Model of the Borussia, the first Iron screw steamer, built 1855 at F.Schichau, Elbing.

The first half of the Century, 1800 - 1850, shipbuilding had been low in Germany as it were the foreign companies that pioneered and set the standards. Modern German naval architecture and the numerous industries which were closely connected with it was comparatively young.               Around this time the construction of ships gradually changed from wood to iron  and German naval architecture was mere years of apprenticeship as the English competition enjoyed the exclusive confidence of shipping companies and ship-owners. The German ship building companies that were in existence saw that ship building had assumed a new character through the change from wood to iron ships.


The first iron-shipbuilding  yard established was the yard of Fruchtenicht & Brock, at Bredow, Stettin, which  became the Vulcan Shipyard , Stettin in 1851. At the same time the Tischbein Yard at Rostock was founded, which later became the Aktiengesellschaft Neptun. In 1854 an iron foundry at Grabow developed into the Moller & Hollberg Shipbuilding Yard, which later became the Oderwerke Aktiengesellschaft and in 1886 the small shipbuilding yard of Devrient was established at Dantzig, which later became the Johannsen Yard. At this time the machine works and the larger yards passed over to iron construction and stopped building wooden ships. F. Schichau at Elbing  built its first iron steamer at 1855.

At the shipbuilding yard of J.W. Klawitter, Dantzig, the two first iron freight steamers were launched in 1855, while in the same year the old Godefroy wooden-shipbuilding yard at Hamburg, which later became the Reiherstieg Yard, laid the keel of the first iron ocean steamer on the North Sea Coast.

When in 1864 Sleswig-Holstein became a German Province, the Norddeutsche Werft came into being in 1865 at the newly created Naval harbor of Kiel and in 1879 this yard was amalgamated with the Maschinenbau-Gesellschaft , formerly Egells, at Berlin, and since 1882 it had been forming, in conjunction with that company the "Aktien Gesellschaft Germania".

ss Bremen,The first Trans Atlantic steamer of the Nordeutscher Lloyd, built 1858, Caird & Co., Greenock.

After the foundation of the German Empire and simoultaniously with the upward movement experienced by all the maritime industries, further shipbuilding companies were established , such as the Flensburg Shipbuilding Yard at Flensburg and the Jos. L. Meyer Yard at Papenburg in 1872, the Howaldt Works at Kiel in 1876, Blohm @ Voss at Hamburg in 1877,

G. Seebeck at Bremerhaven in 1878 and Henry Koch at Lubeck in 1885. After a pause F. Dantzig established a branch at Dantzig in 1892, the F. Schichau, Dantzig.

The Bremen Vulcan Yard was founded out of two old wooden-shipbuilding yards in 1893, and in 1895 the Eider Werft was founded at Tonning, and finally in 1905 in connection with the harbor inprovements made at Emden, the North Sea Works at Emden were founded , and on the Weser the branch of J. Frerichs & Co. at Einswarden near Nordenham. Prior to that time the larger yards which had been building wooden ships had passed over to iron construction.  Among them the "Weser" Shipbuilding Company at Bremen, formerly  Carsten Waltjen & Co. ( 1871), F. W. Wencke at Bremerhaven ( 1872), Brandenburg (1873), and Stulcken (1875) at Hamburg, Tecklenborg at Geestemunde, Nuschke at Stettin (1886), and finally Rickmers at Bremerhaven (1890).

For some of these yards, especially the Vulcan Shipyard in Stettin, the year 1873 became one of signal importance, owing to the fact that von Stosch, then Minister of Marine, had, on the occasion of the introduction of the bill for the establishment of a German Navy, defined once for all the relations between the German Navy  and the German Industries.

In addition to the German warships which were entrusted to German yards, orders were also received from foreign companies. Thus the German shipbuilding industry was given not only an oppurtunity for strenuous work, but also-and this was no less important- a chanche to collect experience of their own.

The German mercantile marine, however, preserved an attitude of abeyance for some time longer.The fitting up of the yards with the necessary improvements to enable them to meet the new requirements was necessarily a gradual process.

The upward movement of German commerce, the expansion of Germanies over-

Stern frame of the ss Bremen, ( A.G. Weser.)

sea interests and the imperative desire to secure the German over-sea business to to the German flag made it incumbent upon the shipping companies to avoid all delay in procuring the necessary number of ships. And this explains why it was that for more than a decade after the establishment of the German Empire the ironship building yards were employed only in the construction of smaller vessels for the German mercantile fleet, and that all the materials for the construction of ships intended for the Trans-Atlantic service had to be drawn from England, for in addition to the fact that the shipbuilding industries  in that country were at that time on a much higher plan than in Germany. England offered two further advantages, namely , greater cheapness of material and greater dispatch in supplying it. Under these circumstances, German shipbuilding for the mercant fleet had great difficulties to contend with during theses years.

Finally a decisive turn in Germany  in 1879 when the subsidy law for government mail steamers went into effect and when the Norddeutscher Lloyd  entrusted to the Stettin Vulcan the construction of the first Imperial Mail steamers.

These steamers formed the bridge between the great German shipping companies and the German shipbuilding industry.

They were the first passenger steamers of large dimensions built in Germany. The same as the German Navy has ever since Stoch's time adhered tot the principle of having its ships not only built in German yards but also of a German material, so it was stipulated for the government mail steamers also that German material should be used in their construction as far as practible. The Norddeutscher Lloyd afterwards laid down this principle also for its other ships as soon as it had satisfied itself as to the capabilities of the German yards. The German rolling mills likewise profited by this circumstance and equipped themselves for the production of shipbuilding material, so as to be able to compete more and more succesfully with other Countries.

Until the Norddeutscher Lloys placed its orders for the Imperial Mail steamers with German builders, only two large passenger steamers had been built in Gerrmany.

One at the Stettin V ulcan yard and the other at the Reiherstieg Yard at Hamburg. These steamers had displacements of about 3500 tons each. The first Government mail steamers , Preussen, Bayern and Sachsen, in the lengthening of which Blohm & Voss yard at Hamburg accomplished a masterpiece that had been much commented upon, already showed displacements of  4500 tons and an enigine efficiency of 4000 horsepowers each.

The three steamers which were built next, the Stettin ,

Replacement stern frame for  the Express stemaer Kaiser Wilhelm der grosse,

Weight over 84 tons and completely finished in 48 days.

Lubeck and Danzig ,were of 1800 tons and 1600 horsepower

After the Norddeutscher Lloyd had thus led the way,its example was followed by other shipping companies. The confidence in German naval architecture increased, and with the growing confidence there was also a gradual increase of orders, which by now where more and more withdrawn from English yards in favor of German works.

The Norddeutscher Lloyd had ever since been the best customer of the German shipyards. Soon after the completion of the first government mail steamers, the Lloyd took another step forward on the road on which it had struck out by entrusting the Stettin Vulcan, during the years 1888-1890, also with the construction of fast Express steamers, namely the s.s. Kaiser Wilhelm II (1st), afterwards Hohenzollern, the Spree and the Havel. The last two were of 6963 gross register tons, with an engine efficiency of 11.500 HP, giving them a speed of  18.5 miles an hour. These steamers were the last of the first  German Express steamer period, which was inaugurated in 1881, when the first German Express steamer, the Elbe, built in England entered the service. She was followed in the course of  the next ten years by eight more similar steamers. Their speed was from 16 knots (Elbe) to 18 knots ( Lahn). The type of these first express steamers  represented a progress over the type of steamers theretofore employed in the passenger service in as much as the first class, untill then in the aft part of the ship,was transfered to amidships. Futhermore a long central deckhouse was erected on the upperdeck, with a promenade deck

above it, while in the main deck a Dining Room extending from one side of the ship to the other was built. While in  the earlier passenger steamers the cabins and public rooms, with a view to the large number of passengers to be carried, had already been furbished with a certain amount of comfort, so as to make them desirable resting places, these rooms were henceforth fitted with unheard-of elegance, which gave the German decorators and furnishers oppurtunities to distinguish themselves by their superior work. The swift steamer with accommodations for about 1200 passengers, in addition to the crew, was transformed

Steamer Elber, 1881, of 4510 Gross Register tons, built at Elder & Co, Glasgow.

into a first class hotel, divided into several stories, with Dining - and Smoke Rooms, Reading and Writing Rooms,  connected by their wonderful Staircases, forming the well known "Opulence at sea"  being the oceanliners we all love so much as they earned their  place in  history and hearts.