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The de Wendel Family is an industrialist family from Lorraine, France. In the 19th and 20th centuries the family gained might both industrial and political. As a result, they also attracted controversy as an icon of French capitalism. Following the nationalisation of the French steel industry in 1978, they became a successful investment company (Wendel Investissement).



The BeginningEdit

In 1704, Jean-Martin Wendel, the son of an officer, acquired the forges de La Rodolphe in Hayange. In 1727 he received confirmation of ancient nobility by Leopold, Duke of Lorraine. Exploiting local supplies of iron and wood, Wendel and his son Charles built Hayange into the largest iron enterprise in Lorraine in the eighteenth century.[1]

In the 1780s, at the end of the Ancien Régime, Charles’ son Ignace, built France's most technologically advanced forge at Le Creusot[1] Following the death of Charles de Wendel in 1784, his widow kept the enterprise going into the years of the Revolution. During this time many members of the DeWendel emigrated.

The Revolutionary government confiscated Hayange in 1795. The same year Ignace de Wendel, who was praised in Goethe's diary, died in Weimar.

After the revolutionEdit

ln 1803, when Napoleon offered an amnesty to émigrés, Francois de Wendel, the son of lgnace, returned from exile.

He rebuilt and modernized the furnaces and on his death in 1825, the Wendel concern was the third largest iron enterprise in France.

Francois de Wendel’s successors - his son Charles and son-in-law Theodore de Gargan - greatly expanded operations at Hayange and Moyeuvre in the 1840s and 1850s. Moreover, both plants were connected by rail to the company's coal mines and coke furnaces at Stiring-Wendel and at Seraing in Belgium thereby alleviating a chronic shortage of coal and coke.[1] In 1870, Wendel et Cie was the largest iron company in France, employing some 7,000 workers and producing 134,500 tons of pig iron and 112,500 tons of iron a year

Lorraine was annexed by Germany from 1870 to 1918, disrupting the operations. During this period, Henri de Wendel (1844–1906) acquired the process invented by the British engineers Thomas and Gichrist to produce steel. Wishing to own a factory in France, the Wendels, associated with the Schneiders and the Seillière bank, founded the Jœuf factory in 1882.[2]

Final yearsEdit

Henri's three sons were running the company when the enterprise was at its peak before the Second World War began. The Wendels were expelled from Lorraine by the Germans and the factories confiscated. At the end of the war, the industrial situation changed. In 1946, coal mines were nationalised; the last historical great master of forges, François II de Wendel, died in 1949. The company, still directed by the family, suffered, in 1978, the great turmoil that weakened European steel-making and the entire de Wendel empire was nationalised without indemnity.[2] It was then converted into a successful investment company under Ernest-Antoine Seillière, who later became chairman of MEDEF, the French association of business employers.


  1. ^ a b c Smith, Michael Stephen (2006). The Emergence of Modern Business Enterprise in France, 1800-1930. Harvard University Press. p. 182. ISBN 0-674-01939-3. 
  2. ^ a b Musée d'Orsay. "The De Wendel Company, Three Centuries of Industry in Lorraine (1704-2004)". Retrieved 22 Sep 2010. 

Mats Lilland