The picture of entrepreneurs as painted in commemorative volumes of the mining industry from 1920 to 1970
The entrepreneurial personalities of the Ruhr industry founding era shaped the public's perception of the Ruhr region's industrial elite well into the 1950's. The industrialists were the "Lords of the Ruhr" and as such were regarded as the elite of Ruhr society. However, since the 1970's, the public itself and discourses on the region have made little mention of the industrial elite. One central thesis is that the normalisation of the class structure and the relationship between the classes in the Ruhr area has led to a social, cultural and semantic loss of importance of the traditional industrial elite.
The change in the public's perception of the industrial elite is also illustrated by the way the coal, iron and steel industrialists are portrayed in the commemorative volumes published by the companies themselves. These are publications describing the history of a company which appear to mark a company jubilee or the opening of a new production facility or in honour of an outstanding company personality or as a book of the year to be presented to the staff. Although these publications have never claimed to be based on scientifically researched facts and were written for a different purpose, they have gained a historical and near-scientific character. As they postulate the company's standpoint, they contain arguments with which the entrepreneurs and captains of industry substantiate and legitimise their position and significance both in the company and for the economy as a whole.
The article analyses the change in the picture of entrepreneurs in the Ruhr area from 1920 to 1970 on the basis of a representative cross-section of commemorative volumes published by the coal, iron and steel companies. It shows that the change in the picture of entrepreneurs can be divided into four periods which are determined by political and economic turning points and which can be identified by the characteristics attributed to the entrepreneurs of that particular time.