200 Years of a German Shipping Family
Hugo Dieter Stinnes (1870-1924) was an ambitious, dynamic but controversial entrepreneur, who went on to found the biggest business empire in Germany by the time of his death, covering shipping, coal, coke, gas, electricity, fuel briquettes, iron and steel, chemical, metallurgical and pharmaceutical industries. He entered into partnerships with the other great names in German industry e.g. Thyssen, Krupp, Kirdorf and Siemens. He was by no means just a shipowner, but also the controller of over 1,600 companies and subsidiaries and the employer of over 60,000 workers. He was also a member of the Reichstag Parliament of the Weimar Republic (1919-1933) and had far reaching political and business influence, and used his wealth to change the industrial infrastructure of Germany.
History Of The Stinnes Family And Businesses
Mathias Stinnes (1790-1845) founded a coal mine and barge shipping business on the Ruhr and Rhine rivers in 1808 at Mulheim near Duisburg. The barge fleet eventually numbered over sixty barges and over twenty tugs, which was taken over on his death by his son Hermann Hugo Stinnes, and by his grandson Hugo Dieter Stinnes in 1890. Hugo Dieter Stinnes passed his graduation examinations and worked in an office at Koblenz where he received basic business training. He then worked for a few months as a miner at Wiethe Colliery, and a year later in 1889 he attended a course at the Academy of Mining in Berlin and a year later inherited his father’s coal and barge businesses at the age of twenty years. However, Hugo Dieter Stinnes was dissatisfied with the traditional family business of operating barges, tugs, five coal mines and associated storage facilities, and immediately persuaded his mother to sell her ownership in the firm and lend him 50,000 gold marks to start his own business in 1892. He, however, retained technical management of the Mathias Stinnes A.G. mines, and later his many businesses eventually merged with the Mathias Stinnes A.G. businesses.
In the first decade of the new century, Hugo Dieter Stinnes expanded his own mining interests in Westphalia, the Rhine and Luxembourg areas, and in 1907 turned his attention away from river and coastal shipping to founding a deep sea shipping fleet as Hugo Stinnes Schiffahrt Ges. A fleet of thirteen colliers and tramps was ordered from German yards such as Bremer Vulkan for transatlantic trading to the U.S.A. and Canada as well as to traditional European countries with export coal from Germany. Two ‘three island’ tramps of 8,000 dwt were completed in 1910 as Clare Hugo Stinnes and Nora Hugo Stinnes on dimensions of 385.9 feet in length, moulded beam of 51.6 feet and depth of 26.8 feet, with a fo’c’stle of length 29 feet, bridge deck of 71 feet and poop deck of length 61 feet. Eleven colliers ranging from 2,500 to 4,500 dwt were also completed as Adeline Hugo Stinnes, Annie Hugo Stinnes, Dora Hugo Stinnes, Edmund Hugo Stinnes, Ernst Hugo Stinnes, Fritz Hugo Stinnes, Grete Hugo Stinnes, Heinrich Hugo Stinnes, Helene Hugo Stinnes, Hilde Hugo Stinnes and Otto Hugo Stinnes. English coal was also imported in large quantities via an agency office in Newcastle, and branch offices were set up at Rotterdam and Hamburg with a Head Office in Mulheim. The coal was used partly to drive turbines for the electricity production of the RWE power company on the Rhine, becoming a majority shareholder in RWE along with German steel magnate, Fritz Thyssen. He experimented with using gas burnt off from coke to recycle it for industrial use.
Hugo Dieter Stinnes had married Clare Wagenknecht on 15th June 1895, the daughter of merchant Edmund Karl Wagenknech. His wife had been born at Montevideo on 26th November 1872 while her father was temporarily working in the Uruguayan capital. After her marriage to Hugo Dieter Stinnes, the couple had seven children in Edmund (1896-1980), Hugo Hermann (1897-1982), Clarenore (1901-1990), Otto (1903-1982), Hilde (1904-1975), Ernst (1911-1986) and Else (1913-1897). These family names were to be repeated time and again in the names of ships owned by the many family shipping companies and subsidiaries.
Clare Stinnes (nee Wagenknecht) was to have a very long and busy life, for she lived to attain one hundred years of age, dying at Mulheim on 17th January 1973. After the death of her husband on 10th April 1924 at the early age of 54 years, she became Managing Director of the huge business empire of Hugo Stinnes Gmbh, and until a few years before her death she played an active part as the head of the shipping, coal, industrial and banking enterprises.
During World War I, there were shortages of coal and basic materials needed for normal existence in Germany, and as a consequence the Hugo Dieter Stinnes collier and tramping fleet made great profits. Some ships were lost but the survivors continued in the coastal trades after the end of the war. The Stinnes business interests in England and Holland were sequestrated by the Allies. Undaunted, the ambitions of their owner became apparent in 1916 as he wanted to not only compete with Hapag and Hamburg Sud on their worldwide services, but also if possible take them over. In 1916, he purchased the Woermann shipping business of Hamburg and their associated East African companies, and also purchased the biggest fleet operating out of Flensburg. He then ordered a very large fleet of passenger and cargo-liners, tramps and colliers in 1917 from German yards for completion after the end of the war. A very large fleet of two dozen ships was being operated from 1921 by Hugo Dieter Stinnes under a wide range of shipping, coal, and chemical company names.
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