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.