Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, Founder of Harland & Wolff

Is your surname Wolff?

Research the Wolff family

Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, Founder of Harland & Wolff's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Related Projects

Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, Founder of Harland & Wolff

Birthplace: Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
Death: April 17, 1913 (78)
42 Park Street, London, England (United Kingdom)
Immediate Family:

Son of Moritz Wolff and Fanny Maria Wolff

Occupation: Co-founder Harland and Wolff
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
view all

Immediate Family

About Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, Founder of Harland & Wolff

Gustav Wilhelm Wolff

Gustav(e) Wilhelm Wolff (14 November 1834 – 17 April 1913) was a British shipbuilder and politician. Born in Hamburg, he moved to Liverpool in 1849 to live with his uncle, Gustav Christian Schwabe. After serving his apprenticeship in Manchester, Wolff was employed as a draughtsman in Hyde, Greater Manchester, before being employed by the shipbuilder Edward Harland in Belfast as his personal assistant. In 1861, Wolff became a partner at Harland's firm, forming Harland and Wolff. Outside shipbuilding, Wolff served as a Belfast Harbour Commissioner. He also founded the Belfast Ropeworks served as Member of Parliament for Belfast East for 18 years and as a member of the Conservative and Unionist Party and Irish and Ulster Unionist Party.

Early life

Gustav Wilhelm Wolff was born on 14 November 1834 in Hamburg to Moritz Wolff, a merchant and his wife, Fanny Schwabe. Gustav was brought up in the Lutheran Church as his family had converted from Judaism in 1819.In 1849, aged 15, Wolff left Hamburg to live in Liverpool with his uncle, Gustav Christian Schwabe, a financier. Wolff was educated at Liverpool College;[afterwards he served an apprenticeship at the engineers Joseph Whitworth and Company, in Manchester.] The firm considered Wolff so able, that he was chosen to represent the company at the 1855 Paris Exhibition.After serving his apprenticeship, Wolff was employed by the B. Goodfellow Ltd., a firm based in Hyde, Greater Manchester as a draughtsman. In 1857, due to the intervention of his uncle Gustav Christian Schwabe, Wolff was employed as Edward Harland's personal assistant at Robert Hickson's shipyard at Queen's Island, Belfast. In 1860, Edward Harland recruited Wolff as his business partner, and Harland and Wolff was formed.[

Career at Harland and Wolff Further information: Harland and Wolff

Wolff's early role at Harland and Wolff involved his engineering and managing the yard. Due to Wolff's German Jewish descent, he had links with the Jewish community in Hamburg and in Britain, and was able to attract business to the shipyard. Wolff worked extensively at the yard, and was partly responsible for building of the engine works at Harland and Wolff in 1880.More notably, his company was the first to begin construction of the RMS Titanic. After the conversion of Harland and Wolff to limited company status in 1888, Wolff was appointed as a director. Wolff was able to secure a good relationship with the Hamburg America Line, which was managed by Albert Ballin, a fellow Jew. Wolff officially retired from Harland and Wolff in 1906,although he had not been an active in the business for years beforehand. William James Pirrie who became a partner in 1874 was now the most active. Wolff claimed of the business relationship at Harland and Wolff:

Sir Edward [Harland] builds the ships, Mr Pirrie makes the speeches, and, as for me, I smoke the cigars.

   —Gustav Wilhelm Wolff'' 
view all

Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, Founder of Harland & Wolff's Timeline

November 14, 1834
Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
April 17, 1913
Age 78