Scholar
  56. 26.
    Cf. e. g. the relations between the Delius, Tiemann and Kisker families in the area covered by the Bielefelder Webereien AG. Gustav Engel: Gedanken zur Hundertjahrfeier der Bielefelder Webereien AG. Bielefeld, 1965.Google Scholar
  57. 27.
    A Commercial Councillor who in advanced years married a sales girl very much younger than himself was socially ostracised. StAM Oberpräsidium 1514 Vol. III.Google Scholar
  58. 28.
    See Zapf, loc. cit. p.41.Google Scholar
  59. 29.
    See the qualification report by the Chief Executive in Minden (Qualifikationsbericht des Regierungspräsidenten), 6.9. 1900: “… public opinion would find it incomprehensible if a man whose only achievement is to earn a lot of money and spend only the barest essential were to be given the very highest mark of honour (i. e. awarded the title of Commercial Councillor).” StAM Oberpräsidium 1514, Vol. II.Google Scholar
  60. 30.
    Records StAM Oberpräsidium 3794 and 3795.Google Scholar
  61. 31.
    Cf. for example the administration („Zeitungsberichte“) report by the Chief Excutive in Arnsberg of 14.4.1905. StAM Oberpräsidium 1407-reports 1905.Google Scholar
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    Records StAM Oberpräsidium 1406, 1407, 350, Vol. X, 351, Vol. X, 352, Vol. X (Zeitungsberichte des Regierungspräsidenten).Google Scholar
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    Cf. Helmuth Croon: Die wirtschaftlichen Führungsschichten, loc. cit., p.155.Google Scholar
  65. 35.
    Records StAM Oberpräsidium 3688 and 3795. For details see the qualification report on Fr. Grillo by the Chief Executive in Arnsberg of 13.9.1882, for Fr. Vohwinkel of 21.6.1889 and for Ed. Kleine of 11.6.1907. StAM Oberpräsidium 1514, Vol. I and II.Google Scholar
  66. 36.
    On the change in generation see Croon: Führungsschichten, loc. cit. p.145.Google Scholar
  67. 37.
    After about 1910 mention of posts on civic councils becomes less frequent in qualification reports by the chief executives, while activities in interest associations, chambers of commerce and in the provincial parliament are more frequent. Records StAM Oberpräsidium 1515.Google Scholar
  68. 38.
    See Croon: Führungsschichten, loc. cit., p.154. On the problem as a whole ibid.: Die gesellschaftlichen Auswirkungen des Gemeindewahlrechtes in den Gemeinden und Kreisen des Rheinlandes und Westfalens im 19. Jh. Research report for the Land of North-Rhine Westphalia, No. 564, 1960.Google Scholar
  69. 39.
    This is very apparent in the Deutscher Flottenverein and the veteran associations. Records StAM Oberpräsidium 3797: Of 87 persons proposed by the Chief Executive for the province committee of the Flottenverein 24 (27.6%) were major entrepreneurs. For the veteran associations see H. Henning: Kriegervereine in den preussischen Westprovinzen. Rhein. Vjbll. 32 (1968), p.471.Google Scholar
  70. 40.
    Invitation from the Oberpräsident of March 15, 1899. StAM Oberpräsidium 3797.Google Scholar
  71. 41.
    See also the clear distinction in social level in the composition of the Board of Management and the general membership of the Westdeutscher Verein für Kolonisation und Export. Figures on this but not a full interpretation in Klaus J. Bade: Friedrich Fabri und der Imperialismus in der Bismarckzeit. Freiburg, 1975, p.140f.Google Scholar
  72. 42.
    Among 15 recorded applications from members of the bourgeoisie, including requests for restitution of a former title. Records StAM Oberpräsidium 1473 Vols. I–III. Pierenkemper (p.73) mentions the same number of knightings, amounting to 1.2% of his range of investigation. Yet, on page 39 he speaks of “common knightings” among the big entrepreneurs without analysing the contradiction between the accepted position and his own findings. Has a stereotype to be kept up at any price?Google Scholar
  73. 43.
    See e. g. Zapf, loc. cit., p.41 and the literature quoted. Examples taken from east of the Elbe are generalised and taken to represent the Reich as a whole. Families who “continued to rise over several generations” are related to the Kaiserreich, which had hardly experienced two generations. Although sociological methods should be precise a few names are taken as illustrating a dominant trend.Google Scholar
  74. 44.
    Cf. Karlheinz Wallraf: Die “bürgerliche Gesellschaft” im Spiegel deutscher Familienzeitschriften. Thesis, Cologne, 1939, pp.14 and 22.Google Scholar
  75. 45.
    See e. g. G. A. Ritter and J. Kocka: Deutsche Sozialgeschichte, Dokumente und Skizzen. Vol. II 1870–1914. Munich, 1974, p.68f.Google Scholar
  76. 47.
    See H. Henning: Bildungsbürgertum… loc. cit., p.286. The sons of commercial entrepreneurs were the second strongest source of recruitment to the academically trained public service up to 1890 and up to 1914 the strongest.Google Scholar
  77. 49.
    See H. Henning: Bildungsbürgertum… loc. cit., p.154ff.Google Scholar
  78. 50.
    The inflow of sons of non-academic public servants to the ranks of the technical employees, which shows a marked rise after the mid-1880s, indicates the same. Recruitment was 15.4% in 1884 but 23.6% in 1890. STA Detmold, register of births, marriages and deaths.Google Scholar
  79. 51.
    See H. Henning: Bildungsbürgertum… loc. cit., p.141 and p.501.Google Scholar
  80. 52.
    Loc. cit. p.287 and p.429.Google Scholar
  81. 53.
    See W. G. Hoffmann: Das Wachstum der deutschen Wirtschaft seit der Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts. Berlin, et al. 1965, p.700.Google Scholar
  82. 54.
    See H. Henning; Bildungsbürgertum… 1965, p.291. 55 See Fig. 3.Google Scholar
  83. 56.
    See for example the social composition of the “Lyra” Warendorf, “Liedertafel” Soest, “Münsterische Liedertafel”, “Einigkeit” Bochum or the Male Voice Choir in Siegen. Records StAM Oberpräsidium 3794 and 3795.Google Scholar
  84. 57.
    Records StAM Regierung Münster Vol. 1151.Google Scholar
  85. 58.
    See H. Henning: Kriegervereine… loc. cit., p.467f.Google Scholar
  86. 59.
    See for example the report by the Chief Executive in Arnsberg to the “Oberpräsident” of December 3, 1897. According to this members of the male voice choir “Sängerbund” Hoerde included “traders, medium craftsmen, petty officials and better-class factory workers.” StAM Oberpräsidium 3794. On April 27, 1904 the “Landrat” in Bochum reported to the Chief Executive in Arnsberg that a large number of railway officials had left the Langendreer veterans’ association when the number of workers rose. “In view of the social conditions I regard it as urgently necessary to keep the old members of the guard, most of whom come from better families, in the association.” StAM Regierung Arnsberg 1 Pa No. 17.Google Scholar

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© Gesellschaft für Unternehmensgeschichte e. V., Köln 1981

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