Holtzapffel & Co. was a tool and lathe making company in London, founded by German immigrant, John Jacob Holtzapffel in 1793. The firm specialized in lathes for ornamental turning, something that was a popular leisure occupation for gentlemen at that time. Many ornamental lathes were bought by the aristocracy, and those made by Holtzapffel & Co. were considered the best.
Between 1785 and 1787, John Jacob Holtzapffel moved from his native Alsace to live in London. In 1793 he started an engineer’s tool business and he sold his first lathe on 31 June 1795, for £ 25-4s-10d, an enormous price at the time. All of Holtzapffel’s lathes were numbered and by the time he died in 1835, about 1600 had been sold. The business was located at 64 Charing Cross Road, London.
John’s son, Charles Holtzapffel (1806–1847) joined the firm in 1827, and continued to run it after his father’s death. He started a five volume series of books entitled Turning and Mechanical Manipulation, containing some 3000 pages, and which came to be regarded as the bible of ornamental turning. The first three volumes were published in 1843, but the final two volumes were completed and published after his death, by his son, John Jacob Holtzapffel (1836–1897). Charles Holtzapffel died in 1847, and his wife Amelia ran the business until 1853. In 1867 Charles and Amelia’s son John Jacob II became head of the firm in 1867. He ran the firm until 1896 and died in 1897. A nephew of Charles, George William Budd, became head of the firm in 1896, but after the end of the 19th century, ornamental turning went out of fashion, and sales declined.