Although iron-smelting in the Ruhr originally used local ores, in later times the industry relied on imported ore. Around the end of the 19th century, the mines in Sweden began to be exploited in a big way, most of the produce being shipped via the Norwegian port of Narvik. Ore from other sources also commonly came up or down the Rhein, making Duisburg a prime location for the iron industry by virtue of it lying on the banks of the Rhein. There was a trend for the iron industry to be concentrated at either end of the Ruhr district, with Dortmund receiving its ore via the Dortmund-Ems Canal.

Nevertheless, ore delivered to Duisburg had a small price advantage over that delivered to Dortmund. In 1939, there were 17 locations for blast furnaces in the Ruhr district, of which 8 were in Duisburg (more than 8 if you were to consider the present-day boundaries of Duisburg).

Initially the introduction of the Bessemer process was not a great advantage to Germany because it did not work too well with the phosphorus-containing ores that Germany mostly had access to, but when the Thomas-Gilchrist process was introduced in 1879 to deal with this problem, German steel production took off - within five years it was producing over half of the world's basic steel.

In 1868, Siemens had modified a method invented by the Frenchman Martin, to produce the open-hearth or Siemens-Martin process. this process became important in the Ruhr district - it was slower than the Bessemer process but produced a higher-grade steel.

There was a tendency for companies to become 'vertical' concerns, owning coal mines, cokeries, iron works and steel manufacturing plants, ideally in close proximity to one another if possible. It was useful for energy conservation to have the iron from the blast furnace remaining in its liquid form until it attained its final steel form, requiring blast furnaces, steel furnaces and rolling mills adjacent to each other. Waste heat from the steel-making could also be fed back 'lower down the chain'.

The increase in population implied immigration from outside the Ruhr district. There was a certain religious bias affecting who was employed in these new industries. Thyssen being a Catholic tended to employ people from West Prussia or Poland.

In 1926, most steel producers, excluding Krupp, united in the Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG. (As a vertical concern, it owned the Zollverein colliery).

Latterly, there has been a tendency for ironworks to resort to their original intention and produce half-finished steel to be finished elswhere. Cheaper energy has cancelled out the benefits of saving energy in the way previously described. So Hamborn sends steel to Dinkslaken and Ruhrort Meiderich to Müheim. These steelworks operate open hearth processes almost exclusively (as opposed to the Bessemer process) - the situation is slightly different in the 'mixed' ironworks.

Example pic


In 1867, August Thyssen with several relatives founded the Eisenwerk "Thyssen-Foussol & Co". in Duisburg, although after three years he concentrated his business interests at Styrum, in Mülheim.

In 1891 Thyssen build a plant in Hamborn-Bruckhausen, adjacent to the Deutscher Kaiser (latterly the Friedrich Thyssen) mine which the company took over in 1891 also, and the Hamborn concern became a classic example of a 'vertical' concern, encompassing coal mine, coking works, iron works and steel works all in the same place. The company built the most modern blast furnaces of the time and by 1900 was the largest iron and steel unit in the whole Ruhr district.

alsumer berg

Thyssen holds a similar standing in Hamborn as Krupp in Essen. Hamborn became a one company town. The population in 1885 had been 5,000. By 1910, the population was 100,000 with Thyssen employing 24,000. (It was only in 1935 that Hamborn was united with Duisburg.

In 1902, they set up the AG für Hüttenbetrieb in Meiderich (Meiderich being at that time independent of Duisburg also), to supply both the Hamborn and Müheim works with pig iron. This was merged with the Friedrich-Wilhelm Hütte in Mülheim to form Eisenwerk Meiderich-Müheim. It also produced iron for local forges. The works shut in 1985 and became the Landschaft Park (the adjacent mine shut in 1959 and an adjoining coke works in 1977).

In 1904, Thyssen's steel production overtook that of Krupps.

In 1926, Thyssen became a leading force in the Vereinigte Stahlwerke.

After the war, the Thyssen company was re-formed.

In 1999, Thyssen and Krupp were merged as ThyssenKrupp. Krupp had previously taken over Hoesch (based in Dortmund). Latterly, due to the influence of guest workers etc., Bruckhausen has become one of the first areas in which the Germans are a minority (although by 2010 they constituted about 52% of the population of the area.

The diagram below shows the Thyssen worksd in about 1950. The diagram shows only a couple of shafts of the coalmine are still being used, i.e. the ones directly adjacent to a coking oven. By law, collieries had to have at least one other shaft for safety reasons, but these other shafts could also be used for ventilation, etc..

layout of Thyssen works in Hamborn

For more information on the general area, visit this site


The Phönix company moved to Ruhrort from Eschweiler in 1852. In 1872, they merged with the Dortmund works of Dr Strouszberg and a few smaller concerns to form the Dortmunder Union. In 1900 they employed 11,000 in Duisburg.

In 1926, they became a part of Vereinigte Stahlwerke.

Rheinische Stahlwerke

These works were set up by a French company in 1870, east of the Phönix works. After the war with the French in 1871, they were converted into a German company. They were initially a purely Bessemer concern, relying on imports of pig iron from Britain. So when in 1879 the deatils of the Thomas-Gilchrist process became known, the Rheinische Stahlwerke were one of the first German firms to use the process, in the very same year.

They became a part of Vereinigte Stahlwerke in 1926. At this point, since the works were close to the Phönix works, the two were merged into a single unit.


From 1887, Krupps had built a works in Rheinhausen, the Friedrich Albert Werke (see below for details of its Johannishütte in Duisburg, where it found itself too 'cramped'). It stretched for about 3 km along the banks of the Rhein. It was specifically designed to produce half-finished goods for furthering processing in Essen (the company had previously been dependent to a large extent on imports of cast iron from Britain). In 1988, its planned closure lead to enormous protests.


To the South of the City center, there were three concerns in Hochfeld. Although directly on the Rhein, they were safe from flooding.

  • The Vulkan Hütte experienced a chequered history in its early days. It was founded originally in 1848 on the "corner" of the Aussenkanal and the River Rhein, but shut down in 1854. It was started up again soon after and employed Julius Römbild, under whose direction the first successsful use of coke in smelting had been made at the Friedrich-Wilhelm works in Mülheim in 1847. It received coal from the Zeche Java and ore from upstream of the Rhein. However this works was clossed down in 1860. A new breath of life was given in 1864, this time under the ownership of the company inaugaurated by the Irishman Thomas Mulvaney. Mulvaney had used iron 'tubbings' in his Hibernia mine in Gelsenkirchen to line the shaft and part of the work of the Vulcan works was to produce these tubbings. Due to the general financial crisis, Mulvaney's entire company went bankrupt in 1879. When the works started up again in 1880 it was to supply steel and rolling mills in the immediate neighborhood. In 1897 it was merged with the Schalke works of Friedrich Grillo and thereby became a part of the Gelsenkirchen Bergwerke Gesellscahft (Gelsenkirchen Mining Company). In 1926 it came under the Vereinigte Stahlwerke and in 1934 a a part of the August Thyssen division. It was dismantled after the Second World War as part of the plan to disable industry in the Ruhr.
  • The Niederrheinische Hütte was started in 1851. It had initial problems but also employed Römheld in the early days. Like the Vulcan works, it became a part of Vereinigte Stahlwerke in 1926 and then a a part of the August Thyssen division.
  • The Johannishütte was a Krupp concern from 1872. Because of lack of space, they moved over the river to Rheinhausen in 1887 (see above). The was Johannishütte was shut down in 1904.

The Gutehoffnung works was based in Oberhausen but had a dock in Walsum.