Henschel und Sohn, Kassel, Germany
Rheinstahl Henschel AG, Kassel
Thyssen Henschel AG, Kassel
ABB Henschel AG, Kassel
During the age of the industrial revolution, Henschel became a name in locomotive manufacturing as well in steam boilers, machines and casted products. With its social commitment such as vocational schools, health insurance or company sponsored housing, the company was a pioneer in its time. Early Henschels had cast guns, and made clocks and manual fire engines.
In 1810, Georg Christian Carl Henschel set up the business in Kassel now known as the "Mercedes-Benz Kassel plant". Carl Anton Henschel (23 April 1780, 19 May 1861) was senior mining and founder of the Maschinenfabrik Henschel & Sohn in Kassel in 1817. Anton Henschel was the eldest of ten siblings, born on 23 April 1780 in Kassel. He worked in the workshops of his father's practice, then drove in the self-study, supported by private instruction. From 1817 dated the company Henschel & Son as a machine factory, rather than the previously predominant foundry operation.
The Axial Discharge water turbine was first built by Henschel and Son, Kassel, Germany, in 1837, and was successfully introduced into practice by the French engineer, Jonval, in 1841 when the first wheel was built at the machine shops of A. Koechlin of Mulhouse, Alsace. The advantages of this type over the radial outward discharge type were so apparent that it not only eliminated the latter from the market almost entirely, but also maintained its supremacy for the rest of the century, particularly in Europe and in the countries to which Europe exports.
The Henschel Foundry in Kassel started out life with a range of disparate products including bells and guns. Things took off quickly in the early days of industrialisation: the plant employed 200 staff in 1837, with the company constantly looking to move into new business segments. Only a few years after its foundation, the company's remit encompassed mechanical engineering, bridge and shipbuilding, including everything right through to the fully-fledged steamship, which Henschel launched as an inland vessel under the affable name "Eduard" in 1848.
Henschel lost his wife in 1857, and in 1860 his son Carl died. His grandson, Oscar Henschel took over the management of the company in 1861. The Kassel firm became in succesion makers of locomotives, steam rollers, motor road trucks and many other heavy engineering products. In and about Kassel they possessed five factories. It was a natural step for the company enter the field of aircraft production, just as they had entered the motor lorry field before, and needed no Government assistance in finance.
The early days of locomotive production may well have appeared modest. Yet over the next 30 years Henschel would produce more than 1000 locomotives; by the time of the production site's centenary in 1910, production had increased a staggering tenfold - the 10,000th locomotive was being built in the Henschel workshops. The factory was now running full steam ahead: the total number of Henschel locomotives produced then quickly doubled to 20,000 units in 1923. From 1924 industrialist Oscar Henschel stood at the head of the Henschel Locomotive Commercial and later Aircraft Henschel & Sohn company in Kassel.
Oscar Henschel resolutely got down to work. In 1924, he extended the product range to include road-building machinery. 1925 saw the introduction of truck production, with the company manufacturing its first truck the same year. It was based on a licence from the Swiss truck manufacturer FBW (Franz Brozincevic based in Wetzikon), came with a five-tonne payload and a 50-hp engine. In the same year, Henschel extended its truck line-up with a seasoned range of trucks boasting a payload of between three and six tonnes. At the same time, the company also brought out its first bus designed to carry 24 passengers.
With a capital of about 500,000 German marks, a new company was registered in October 1942 in Berlin. This "Henschel Concern, Ltd.," was to secure a uniform direction and control of the different firms associated with the Henschel. The Henschel family still retains a strong interest in the affairs of the firm, and Oskar R. Henschel, of Kassel, was the managing director of the new controlling organisation. Today the Kassel plant is an important component in the Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle production network. Huge quantities of axles have been manufactured here since 1973; Kassel became the central axle plant for the Commercial Vehicle Division in 1977. The Kassel site was renamed in October 2007: instead of "Kassel plant" it is now called "Mercedes-Benz Kassel - A Daimler AG plant".
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