Founder Carl Schenck and his legacy
Born in Herborn on 14 November 1835, Carl Schenck was the sixth of 13 children. He went to school in Wiesbaden, and after passing his school certificate in 1854 he studied at the Polytechnische Schule in Karlsruhe, the forerunner of the current Technische Hochschule. As a student he supported himself mainly by giving private lessons. He ended his engineering studies after four semesters out of consideration for his parents, who had to make considerable sacrifices in order to bring up their large family. From 1856 until 1863 he worked for various engineering firms.
With seven years' professional experience under his belt, in 1863 he bought the company Johann Schweizer sen. in Mannheim, which manufactured cranes, scales and test equipment. Under Carl Schenck's management the company enjoyed such an upturn that the workshop, situated in the Jungbusch area of the city, was soon unable to cope with the growing demand, so in 1868 the business was relocated to the outskirts of Schwetzingen.
At the time, weighbridges were still made by hand. Carl Schenck was one of the first to industrialise the production of large weighing machines following drawings and with the growing use of machine tools, which replaced the time-consuming manual labour and filing.
In the early years of the business in Mannheim, Carl Schenck continued to produce his own workshop drawings. But in 1867 this task was handed over to the first technical employee, who is named in the company's list of employees. He was Carl Benz, who would later become one of the pioneers of the German car industry.In July 1869 Carl Kullmann left Johann Schweizer sen. and Carl Elsässer became a partner in the company. On 1 July 1871 the company acquired a third partner in the shape of engineer Hermann Mohr and changed its legal form, becoming a partnership under the name of Schenck, Mohr & Elsässer. The company had three commercial and technical employees and 68 workers.
The development of the scales business was favoured by the growing pace of industrialisation, the expansion of the railways and the rising volume of transported goods - and of course by the standardisation of weights and measures.
In 1868 the North German Confederation had passed a new law introducing the metric system and the kilogram. On 1 January 1872 this unit of measure was formally imposed by the new German Empire.
On 4 May 1879, after returning from the World's Fair in Paris, Carl Schenck gave a speech as the chairman of the Mannheim section of the Association of German Engineers (VDI). It received widespread attention and was reported in the VDI's weekly journal (1879, page 135/6).
In it he also describes the designs commonly used in France, Britain and the United States. The steelyard balance, which developed from an ancient Roman design, was already being used in other countries but was not yet approved in Germany, putting German manufacturers at a certain disadvantage. The steelyard balance was approved for calibration by the Imperial Standards and Calibration Commission on 1 January 1881.
Carl Schenck opens his own factory in Darmstadt
In 1881 Carl Schenck left Johann Schweizer sen. by selling his share and bought a foundry in Darmstadt which was offered for sale by another Mannheim company, Armaturenfabrik Gebr. Reuling. It was here, on 1 October 1881, that he opened his own firm, the "CARL SCHENCK Eisengießerei und Maschinenfabrik Darmstadt GmbH".
To manufacture the weighing machines a new production building was constructed and fitted out with various machine tools, some of which Carl Schenck had specially made to his own plans.