Franz Gruber, Anton Gruber

Gruber Fabrikszeichen.png

Franz Gruber was the first in Vienna and in the monarchy to specialize in the manufacture of tools for woodworkers. The story of the industrial production of carpentry tools begins with him. He was a trained carpenter, as confirmed by the first two mentions. In 1806 the death notice of Anna Gruber, wife of carpenter Franz Gruber at Wieden 52, is found in the Wiener Zeitung. And the first entry in an address book in 1809 already mentions carpenter toolmaker Franz Gruber, but strangely enough without a house number. In 1816 there was an address book entry with the address on Wieden 52. In the same year Franz Gruber appears in a different directory as owner of the house Wieden No. 579,  which in the course of the third new house numbering in 1819/1821 becomes the address Wieden, Alleegasse 55.  

On January 27, 1823, Franz Gruber (as a privileged carpenter and toolmaker) received a privilege for the production of "cutting tools plated with cast steel" together with the metal worker Ferdinand Feugel and the privileged clock spring manufacturer Andreas Müller, both from Vienna too.

There are three different descriptions of this patent, so it is not entirely clear what exactly the object of the privilege was. Welding cast steel with iron was already known as a technique in itself. The first description gives the publication of the granting of privileges in the Wiener Zeitung. It's talking about the "invention to coat iron with cast steel", and further: to give the tools "the hardness up to the cutting of glass" ... "and to save a lot of fuel". The second description after the expiry of privilege appeared among others in the Brünner Zeitung: "This improvement consists in that the tools of iron, are coated with steel sheet, by welding using a flux of borax and antimony glass (note .: sulfur-containing antimony oxide)." A third description can be found in 1841 in the official publication of all expired patents from the years 1821-1835, published by the k. k. Hofkammer in Vienna, however, differs considerably from the two previous ones: " The essence of this privilege is that the water for hardening flows from a tub through a fine sieve onto the object to be hardened, for which purpose a valve is opened every time ".

Despite the obvious differences, all three descriptions clearly refer to the privilege of January 27, 1823. On the one hand, Gruber, Feugel and Müller had a very efficient and reliable method of steel-saving cutting tools when using their own lubricant to weld (plate) cast steel with iron found to manufacture, and additionally made the hardening of these tools (a very important quality factor!) easier to control with a simple mechanical device. With this mode of production, Gruber had resounding success throughout the monarchy.

Finally, in 1838, the emperor bought a collection of his tools for the imperial cabinet, " which are distinguished by the noble types of wood from which they are produced, by the particular elegance of their shapes and the great precision with which they are manufactured, and are rare accomplishments in this field. "

During the same year, his son Anton Gruber took over the company. Already in 1837 he received his own privilege to improve the production of "steel-plated cutting tools" , in 1838 another one for a new mechanical hardening method. The same article shows that Anton Gruber is the owner of a privileged k.k. factory for cutting tools in Ginselberg near Scheibbs (note: "Geiselberg" in the article is a misprint) and was a partner in his father's factory in Vienna. The factory in Ginselberg is most likely the Gstettenhammer, Ginselberg No. 13 in Neustift near Scheibbs (note: I have not yet been able to check the sources myself, but I have no reason to doubt it.) In 1833/34 the master hammersmith Deimbacher skidded into bankruptcy , father Franz could have bought the hammer mill at the time and in 1838 had overwritten it to his 20 year old son.

Also in 1838 Anton Gruber then placed several advertisements in various daily newspapers, in which he drew his customers' attention to counterfeit tools bearing his factory mark (note: the name "Gruber" plus k.k. eagle) (note: a uniform statutory trademark protection law only came about in 1859).

On August 1, 1839, he combined the two factories in Ginselberg and Vienna into a single company under his name. In December, he placed a few advertisements to publicize this fact and to clear up any confusion.

On November 23, 1839, father Franz Gruber died of a stroke at the age of 68.

The hope of the Austrian steel industry at that time was to compete with the world market leader England (especially Sheffield) and to replace the import of English tools and other steel products with their own products. This goal was already expressed in some privilege descriptions, and in the 1840s the press was also optimistic that this goal could be achieved. Two companies were named as outstanding examples among the Austrian manufacturers : the file manufacturer Fischer in St. Aegyd (in the Traisental) and Gruber with its chisel and plane blades.

In 1840, again a number of Gruber's advertisements appeared in which he drew attention to counterfeit products.

A showpiece of my own collection is this price list from 1840, which gives an overview of the Gruber product range.

In November of the same year, Anton Gruber voluntarily resigned his privilege on "steel-plated cutting tools"  which he received in 1837.

In 1841, Gruber opened a branch in Pest (Hungary).

A report published in the "Wiener Zeitung" in September 1841 shows the size of Gruber's production: Gruber's Eisenhammer in Scheibbs produced 38,892 pieces of various plane irons in 1840 and processed a total of 178 hundredweights of iron and 24 hundredweights of cast steel.

In September 1841, Anton Gruber gave a lecture in the Lower Austrian Trade Association (founded in 1839) about the industrial manufacture of tools .

In December the k.k. Hofkanzlei Gruber approved the acceptance of a diploma by the  Business Association of the Grand Duchy Hessen (Germany).

An article "On the Advantageous Use of Metal Discs, for Pre-Grinding and Fine-Grinding of Cutting Tools" appeared in January 1842 in the newspaper "Allgemeine Österreichische Zeitschrift für den Landwirth, Forstmann und Gaertner: Centralblatt für die Resultate wissenschaftlicher Forschungen".

On March 28, 1842, Anton Gruber died of typhoid fever at the age of only 24. Since he had left no will, his mother Theresia had the company's civil debt raised in June by the Vienna Civil Court . Theresia Gruber also died on July 30, 1842 (from pulmonary tuberculosis).

As a result, all movable inventory, tools and materials and the like were offered for auction in September and October 1842.

In February 1843 then Michael Holzer , who claimed to be a head workman at Anton Gruber, announces to have taken over the factories in Vienna and Scheibbs together with Grubers privilege (note: the one from 1838) and that both factories will be continued.

(Note: It can be doubted if Holzer was really head workman at Gruber, because Joseph Herrmann , who founded his own factory in 1843, claimed to have been the only head workman at Gruber)

In May 1843, Franz Wertheim from Krems became a co-owner of the company. In corresponding advertisements, the two also announce that Gruber's trademark will continue to be used unchanged and at the same time (like Gruber himself before) warn against misuse of the trademark.

In July 1843, Wertheim took over the factories as the sole owner. In full-page advertisements, he emphatically points out that he also has the Gruber privilege (note: on cutting tools) and that only he is authorized to use Gruber's trademarks on his products. This is primarily aimed at Joseph Herrmann, who also uses Gruber's name in addition to his own name as his trademark.

This marks the beginning of a completely new era for the factory at Alleegasse 55.

Todesanzeige Anna Gruber 1806
Gruber Adressbuch Redl 1809-12-16.png
Bericht Sammlungsankauf Gruber 1838
Todesanzeige Franz Gruber 1839
Anzeige Anton Gruber Pester Zeitung 1840
Anton Gruber Privilegiumszurücklegung 1840
Anton Gruber Produktion 1841
Vortrag Gruber Gewerbeverein 1841
Gruber Bewilligung Diplom 1841
Todesanzeige Anton Gruber 1842
Todesanzeige Theresia Gruber 1842

​© 2023 Hobel Austria, Reinhard Pascher

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