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The beginnings, 1809-1840

Johann Weiß was born on November 19, 1788 in Reckartshausen in Bavaria. He learned the joinery, then worked in Germany and Prague before coming to Vienna in 1809. There he found a job in Franz Gruber's tool factory. 11 years later, in 1820, he had saved enough capital to start his own business as a toolmaker. From the same year, the first entry in an address book, namely as a carpenter in Vienna, auf der Wieden No. 579 comes from. In the course of a new numbering in 1820/21, house number 579 became number 55 Alleegasse, this was Franz Gruber's house and factory. Weiß started his own company in the house of his previous employer.


On Sep 22 In 1822 Weiß married Cecilia Rapp from Stetten. The couple had three sons: Vinzenz (born 1823), August (born 1825) and Johann Baptist (born July 9, 1829). Vinzenz became a technician, August learned toolmaking in his parents' company, Johann Baptist began an apprenticeship in the commercial area.


In 1826 an advertisement of the “k.k. privileged cast-steel-edge-toolmaker” Michael Feugl from Senftenberg near Krems appeared in the Wiener Zeitung, in which he announces to have his branch in Vienna with the (bürgerl.) master joiner and toolmaker Johann Weiß in Josephstadt (note: actually St. Ulrich), Neudeggergasse No. 84 (note: today 8th district, Neudeggergasse 12). This enables Weiß to offer his tools, like Franz Gruber, with plane blades “plated with cast steel”. Gruber had received his own patent in 1823 and produced his plane irons and other cutting tools himself. Weiß, as a bourgeois joiner, was subject to the restrictions of the guild. So this collaboration with Feugl was of the utmost importance for him. Privileges and factory rights played a major role in the entire process of industrialization from the late 18th to the late 19th century. (More on this in a separate article).


Probably in 1828, Johann Weiß moved his company to Lumpertgasse 715 (today Kettenbrückengasse 4, 4th district). The first advertisement appeared in the Wiener Zeitung in October 1837, in which Weiß described himself for the first time as a woodworking tool manufacturer, no longer as a joiner. Another move took place in 1839, Johann Weiß bought a house in the Laimgrube, Gärtnergasse 87.

Planes 1820 - 1842 from my collection

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On the way to industrial production 1840 - 1850

While the 1830s were characterized by a slow but steady upswing, the 1840s became a difficult and groundbreaking decade for the company. The years 1842/43 and 1847 proved to be particularly fruitful.


On October 17, 1842, Johann Weiß's son August died suddenly at the age of only 18 years of typhus. A heavy blow for the father, since August was already very involved in the business and intended to take over the business. Vinzenz, the eldest son, then gave up his studies in technology, became his father's companion. In 1843 the company was granted simple factory authorisation, and in 1845 Vinzenz was entered in the commercial register as a partner and the company name was changed to "Johann Weiss & Sohn". The first address book entry as Weiss und Sohn is found in the same year.


On March 28, 1842 Anton Gruber, who successfully continued the factory of his father Franz, who died in 1838, died of nerve fever at the age of only 24; and without a successor. Finally, the same year the man who became an almost overwhelming competitor for the Weiss & Sohn company for the rest of the century also appeared on the scene: Franz Wertheim, merchant from Krems an der Donau. With a privilege on "steel-plated tools" (together with the stuff smith Georg Gleischner) he founded a privileged plane iron factory in Rehberg near Krems. At the beginning of 1843, he first became a partner with Michael Holzer, who had bought Gruber's factory and its valuable privilege, in mid-1843 he took over the hammer mill in Scheibbs alone. He was 28 years old, active, energetic, through several trips to England, France and Germany a self-taught specialist for tools and a marketing genius when the term did not even exist.


Vinzenz Weiß recognized the threat posed by Wertheim. Weiss & Sohn did not yet have their own privilege, nor a factory right. The company was essentially still a craft business and as such was still bound by guild restrictions.

The first step took place on April 18, 1843: Johann and Vinzenz Weiß acquired a privilege on a machine for producing iron taps. White was now also a k.k.-privil. tool manufacturer, the guild restrictions no longer applied.

The second step came in July 1843: Joseph Herrmann, the former foreman at Anton Gruber's steel goods factory in Scheibbs, had (also in April) acquired his own privilege on steel-plated tools and thus founded a privileged factory. Weiß & Sohn participated in this privilege as companions. On July 10, 1843, the collaboration was published in the Wiener Zeitung in a full-page advertisement, not without reference to the fact that Joseph Herrmann was Gruber's only master craftsman and only he was able to produce cutting tools of genuine Gruber quality. This was a response to the corresponding advertisements from Wertheim in the previous months. Vinzenz converted his father's company into an industrial company, the fight against Wertheim was opened. On March 29, 1844, Johann and Vinzenz Weiß finally acquired their own privilege to improve the manufacture of cutting tools coated with cast steel.


In 1845 the Austrian general industry exhibition took place in Vienna. This was the third such exhibition in Vienna after 1835 (594 exhibitors) and 1839 (732 exhibitors), but neither of them contains Gruber or Weiss in the exhibitor directories. This time, 1830 exhibitors were listed in the catalog and provided an impressive picture of Austrian industry. Wertheim immediately recognized the value of such exhibitions; as early as 1844, he received a silver award medal in Ljubljana. In Vienna, both manufacturers were awarded the silver medal. According to newspaper reports about the exhibition (Der Wanderer, Journal des Österreichischen Lloyd) Wertheim employed 80 people, Weiss 35 in his factory and 50 outside. In just three years, the small merchant Franz Wertheim became one of the largest tool manufacturers in the monarchy, and thus Europe. Vincenz Weiss had correctly assessed him.


In 1846 Johann and Vinzenz Weiß bought a privilege from a certain Leopold Gruber to "improve steel-plated cutting tools", which was extended a year later to the third and fourth year.


On September 3, 1847, Vincenz Weiss died unexpectedly from the consequences of an operation after an inguinal hernia.

Years later, Johann Baptist Weiß wrote: “It was a serious catastrophe, which the business that he raised suffered. It was Vincenz who introduced factory production into the business, he did successful studies and introduced sweeping reforms. He expanded the business far, introduced accounting, and especially increased sales in the provinces. In 1845 he won the first prize at the Vienna exhibition. He was already working on machines for the more advantageous production of tools, when death took him away. The business lost its leader, Wertheim his rival. ”

On the very same day, Johann Baptist Weiß entered the company at the age of 18 as an authorized officer. Half of the privilege (Leopold Gruber) that the parents had inherited from Vinzenz was assigned to the remaining son.

The chaotic revolutionary year followed in 1848. Johann Baptist was too young, too inexperienced, he was more concerned with the national guard than with the company. The name Johann Weiß appears in an "explanation" that is true to the emperor and which was published in the Wiener Zeitung. (Note: It is not clear whether that Johann Weiß is the father or son, or whether it is the tool manufacturer at all). In any case, Weiss & Sohn could no longer stand up to Wertheim. To make matters worse, the economic situation was generally bad as a result of the turmoil of the revolution. "Victory became Wertheim," said Johann Baptist later. Only the world exhibition in London was to bring about a change.


1850 - 1860


The large international exhibition took place in London in 1851. Johann Baptist Weiß had not yet been willing to run a business, and he still had little idea of ​​tool making. But his ambition woke up. He decided to personally attend the opening in London. It was his first big trip abroad. He took the opportunity to visit tool factories in Berlin, Stuttgart, Paris, London, Sheffield, to see and learn. Wertheim was victorious at the exhibition itself, he was awarded the prize medal, Weiß & Sohn achieved an honorable mention with a smaller selection of tools, and the Illustrirten Zeitung also published one   report   About the firm.


Johann Baptist now wanted to continue the path that Vincent had taken. He asked for permission to build a steam engine in his small factory, but the authorities refused to do so. But he found a way out. In 1851, following the bankruptcy of the Viennese master builder Carl Pranter, his land on the new Wieden 667 was offered for sale . White seized the opportunity, bought a piece of land and built a completely new, larger factory including a 4 HP steam engine. Three years later, in July 1854, the move to the new factory took place, through advertisements has been made public in several newspapers. At the major exhibitions in Munich in 1854 and Paris in 1855, Wertheim was able to consolidate its dominant position, although Weiß & Sohn were only represented with a smaller selection of tools in Munich, but not at all in Paris, but White was involved in terms of production capacity & Son now in the fast lane.


In the meantime, Johann Baptist Weiß had become a respected company boss. In my own collection there is a acknoledgment for the receipt of the annual fee of the Lower Austrian Business Association including the personal admission ticket to the meetings for "Johann Weiß junior" for the year 1855.


In 1856, Johann Weiß father completely withdrew from the company, from then on Johann Baptist ran the business "for his own account".


In July 1858 there is a report in the "Fremden-Blatt", according to which the municipal council granted Johann Weiß civil rights, that means most probably Johann Baptist Weiß. Also in July 1858 the 4 HP steam engine was replaced by a larger one and the first machine was offered for sale.


An impressive testimony to the bitter rivalry between Wertheim and Weiß is provided by a "duel via advertisement" in the "Grazer Zeitung" in December 1858: Weiß & Sohn had opened a major branch for their tools at the tool dealer Josef Jungl in Graz and announced this in several advertisements. In these advertisements, Jungl claimed that Weiß & Sohn “acknowledgedly delivers the best tools in the Austrian monarchy for a guarantee” . This provoked Wertheim's anger, who trounced Jungl, who had previously been Wertheim's customer, with counter-advertisements and pointed out the greater success of his establishment at the previous exhibitions in London, Munich and Paris .

Weiß & Sohn, Fabriksansicht, Wien Wieden, 1861

1860 - 1870

At the beginning of 1860, Johann B. Weiß registered his first own privilege, namely on an "adjustable plane". The new design was intended to allow easy parallel adjustme