Laeiszhalle, Hamburg

Times of war and peace


Shortly before his death in 1901, 72-year old Carl Laeisz appoints three of his top employees as future company managers with a general power of attorney.

His last will contains a clause designating a large sum of money to be paid by F. Laeisz to the City-State of Hamburg for the construction of a concert hall. His widow Sophie Laeisz adds to that sum and the magnificent Laeiszhalle is built.


With the slack-off in shipping in 1907/08 and the terribly somber outlook for sailing ships and the sodium nitrate business, both of which have been a prinicipal source of company revenue to date, the three company directors turn their sights to Africa, more specifically to Cameroon where banana farming is fast becoming a growing industry. Refrigerated ships are needed to transport the bananas to Hamburg. As a result, the F. Laeisz company buys a majority share in the Afrikanische Frucht Companie (AFC).


The English Channel proves disastrous for numerous sailing ships, among them several "Flying P-Liner". Collisions with steamships crossing the Channel result in the loss of the PREUSSEN in 1910 as well as the PANGANI and PITLOCHRY in 1913. The PISAGUA, PARMA and PASSAT suffer serious damage.


F. Laeisz is now the largest privately-owned shipping company in Hamburg. The line's fleet is made up of 18 deep-sea tallships yet not a single steamship.


The PIONIER and PUNGO are the first two refrigerated ships Laeisz has built for banana transport, however, they are never used for this purpose due to the outbreak of World War I.


The Treaty of Versailles stipulates that nearly all German merchant ships are to be turned over to the Allied Forces, an action which would put Laeisz out of business. The company is saved by the mere fact that the majority of its sailing ships are in Chile at this time. As these ships are to be sailed home at the expense of it's owner they are loaded with sodium nitrate, a very scarce resource and sorely needed at that time in Europe. The revenue from the freight and sodium nitrate sales is so high as to enable the repurchase of the majority of sailing ships from the Allies. The organisation takes over the German sailing office “Deutsches Segelschiffskontor“.


Paul Ganssauge, one of the authorised officers employed by Carl Laeisz, enters a partnership with F. Laeisz. Paul Gaussage contributed significantly to the success of the “Deutsches Segelschiffskontor“.


The last of the world’s tall ships, the SS PADUA (today called Kruzenstern), is launched in 1926. During the almost 100-year existence of F. Laeisz, the company has owned and operated a total of 86 sailing vessels, 66 of which bore names beginning with a "P". The PASSAT (now anchored in Lübeck and used as a training ship), the PEKING (now a museum ship on New York's East River), the SS POTOSI (destroyed by a fire in 1922) and the SS PREUSSEN (lost on the English Channel in 1910 after colliding with a steamship) are particularly renowned.

Laeiszhalle Hamburg, endowed by Carl Laeisz
Laeiszhalle Hamburg, donated by Carl Laeisz
AFC promotional sign
AFC promotional sign
Five-masted, full-rigged ship "Preussen"
silhouette of five mast full-rigged ship Preussen
Full-rigged, iron-clad ship "Pluto", 1881-1891
painting of a sailing ship
Banana import from Cameroon
painting of a banana freighter in port
P. Ganssauge sen.
Porträt Paul Ganssauge
The "Peking" in New York City
sailing ship Peking at New York harbour