Berndorf – window on the world

Berndorf, the Berndorf metal works (Berndorfer Metallwerke) and the industrialisation of Austria were all advancing at full pelt in the years leading up to the First World War. In 1910 Berndorf – now elevated to the status of a town – had 12,000 inhabitants; when the factory was founded less than 70 years previously, the population had numbered 300.

4,000 workers were employed at the works in 1912, which ran at a record level of productivity: 48,000 pieces of cutlery were produced per day. The range of items being manufactured had long since expanded beyond the core product. For example, the roofs of the Karlskirche and the new Hofburg building in the Austrian capital were covered with copper sheet made in Berndorf. And the works also produced coin blanks by the wagonload. Berndorf’s nickel cookware found its way into the kitchens of most of Europe’s big hotels. Sales outlets could be found in most of the continent’s capital cities. In addition to all this, major orders were secured from customers in the Balkan countries, in Turkey and even in Argentina. Thanks to these trading relationships, suddenly the world was open to the people of Berndorf too. Arthur Krupp opened the Berndorfer Consumanstalt – a department store for employees which stocked a range of goods so international that it was almost unrivalled in the country at the time.

With the start of the war in 1914, operations at the plant were entirely given over to production for the military. Berndorfer Metallwerke was now producing field kitchens and steel helmets, as well as cartridge cases and shells. Due to the huge investment and production expenses, the company had to be reorganised as a stock corporation (Aktiengesellschaft). With the armistice in 1918, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy also came to an end – and Berndorfer Metallwerke’s rapid momentum as a global business was abruptly halted. The company’s management made monumental efforts to get the business back on track, with new manufacturing operations and acquisitions. And it worked, though it took some time: whilst unemployment rose continually in the early years of the First Republic, by 1924 there were 6,000 people working at Berndorf’s metal works again.

Science and technology in this time

1906: Broadcasting – Reginald A. Fessenden. On Christmas Eve 1906, Reginald Fessenden makes the first radio broadcast from the new wireless telegraphy station in Brant Rock, Massachusetts, using an alternator-transmitter.

1908: Geiger counter – Hans Geiger, Germany

1913: Assembly line – Henry Ford, USA

1914: Zip fastener – Otto Frederick Gideon Sundback, Sweden

1921: Motorway – AVUS, Berlin, Germany

1924: Black-and-white television – Vladimir Kosmich Zworykin, Russia/USA; John Logie Baird, Scotland

Großauftrag für Campbells Soup (USA)