Wolff, Gustav

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WOLFF, GUSTAV (1834–1913), British shipbuilder. Wolff was born in Hamburg to a Jewish family which had been baptized as Lutherans. He came to Liverpool in 1849 to join his uncle, a partner in a large firm of shipowners, and served an apprenticeship in engineering. From 1857 he was a partner in the Belfast shipbuilding firm of Harland & Wolff, which became one of the largest in the world and was also a leading manufacturer of shipping equipment such as marine rope. Much of the prosperity of late Victorian Belfast was due to his firm, which employed 15,000 men at the time of his death. Wolff served as a Unionist (Conservative) member of Parliament for a Belfast seat from 1892 until 1910. Although he was an Anglican, he maintained extensive contacts with the Jewish community in Britain and with overseas Jewish entrepreneurs, such as Albert *Ballin in Germany. Wolff died soon after his firm built its most famous ship. Tragically, it was the S.S. Titanic.


odnb online; dbb, 5, 854–59; M.S. Moss and J.R. Hume, Shipbuilders to the World: 125 Years of Harland & Wolff, 18611986 (1986).

[William D. Rubinstein (2nd ed.)]