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Biography of the founder - Wertheim

Biography of the founder

Franz Freiherr von Wertheim (1814-1883)

Franz Wertheim was born into a merchant family in Krems, a rural town in Lower Austria on April 12th, 1814. After completing his schooling and apprenticeship, he complemented his technical education with travels to Germany, France and England. Upon his return to Austria, he became a tool salesman. Soon however, he began to produce the tools himself and achieved international recognition for the quality of his wares that were made out of the famous Styrian steel. In 1845, he was awarded a top prize at the international trade and product exhibition.

1847 Franz Wertheim joined the paper mill of his father-in-law as a manager and a shareholder. Soon thereafter he expanded the product offerings by adding new colors and new paper grades, including cigarette paper. He also expanded the company geographically from Austria through the Balkans to the Middle East.

1848 After 6,000 gulden (the equivalent of about 2,700 current Euros) were stolen from his ordinary iron chest, he embarked on the development of a burglar- and fire-proof safe. His designs were innovative and he received a number of patents. When his development work was complete, he became the first entrepreneur in the Austro-Hungarian Empire to commence the manufactoring of safes in 1852 with a staff of 80 employees. His safes quickly gained international acclaim.

Wertheim was a prominent member of the Austrian business community and was active in a number of industry associations. He was ahead of his times with the exemplary treatment of his employees to whom he gave credit for the company's accomplishments. He understood marketing and was always ready to promote his products. He believed that getting people's attention will lead to increased sales. Wertheim was also a sponsor of arts, and his Palais contained a small-size theater stage.

He was respected and well-liked by both the public and within the Emperor's court. In 1869, he accompanied Kaiser Franz Josef I as his personal industry expert to the opening of the Suez Canal. In addition to his business responsibilities, Wertheim was a Representative from Lower Austria in the Parliament from Lower Austria, a member of District Council of Vienna, Deputy Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, President of the Lower Austria's Trade Association and a Curator of the Austrian Museum of Art and Industry.

With continued improvement to his steel safes and the introduction of safety locks, he participated in a number of industry events, including the Vienna International Exhibition in 1873, the South African International Exhibition in Cape Town in 1877, the Paris World's Fair in 1878 and the Sydney International Exhibition in 1879.

He continued to represent Austrian trade associations in his travels abroad. On the eve of his death, he traveled to Moscow to negotiate an international treaty on the protection of industrial properties.

Franz Freiherr von Wertheim died in Vienna on April 3rd, 1883. At the time of his death, he had the title of an Imperial Councilor and held a high rank within the Imperial Court among his many distinctions and medals. He was an honorary citizen of the cities of Krems, Scheibbs, Steyr and Neustift. His industrial estate included the tool factories in Krems and in Neuberg bei Scheibbs, the scythe plants in Himmelau and Wasserleit and the highly acclaimed safe factory in Vienna.