Lepp, Peter Heinrich (1817-1871)
Peter Heinrich Lepp, a pioneer Mennonite industrialist of Russia, was born in Einlage near Chortitza 29 December 1817. His father, Heinrich Lepp, was a carpenter and died when Peter was 13 years old. Since Peter had no inclination to follow agricultural pursuits, to which his stepfather encouraged him, he was permitted at the age of 15 to go to Prussia to learn clockmaking from one of his relatives. Having mastered this, his desire to continue the study of machinery led him to visit German industries. His relatives, fearing that such unsteady life would not be conducive to good character building, sent him back to Russia. Soon after his return he married.
P. H. Lepp bought a home in Chortitza and began to make the typical Mennonite wall clocks, as a rule with two apprentices. Through German book dealers he obtained many books on mechanics and industries and gained an unusual knowledge of science and the manufacture of machinery. Compelled by poor eyesight to discontinue watch- and clock-making, he acquainted himself with foundry work and the building of machinery in Lugansk. In 1853 he produced his first threshing machine in Chortitza and sold it to a large estate owner. By 1861 more of the Russian large estate owners were attracted by his work. His small factory obtained parts from a foundry in Ekaterinoslav, which were often faulty. In 1860 Lepp erected his own foundry to be able to supervise the production of all parts himself. However, his machinery met very strong competition through British import. Since Lepp was able to guarantee his product and replace parts directly at any time, and could also instruct people in the operation of machines, it gradually came to be preferred to the imported machines. It took a long time for him to win the confidence of the banks so that they would lend him the necessary funds to develop his enterprise.
In 1867 the factory produced 115 threshing machines, 50 winnowers, 175 iron horse rakes, 125 chaff cutters, 12 reapers, and 8 trieurs. With the invention of the lobogreyka (reaper) the factory rapidly expanded. Lepp now took as his partner his son-in-law, Andreas Wollman (Wallmann), who possessed some capital. During the early 1880s the new concern became known as Lepp and Wallmann. A branch factory was established in Schonwiese, a suburb of Alexandrovsk, now Zaporozhe. In 1889 the firm employed 250 men in its two factories. During that year 1,200 reapers, 220 threshing machines, 500 winnowers, 15 steam threshers, and 15 boilers were sold. In 1908 the capital stock was 1,200,000 rubles, the output was 900,000 rubles, and 270 men were employed. By 1911-12 the number employed was 700, and by 1914 the capital stock had mounted to 2,400,000 rubles. The Lepp and Wallmann business was the largest of the eight large Mennonite factories in Russia. During the Russian Revolution the factories were nationalized but continued their work.
P. H. Lepp, who died in Prussia while visiting his brother in 1871, did much to revolutionize and improve agriculture in Ukraine. His descendants continued his work.
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"Mennonite Industry in Russia." Mennonite Life 10 (January 1955): 21 ff.
Rempel, David G. "The Mennonite Colonies in New Russia." PhD dissertation, Stanford University, 1933.
Cite This Article
Krahn, Cornelius. "Lepp, Peter Heinrich (1817-1871)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 2007. Web. 24 Jan 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Lepp,_Peter_Heinrich_(1817-1871)&oldid=83141.
Krahn, Cornelius. (2007). Lepp, Peter Heinrich (1817-1871). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 January 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Lepp,_Peter_Heinrich_(1817-1871)&oldid=83141.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 327. All rights reserved.
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