Port Elizabeth of Yore: James Mangold – The Man and the Company

Behind every successful company established in Port Elizabeth was an innovative entrepreneur. In the case of Mangold Engineering, it was James Christian Mangold, by training an ironworker and mechanic. James would establish Mangold Brothers in 1878 together with his brother Carl Christian which would rapidly become the largest engineering company in Port Elizabeth besides the Baakens River..

Main picture: Mangold Engineering in Horton Street in 1966

The Man

Having been born in Germany in 1848, in 1865 at the age of seventeen James Christian Mangold embarked on a long and arduous journey from Esslingen in Germany. His destination was far away from Esslingen am Neckar a city in the Stuttgart Region of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. When next he stepped off the vessel, he went ashore at Cape Town.

Little is known of his early years in South Africa except that his wife Augusta was to bear him eleven children. The next that is heard of James is that after six years in the Cape Colony he established a small engineering firm in Port Elizabeth in 1871. It appears to have been situated in Baakens Street The company’s focus was on agricultural irrigation and general engineering projects in Port Elizabeth and the hinterland.


On the 15th October 1882, electric light was exhibited in Port Elizabeth for the first time by the South African “Brush” Electric Light and Power Co. Three lamps in the Market Square and three on the Hill were lit by a generator housed at Mangold Bros’ “Phoenix Works” in Baakens Street and kept on between 8.30 pm and midnight.

Either Mangolds already possessed a generator which was used to illuminate the premises at night or, less probably, they acquired one specially to advertise the advantage of electricity to the residents of Port Elizabeth. Whatever the reality was, it is indicative that Mangold was a progressive businessman as he embraced new ideas and innovations.

Mangold’s Baanbreeker purchased by Mr. Dickason in 1931, now on display

1894 Advert of Messrs. Mangold Brothers

From very small beginnings, the firm of Mangold Brothers, engineers, brass and iron founders, coppersmiths, etc., by dint of pluck and hard work, have succeeded in working their way into the front rank in their particular line of business. It is very doubtful whether there is to be found anywhere in Cape Colony an engineering and foundry works more completely equipped with the best and latest improved machinery of all descriptions than the large and commodious establishment of Messrs. Mangold Brothers, in Baakens Street, Port Elizabeth. Their workshops are laid out upon the most approved modern plan, and while there is no overcrowding of machinery, and the men in charge of each particular machine or tool have ample room to work in, there is no space wasted, and the whole of the work is well under the eye of the master.

The machinery, consisting of lathes, planing, shaping, slotting, drilling, and other machine tools, is all driven by a beautifully compact gas engine, which, although capable of developing some twenty-five horsepower, works as smoothly as clockwork, and makes far less noise than a sewing machine. In addition to their engineering and foundry department, where orders for complete machines, parts of machinery, castings, etc, can be executed at the shortest possible notice and in the best style of workmanship, Messrs. Mangold Brothers have on hand a large stock of portable and fixed steam engines by various makers, with horizontal or vertical boilers; steam pumps of all descriptions, suitable for irrigation, drainage, and other purposes; agricultural machinery and implements, horse gears, and in fact, pretty well everything in the shape of machinery in general use, for which there is a regular demand in South Africa.

James Christian Mangold

Messrs. Mangold Brothers make a special feature of the construction and erection of wool-washing machinery and have put up some of the largest wool-washing plants at Uitenhage and elsewhere. They also undertake the erection and repairs of all kinds of motors, such as steam and gas-engines; and of printing, wool-washing, grinding, sawing, woodworking, and all other descriptions of machinery employed in South Africa.


Amongst the special productions of the firm of Mangold Brothers, their excellent Germania windmills deserve prominent mention. These mills are specially designed to meet the conditions of the South African climate, and supply the requirements of agriculturists, millers, and others requiring an economical and easily handled motor. They are adapted to drive pumps, corn mills, and in fact, all descriptions of light machinery. The “Germania” windmills have been exhibited at all the principal exhibitions and agricultural shows and have carried off a long list of prizes. They are entirely self-regulating, and beyond occasional oiling, require no attention whatever. Hundreds of these mills are in use all over South Africa, and they have given universal satisfaction. Samples of these mills are always on view at Messrs. Mangold Brothers’ establishment in Baakens Street.

Innovation and expansion

Before the turn of the century, Mangolds was well-known as suppliers of irrigation and agricultural machinery, ornamental casting work and the manufacture of wool presses and woolwashing installations.

In these early days, well-boring was unknown in South Africa until Mangold pioneered the use of the first deep well-boring plant in 1878. This was a steam driven machine of timber construction which Mangolds imported from America. Following this venture, other irrigation projects including pumping installations became a familiar sight on farms in South Africa.

Apart from the manufacture of agricultural machinery to its own designs and patents, the company expanded its activities  as distributors and agents of overseas products such as “Crossley” suction gas and oil engines, agricultural implements, pumps, drilling machines, cream separators, tractors and windmills.

Sawmill operations

In 1890 the company established a sawmill and acquired considerable forest property near Storms River in the Tsitsikamma. Frank Mangold was sent by his father to run the sawmill. A system of pullies was established to convey the logs from the top of the cliff at the mouth of the Storms River down to lighters which conveyed the logs to the waiting Clara which anchored there.

The SS Clara on North End beach

Not only were indigenous trees felled for wagon building, timbers and railway sleepers, but large tracts of country were put under pine and gum afforestation. As no roads existed in those days, considerable engineering enterprise was adopted to convey the company’s products to the mouth of the Stormsriver and then by pontoon to the 138-ton company owned vessel, the S.S. Clara, purchased in 1900, which transported the timber to Port Elizabeth for distribution.

Considerable pressure was applied on the government by Mangolds to open up transport facilities to their mill which also embrace operations at Coldstream. As a result of this, the narrow gauge railway line was extended to Assegaaibosch from Humansdorp in June 1906 and following pressure from the farmers of the Langkloof, to Avontuur in December 1906.

The beautiful indigenous forest of Yellowwoods, Stinkwood, Assegaiwood etc unfortunately fell to the axe with Yellowwoods for example being in high demand to make sleepers for the railways. The Clara was one of the vessels that came ashore during the infamous gale of 1902 but lived to sail another day

Mr. James Mangold Junior

Contribution to the war effort

During the South African War (1899-1901) and the First World War (1914-1918) Mangold’s workshops were used for ship repair work and the production of munitions.

Early in 1940, the Directors realised the company’s services would, for a third time, be required for similar purposes. The Government’ s survey of the Union’s production and repair facilities elicited a response that Mangold’s workshops would be entirely at its disposal for war work, and it was decided by the Government that Mangolds should devote their activities to ship repair work.

In the early stages of the war the work consisted mainly of alterations and additions to the bridge structure of merchant ships. “Bridge Protection” was designed by the Company and this design was subsequently adopted as standard by the authorities in Port Elizabeth for all ensuing work of this description.

“Degaussing of ships” also formed a large item of work and vast quantities of piping and fittings were used to complete the degaussing of large and small ships. Mangolds undertook the complete mechanical side of the degaussing of the Ile de France the biggest ship ever to enter Port Elizabeth. Degaussing involved a considerable amount of work for fitters, welders, pipe fitters, plumbers, sheet metal workers, shipwrights and carpenters.

The vast expansion of work the company was called on to undertake soon showed that the Phoenix Iron Works in Baaken’s Street, which had been used for over 70 years, were far too small to cope with the volume of work to be undertaken. The company built a large temporary workshop in the harbour area for the exclusive work in connection with ship repairs. At the same time the company proceeded to draw up plans for a completely new works and foundry to cope with the increased demand. Unfortunately, due to delays experienced in obtaining essential equipment the new works and foundry now in use, were not ready to undertake any ship repair work until just before the cessation of hostilities with Japan.

The expansion of work resulted in it being necessary to split activities into separate though correlated divisions for engine room work, boiler room work, and deck work respectively.

Mangolds undertook complete refits to H.M. vessels, including frigates, corvettes and mine-sweepers, etc.

Deck work carried out included repairs to winches, derricks, funnels, masts, ventilators, portholes, lifeboats, cooling chambers, galleys, hot and cold water installation, water and ballast tanks, making life rafts, launching gear for same, gun platforms, etc. Complete degaussing installations were fitted on 34 merchant ships and 17 tankers.

Boiler repair work included complete overhauls of every class of marine boiler.

Apart from engine room refits for H.M. ships, a large number of engine room refits in merchant ships were also undertaken which necessitated in some cases the making of large liners for 2- stroke Diesel engines.

Early in 1940, after the fall of France, 2 Vichy ships were towed into the harbour with heavily damaged engine rooms requiring complete engine refits. One of these, the “Cap Padaran,” had a dynamited air pump and damaged turbine while the “Cap Touraine” had been sabotaged by means of a handful of 5/8-in. bolts hurled into the gearbox of the L. P. turbine rotor weighing 71/2, which had to be lifted bodily from the ship and was re-machined in our workshop, whilst, in the cast for the “Cap Padaran,” the detective air pump was taken to our workshops where patterns were made, and a new pump supplied- all machining being done by Mangolds.

Another very ticklish job was undertaken to the troopship “Alamanzora” which entered the harbour for rudder repairs. Normally this would have been a drydock job, but it was undertaken by the erection of staging over the water at a period when weather condition, were extremely foul. Tribute must be paid to the men’s lion-hearted courage and grit for sticking on the job day after day and night after night in their determination to minimise delay to the vessel. The steering engine had to be removed to enable the rudder post and quadrant to be lifted and the whole rudder was refixed in a highly satisfactory manner.

During the war Mangolds effected repairs to 518 ships, and at the peak period were working with a staff of 548.

ln addition to ship repair work Mangolds also had to manufacture for the· Director- General of Supplies a number of “Mangold’s Lucerne King Cultivators” which were adopted for work on numerous airfields which were constructed to accommodate the expanding air force under the Empire Training Scheme.

The company’s sawmill at Storms River were also fully engaged for the Department of Defence and Eastern Group Supplies Council and made vast quantities of mallets, tent poles, pegs, pick and hammer handles, etc.

Separation of Engineering

At some stage, Mangolds built an extensive engineering workshop and offices in Horton Street on the bank of the Baakens River. This must have occurred prior to 1908 as these premises were extensively damaged during the flood that year.

In 1955 the engineering branch of the firm was placed into a separate company, Mangolds Engineering Limited. The majority of the shares of this entity were taken over by Mr. James C. Mangold, the grandson of the founder.  

Foundry in Neave Township

During 1959 acquired new foundry premises in Neave Industrial Township. They also entered into a licensing agreement with the Meehanite Research and Development Association of South Africa which not only increased the casting facilities available in Port Elizabeth but also resulted in the production of casting of an improved quality.

Mangolds foundry in Neave in 1966 was commissioned in 1959


Port Elizabeth: From a Border Garrison Town to a Modern and Industrial City edited by Ramon Lewis Leigh (1966, Felstar Publishers, Johannesburg)


  1. 2022 we have a windmill in our back yard made by Mangold Brothers it is in need of some repairs but overall seem to be well worth restoring. Would there be anybody interested to come and investigate and advise on repairs? We are based in Johannesburg. Please feel free to contact tact me.


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