Up until 1903 Elektrizitäts-Aktiengesellschaft vorm. Schuckert & Co., Nürnberg (EAG) was one of the most significant competitors of Siemens & Halske AG (S&H). During the course of the 1880s and 1890s, the company principally developed the market in southern Germany. It was not uncommon for EAG to be favored over S&H in the public sector and awarded lucrative contracts. At the time, no one could have foreseen that the competitors would one day merge with one another.
Rooted in Nuremberg – the path to Elektrizitäts-Aktiengesellschaft
The EAG began as a precision engineering workshop which was founded in 1873 by Sigmund Schuckert in a former mill in Nuremberg, the Schwabenmühle. It was here that the production of dynamo machines for the generation of electricity commenced the following year. As of 1879, after moving to larger premises in the Nuremberg suburb of Steinbühl, arc lamps, electrical measuring instruments and headlamps were also produced.
In 1885 the Leipzig businessman Alexander von Wacker became a partner in the company, which henceforth operated under the name of “S. Schuckert & Co.” In the following year it began to produce electric trams, followed in 1887 by the construction and operation of power plants and distribution networks supplying communities and industrial plants.
In 1893, after Sigmund Schuckert withdrew from the management, the company transformed into a stock corporation (Elektrizitäts-Aktiengesellschaft vorm. Schuckert & Co., Nürnberg), with the significant participation of a banking consortium in Cologne.
Expansion continued – and capital requirements increased
EAG became a leading large company in the area of heavy current technology. By 1900 it had built 120 power plants all over Europe – more than its two competitors Siemens & Halske and the Allgemeine Elektrizitätsgesellschaft (AEG) put together.
The Nuremberg company installed over 700 km of electric tramways in 50 cities and equipped them with 1,100 tractor units.
At the turn of the century, EAG had 8,500 employees at 36 branches in Germany alone and numerous agencies in Europe, South America and East Asia.
However, the capital-intensive building and operation of power plants stretched the company’s finances. This phenomenon was typical of the times and affected almost the entire electrical engineering industry in Germany.
In order to receive orders for trams, public lighting and power plants from public authorities, which were usually on a limited budget, it was necessary to offer a package that included the planning, implementation, financing and operation of these large-scale systems. Separate financing and operating companies were founded for this “entrepreneurial business,” as it was known in the electrical engineering industry at the time.
A leader in heavy current technology – the Nuremberg plant in the early 20th century
The dominance of the duo S&H and AEG – and their merger to become Siemens-Schuckertwerke GmbH
After entrepreneurial business had overstretched the finances of many electrical engineering companies and brought them to the brink of ruin, a sweeping concentration process began in 1901, ending with S&H and AEG taking over numerous companies of all sizes. From then on, the electrical engineering industry was dominated by the S&H and AEG duo.
To counter the increased strength of AEG as a result of what was often referred to as the “electrocrisis,” S&H opened merger negotiations with the noticeably weakened EAG, which finally resulted in March 1903 in the combination of S&H’s heavy current departments with EAG – and hence the founding of Siemens-Schuckertwerke GmbH (SSW). The activities of the firm of Siemens were thus divided: S&H was now active in the low-voltage current sector and SSW in the heavy current sector. Highly satisfied with this development, Carl von Siemens, then head of the enterprise, wrote to his nephew Wilhelm: “Congratulations on the agreement with Schuckert, and may it be showered with blessings from heaven.”
Siemens-Schuckertwerke commenced operations on April 1, 1903. The first CEO was Alfred Berliner, who held this position until 1912. In 1927 SSW became a stock corporation and transferred its administrative headquarters from Berlin to Erlangen after World War Two. In 1966 SSW, as one of three parent companies, was absorbed into the newly founded Siemens AG.
Dr. Frank Wittendorfer