Nina Schläfli

Transnational technology transfers

Launch and establishment of steamship construction at Escher Wyss & Cie.

Ferrum 91/2019

At the beginning of the 19th century, Switzerland not only had no continuously navigable access to the sea but also no ship-building tradition like the major sea-faring nations of the early modern age. When Escher Wyss & Cie. Began building steamships in Zurich in 1836 – 14 years after the introduction of steam navigation on Swiss waters – the company had neither theoretical or practical know-how nor trained and experienced specialists. Drawing on the company’s early history and three friends from Hans Caspar Escher’s network, the paper describes how steamship technology transfer took place and how the development of ship-building became an independent department within the company, leading to the establishment of a new sector during the 1840s and 1850s.

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