Schneider et Cie.
Schneider made most of the French guns from the time of Louis XVI in 1782, to the end of Napoleon's reign in 1815. Then after the final peace a law was passed that no private enterprise should make guns for foreign countries. This law was enforced until after the Franco-Prussian War. One of the many reasons for France's failure in that 1870 war was the inferiority of French artillery. Schneider always made parts of guns for the French navy and army - but only parts of guns. These parts were mounted by and in government concerns.
After the Franco-Prussian War this law was repealed. During this long period gun manufacture was a government monopoly; Schneider then manufactured machinery, engines, metallic bridges, all kinds of iron and steel work, ships, and also a large amount of parts of guns, which were designed and mounted in government's concerns. Evenutally, the Schneider works, like the Krupp works, manufactureed armor plate, built ships, construct submarines; and the Schneiders had factories at Le Havre, Bordeaux and other places, just as the Krupps have factories at Kiel, Stettin, etc.)
Creusot Works, later the largest industrial establishment in France, was purchased Mr. J. Eugene Schneider in 1836. When J. Eugene Schneider purchased the works, in 1836, as they then stood, the place counted only 2700 inhabitants; by 1910 there were 32,000. Eugene Schneider may really be called the founder of the present establishment. From all accounts he was a wonderful man intellectually and in his ability to control men. Later in years he was president of the French legislature, and lived a most active and eventful life until almost the year of his death, which occurred in 1875. Henri Schneider, son of the founder, became associated with his father in 18G7, and later took over the active control of the plant. During his lifetime many of the most important of Le Creusot developments were inaugurated. Like his father. Henri Schneider took an active part in politics, and was a member of the Chamber of Deputies. His death occurred in 1898. Since 1898 Mr. C. P. Eugene Schneider, his son, and grandson of the founder of the works, was the responsible owner of the concern.
The appellation of "Creusot Works" had become somewhat erroneous, owing to the fact that Messrs. Schneider, while enlarging the establishment year after year, put down or purchased works in several other French towns. The works and the interests of the firm were not confined simply to Creusot, which place is situated about half-way between Dijon and Lyons, on a branch line from Chagny to Nevers, but were scattered all over France. They comprised coal and iron mines, firebrick works, blast furnaces, coke ovens, steel works, armour plate works, electrical construction works, ship and bridge building yards, gun shops, and proving grounds. One of these was five miles in length, for long-range testing of guns and shells.
Messrs. Schneider have made a speciality of all industrial and metallurgical work. They were the first to build locomotives in France, as far back as 1838, and in 1866 they supplied locomotives to the Great Eastern Railway, of England. It is they who started the manufacture of all-steel and nickel-steel armour plates. Their bridges, rails, locomotives, and marine engines are to be found all over the world. So are their guns, and these have been very much to the front lately, as we all know. It was the Schneider establishment that supplied the Boers with their "Long Toms" and field guns previous to the South African War.
Only a few men in France were accorded industrial supremacy at the time of the Great War. One of these everybody in France agreed was Eugene Schneider, owner and active manager of the world-famed Le Creusot works, and whose artillery attracted the attention of all nations. There were those in France who said that Monsieur Schneider was the leading business man of the Republic. Earnestness and sincerity are the qualities which first struck the observer when meeting this unusual man. But it was not in his constructive business genius and its remarkable results that Monsieur Schneider takes most pride. On the contrary, it was the social betterment of his forty thousand employees which to him, and, indeed, to his whole family, was the chief source of gratification.
"An ironmaster myself, I find myself among other ironmasters. The ties of the same profession draw men closer to one another. But, in particular does the art of dominating fire, and forcing nature to give up to man that noble metal upon which most all human construction is based, create among those who practice the art an even closer tie, a most binding kind of solidarity. I feel as though we were joined by the rites of the same religion."
Born in 1868, Charles Eugene Schneider undertook the management of the Schneider establishment in 1898, after the death of his father, Henri Schneider. Under his management, the Schneider establishments were considerably extended, their activity being not only directed to increasing production, but also to spreading more and more their scope for action in all branches of industry-in metallurgy, mechanical and electrical construction, shipbuilding, artillery and ammunition, and in public works. During the 10 years preceding the Great War, the number of employees in these establishments, and without counting those of the more numerous subsidiaries, increased approximately 50 percent.
While giving to peace industries all the attention necessitated by the progress in science and the continual improvement in industrial methods and products, Eugene Schneider, with a perspicacity that events justified in a striking manner, especially directed his efforts toward the creation in France of a war industry able to counterbalance, when the time came, the enormous power which the German war industry had established. The task was all the more difficult in that the French Government, supplied by its own arsenals, placed few orders with private concerns, and because the Krupp Works had known how to establish a kind of monopoly throughout the world, helped to this end by the commercial methods and through the fact that a French law, only abrogated in 1882, prohibited the export to foreign countries of war materials.
Already in 1895, the Schneider establishments made special efforts to realize and improve heavy and light field ordnance, known as quickfiring, the appearance of which called forth a revolution in the armament and tactics of modern artillery. After comparative trials, made in numerous countries, between Krupp and Schneider materials, the latter were adopted (in spite of Krupp's influence and prestige), owing to their superiority, duly ascertained by military commissions. At the time of the breaking out of the European war in 1914, most nations which did not do their own manufacturing had replaced Krupp artillery materials by those of Schneider. Successive failures in the materials of the German firm, reports of which had been spread broadcast, sanctioned the triumph of the French manufacturer.
Before the war the French iron and steel industry occupied a modest place in the world. France stood fourth among the countries producing pig iron and steel. But she had to work under unfavorable conditions. She possessed large ore beds, but they were situated away from her ports and her rivers, on the very boundary line of her most dangerous enemy. She was also short of good coking coal, and, of coal for general purposes, had a yearly deficit of 23 million tons. French industry had to buy its coal on the outside, one of the chief disadvantages under which it labored. Nevertheless, between 1903 and 1913, the production of pig iron was increased 87% and steel 150%. Schneider & Company extended the comparatively modest recovery of by-product tar and ammonia at Le Creusot into huge plants, both there and at Caen, up in Normandy, for furnishing to the French War Department important quantities of pure benzene and for the fabrication of synthetic phenol, pure trinitrotoluene (for T. N. T.), napthalene and phenol.
Besides the technical and industrial development of the Works, Eugene Schneider gave his attention to social economics as begun by his ancestors for the welfare of their employees. All questions pertaining to the interest of workmen were the object of his constant attention and, very often, received solutions which were very much in anticipation of the law. These institutions of social economics can be summed up as follows: Schools, technical instruction, evolution of salaries, inducements to saving, old-age pensions, allowances for the sick and the wounded, medical attention, hospitals, hygiene and safety conditions, and mutual societies.
In 1900 there was a heavy strike at the Schneider works, and in all about 10,000 men walked out. The strike, which continued about a month, came without warning of any kind and apparently without reason. It seems to have been dictated through a general sympathy with a movement of unrest which existed that year. It will be recalled that in 1900 the Socialists were especially active.
When the Great War began, the development reached by Schneider in the manufacture of war materials proved extremely helpful to the French Government. In the Schneider Works, not only units of various calibers were found to be completed, or in the course of manufacture, for foreign governments, but also shops ready to immediately undertake artillery and ammunition manufacture and a competent staff for these difficult tasks; a specially trained staff to assist in starting numerous other shops which were not familiar with this kind of work.
The Schneider Works and their many subsidiaries which, since mobilization, were exclusively devoted to war work, in spite of labor difficulties, employed about 150,000 workmen. The Creuzot Plants, which were the oldest and most important of the Schneider Works, employed in addition to local labor, reduced through mobilization, Arabian, Moroccan, Anamite, Chinese, Spanish workmen, etc. Women constituted about one-third of the labor.
The war materials, delivered in very large quantities during the Great War to the French and Allied governments, were of the most varied types: Field guns and howitzers (heavy and light types), siege guns, large caliber guns on railway mounts, tanks, shells, cases, fuses, explosives, torpedoes, sights, submarine and aeroplane engines, armorplate, etc. Not only in France, but in Russia, Italy and England, Schneider et Cie.'s engineers initiated numerous works for war manufacturers, especially in the preparation of special gun and shell steels. Also the American Government adopted for its ordnance the 155 and 240 mm. howitzers and railway mounts for large caliber guns, the Schneider model. This ordnance brilliantly proved its superiority on European battle fields and was manufactured in US arsenals, with the technical help of specially trained agents from the Schneider Works.
Diesel was a specialty of Schneider. It built for the French government both before and through the days of the war a great fleet of submarines and even larger craft, and for these it furnished the entire equipment; engines, guns, refrigerating plants, the delicate scientific instruments of surface and sub-surface navigation-all. bearing the sign of the crossed cannons and the capital " S," the sign of the house of Schneider.
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