Chronic of the Thonwerke Ludwig GmbH & Co KG

1850 - 1925

As recorded by Dr. Paul Ludwig at the celebration of the 100th jubilee of the Ludwig company in the year 1950.Already since the eighth century BC has mankind known how to extract and process iron. Only much later, in the course of the 14th century AD, the possibility to cast iron was discovered. Again it took centuries to discover steel, the foundation of our modern technology. This was carried out for the first time in England in 1784, the then leading industrialized nation and became common property when Henry Cort invented the Puddle Kiln. Now only one more step was needed to pour steel. One was already able to pour minute amounts of steel to small ingots. In 1851 Alfred Krupp and Jakob Meyer succeeded with the actual steel casting, meaning to cast commodities into steel, and with this marvelous deed they became the founders of the new-age large-scale industrial enterprise. With the possibility to change iron into steel and the development of the steel casting the refractory industry was born.

The first steel plants of the industrial zones of the Rhineland-Westphalian areas firstly got the suitable clays from Belgium. Krupp was market leader in search of domestic raw materials since they found in their „Sayner Hütte“, near the Lambertshöhe nearby Kettig suitable steel crucible clays (Stahltiegeltone). Thus the western slopes of the basin of Neuwied became a vast part of our industrial development and this remained until the end of the first World War.

In the 1840’s, following the tracks of Krupp, representatives of the Reinhardt & Koenig company, today Steel Casting Plant Witten, met with the founder of the Ludwig company, Peter Ludwig I (born on May 7, 1803 in Bendorf) in Muehlheim and asked the crucial question if he could supply a similar clay as was found in Kettig. We do assume that our ancestor did have a good idea about the transactions along the Ruhr river since besides operating a locksmith’s trade he also was involved in a flourishing coal business, both special businesses that tied him obligatory to the Ruhr river. Knowing the localities very well Peter Ludwig offered the gentlemen from R&K the blue Mülheimer clay which he knew from the valley of the owls and where the clay had been mined probably for centuries for the potters from Euler.

Peter Ludwig II

The trials carried out surpassed all expectations since the clay from Mühlheim, due to its specific characteristics, was the preferred clay for the manufacture of steel cast pan and steel casting mixes. The monies offered by R&K for the purchase of land was refused by our ancestor since he and his wife, née Zils, owned enough land. In total they left 42 „morgen“ (107.233 m2).The marriage of our ancestor was blessed with three sons. There were Peter, Anton and Markus of which only the eldest, Peter II, born on New Year’s eve of 1842-43, was involved in the clay business.
As per documentation dated February 22, 1873, he came to an agreement with his brothers and started with great energy to enlarge the business.

1850 - 1925

In Muehlheim the clay was mined in round shafts that were enlarged to a bell shape. Entrance and exit were effected by means of a ladder. Eventually the „Tire shaft“ was introduced which is still in use today.

„Clay Mining Open-Work Mining Ruebenach“

In the 80’s the demand for clay rose so dramatically that in the fall of 1890 our grandfather started to begin the open-work mining, encouraged through the first open-work mining that the Vygen company had begun on the Erlenhof near Ransbach in 1884. For that time it was a dramatic undertaking without technical aids and only using manpower that had to take care of 20 – 30 meters clearance with a worthy layer of hardly more than 3 meters on average. The tremendous masses of clearance on one side and the deficit of suitable storage areas on the other side were to present particular problems for Peter Ludwig II. In the last days of February 1897 on the Ludwig’s „height“ (a landscape near Muelheim) he experienced the first mountain slide, in 1902 this occurred a second time. While up until now these were the usually occurring slides whereby no open-work mining was spared the slide that began on March 25, 1906, and lasted for several days showed a threatening format. The removal of the damages, 25 houses had collapsed and 101 houses were damaged and securing the territory cost more than a quarter of a million. Further to the mining difficulties there were, of course, those of a trading nature. Our two ancestors Peter Ludwig I and Peter Ludwig II did not remain without competition. A true „clay fever“ had begun in the area. Within a few years 27 competitive firms had been founded in the Muelheim-Ruebenacher Heights who, with particular skill, managed to lower the prices.
Slowly and with much endurance and toughness the more potent companies Krupp, Ludwig, Mannheim, Floeck Mueller etc. began to force the smaller companies to give up. At the same time similar activities occurred at the facing Kaerlicher Berg. Here 19 of the smallest companies made life miserable for one another. In the years 1890 – 1893 the larger companies Hünermann, Mannheim, Ludwig, and Capitain fused to the Kärlicher Clay Companies Gmbh. In 1898, inspired through the Mülheimer

Tagebau, the Kärlicher Clay Works opened the open-work mining, still being operated today.

Peter Ludwig II with his wife
Maria Müller from Mülheim

With a substantial monetary gain our grandfather withdrew from the company after a few years only to reinvest the money immediately in fields on the Kärlicher mountain. This was a strategy that did not succeed since the fields purchased lay far away from one another and were unsuitable for the introduction of an open-work mining. The competition between Ludwig on the Mühlheimer side and Mannheim on the Kärlicher side was carried out with unusual severity. Blows of fate on both sides slowly brought both foes to insight, good sense persevered and in 1908 a syndicate in form of a sales outlet of the Kärlicher-Mülheimer Clay Works was founded. A vigorous exchange of the mutual landed property was effected. Clear conditions were initiated, a clean division of Ludwig on the side of Muelheim and the Kärlicher Clay works Mannheim on the Kärlicher mountain were the result. End of the syndicate in 1923.

1850 - 1925

Due to his unrelenting active disposition nothing could keep Peter Ludwig II, after becoming an adult, in the closer realm of Mülheim. In Duisburg, some kilometers away from Witterschlick, he already ran a grit washing company when in 1885 he, along with his friend Hupert Capitain from Witterschlick, purchased 4 Morgen of clay territory and founded the Witterschlichker clay company.

In October 1888, during a meeting that focused on the canalization of the Mosel river, he became acquainted with Messrs. Paul and Ernst Servais who introduced him to Xaver de Saint Hubert and Julius Collart. One came to terms and built together a company for the production of clinker in Witterschlick, out of which a few years later the Combined Servais Werke AG, Witterschlick were founded. The foundation of this company resulted in Ludwig and Capitain to withdraw from the company.

The children of Peter Ludwig II

Meanwhile Peter Ludwig II had bought land near the village of Kettig. Since 1893 he mined the yellow red-burning clay with which he did remarkable business in the Netherlands. When the facing bricks (clinker) became old-fashioned the mine in Kettig was no longer profitable and was closed down approximately 1910 and later sold to Elingshausen in Kettig. To round it up the company at the Senser Weg in Mühlheim should also be mentioned. The company was founded by Vongeheuer and Hürter. During the first World War the sales outlet took over the mine until its total exploitation.

It was only natural that Peter Ludwig II, attracted by clay, also was active in the nearby Westerwald. In 1898 in the areas of Girod and Steinefrenz he purchased land with Hubert Capitain and founded the Giroder Clay company that, after a few years, was sold with good profit to Schottler and Borgsmüller.

Siershahn 1911

1850 - 1925

Surely one could tell more stories about the business activities of our grandfather right and left of the Rhine river, but it now becomes time to also remind ourselves of the second „birthday child“ of today.

Peter Ludwig II and Peter Witgert sr. had become friends via mutual business transactions involving clay. After our grandfather returned home from war in 1871 and his wife and three children had died, it was Peter Witgert who introduced him to his cousin Maria Elizabeth Mueller who thus became the ancestress of the present generation. Maria Elizabeth Mueller brought the investiture „Concordia“ into the marriage. In 1900 our second „birthday child“, Concordia, was christened. Despite all evils the „violet at the wayside“, as the „Concordia was called by the overbearing colleagues from the clay business, was to become the main support of the clay works Ludwig KG. Very soon after the founding Max Giessing joined as a partner but resigned already in 1902 which proved to be of great advantage. Being on our own we introduced the ceramic and refractory clays of „Concordia“ to all European countries, namely in Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Italy.

Peter Ludwig and children
and son-in-law 1915

From the time period after 1900, when the management was conveyed more and more to today’s older generation, two further foundations must be mentioned that were of the utmost importance for a certain period of time. The companies Wilson and Ludwig with their mines „Hoehrer Loch“ and „Guckheim“ and Carl Itschert & Co. with the mines „Leid“ an „Wohlgemut“.

Peter Ludwig’s II Clay Works GmbH Product Selection

1850 - 1925

After World War I the mine „Höhrer Loch“ was no longer profitable and thus Wilson & Ludwig lost their main support. Carl Itschert & Co. had to be dissolved due to inflation and its aftereffects.

Moving ups and downs have moved us through the 100 years of our existence.

The time span 1900 – 1925 was governed by the idea to gain influence and money with the help of fusions, syndicates and agreements. Thanks to human inadequacy all efforts to master fate in this manner proved inefficient and was null and void.


Stand on the Foundry Professional Exhibition

A new turnaround set in when our seniors more and more came to the conclusion that only a continuous subsequent treatment would achieve one’s aim.
The first step in this direction was accomplished in 1922. We erected the first clay grinding mill and concluded the memorable agreement with Schoorl, owner of the Decolora Maatschappy in Haarlem.

Following this launch was the erection of the first fired clay kiln in 1925.

Erection of the new annular kiln in 1925.

1925 - 1970

Annular Kiln Concordia

This kiln produced, fired with fine coal, about 600 monthly tons if fired with Concordian clays that showed approximately 30% firing shrinkage. Soon the clay from Muehlheim was sent to Ransbach via train and thus chamotte from Muehlheim was also produced. This was a reduction in production since the clay from Muehlheim showed a reduction of > 45% firing shrinkage.

Towards the second half of the twenties of the last century the economical situation in Germany became ever increasingly worse and the chamotte burrows at Concordia became ever larger. This, of course, resulted in a technical stop with the corresponding financial limitations.

Dr. Ludwig’s Staff

1925 - 1970

Loading at the Railway Tracks

At this time the building of two high-water dams – one in Koblenz-Luetzel 1925/26 and the other in Neuwied 1929/30 – helped us tremendously since we could supply the suitable clays. Thus the costs in the mine could be lowered substantially and the first successful trials for the manufacture of steel form masses were run.

In 1928/29 we erected a ball mill with riddler for the production of chamotte screening in maximal 2 grain sizes and one dust component. One double undulated mixer was fed directly via the ball mill with chamotte and 2 – 3 additional composites and thus the mixed and dampened material was filled directly into the mostly open boxcars.

In the above mentioned time span we not only mined in the clay works Concordia and Muelheim, but also in further 3-4 mines, alone or with a partner and we also attended to this from a mining point of view.

The Concordia Pit

Concordia Pit’s Staff

1925 - 1970

In 1930/31, despite a massive economic worldwide crisis (7 million unemployed) we could increase profits with the manufacture and sale of steel form masses and we also started with the manufacture of sour ramming mixes on quartz basis. A tube mill for the finest grinding of the Muelheimer chamotte for the manufacture of steel form coating was added which was needed for a smooth surface of forms made for steel parts.

And so the year 1933 began and the unlucky Third Reich began on January 30. Carefully but consequently the re-armament of Germany was begun and in the beginning showed a self carrying blossoming.

This also meant a gigantic need for steel which led to the construction of the second annular kiln in Ransbach which began its production in 1935.

Second Annular Kiln in Concordia on 03.01.1935

At the same time the Ludwig brothers purchased an annular kiln and three single cell furnaces on the Rhine-Steel area in Wirges, which brought the amount of chamotte production up four-fold.

Annular Kiln in Wirges 1935

1925 - 1970

In memoriam of the 100th birthday of Peter Ludwig II in 1942

At the same time two additional ball mills were added and in the Wirges plant two edge runner mills with overcompressed double undulated mixers for the manufacture of the much needed casting auxiliary materials.

In 1936, due to politics that became more and more restless, the steel delivery for parts subject to wear and the federal supply impositions made a consequent and prudent investment planning cumbersome, in some cases even impossible.
In the mid-30’s we were able to purchase a brickworks in Rhens at a favorable price where bricks were seldom produced and where this was needed mainly for the production of chamotte which was transported via ship to the northern industrial area of Germany.

So overnight, on September 1, 1939 the Second World War began and from a technical standpoint we had obtained the one or other provisional arrangement, but the war produced a more and more rigorous economy of scarcity which made the running of the companies more and more difficult and for the Westerwald this ended on March 26, 1945 (day of the landslide in 1906).

During the war, in 1942, the pit Gottesgabe Albert of the Rhineland Chamotte and Dinas works of shaft mining was at first rented and, after takeover of the pits of the Captain company, was purchased in 1947.

Brothers and Sisters Ludwig in 1943

Firstly the French, with several tricks, had to be hindered to take away the best ceramic clays but it would lead too far to describe here. Towards the end of 1945 we pulverized here and there a boxcar with 17.5 tons effective weight for soap production.

Two generations of the Ludwigs at the centennial celebration in 1950

Administration 1950

1925 - 1970

So very slowly it began again and in 1946 the Boehringer company from Ingelheim came with orders for ground fireclay which was to bring 400-500 tons per month but due to deficiencies of all sorts the goal was seldom reached and in winter not at all.

The hard winter of 1946/47 from November 11 to March 17 brought minus temperatures on several days of -29° Celsius. Nothing worked any more!

June 20, 1948 currency reform: 10 Reichsmark = 1 Deutschmark with the purchasing power of 0,50 gold mark.

Pit Gottesgabe Christian

Surprisingly fast we received enough food again and the industry, under supervision of the allied forces, began to produce again and, after the damages of the war, we had to take care to bring the plants back to up and running. As in the 1930’s this again happened under time pressure and with lack of funds.

Pumice Works in Urmitz

125 Years Clay Works Ludwig

In the 1960’s the kilns were changed to firing with oil. In Ransbach as well as in Wirges equipment for cohesive plastic material were built to bring the clay, mined by means of a hydraulic excavator, into shape. Through this measure the chamotte production
In Ransbach alone rose from 1250 to 1740 monthly tons, in Wirges a bit less but also above 25%.
It was a long and hard road until in the 1960’s, with the refractory masses, we finally managed to reach better improvement in quality (Conflux).

This then forced us to install the first batch mixer which led to the construction of today’s grinding plant. Only via sizing and silo storage was it possible to manufacture the main refractory components and to supply them to the mixing department.

Ransbach 2002