ESSEN, a manufacturing town of Germany, in the Prussian Rhine province, 22 m. N.E. from Düsseldorf, on the main line of railway to Berlin, in an undulating and densely populated district. Pop. (1849) 8813; (1875) 54,790; (1905) 229,270. It lies at the centre of a network of railways giving it access to all the principal towns of the Westphalian iron and coal fields. Its general aspect is gloomy; it possesses few streets of any pretensions, though those in the old part, which are mostly narrow, present, with their grey slate roofs and green shutters, a picturesque appearance. Of its religious edifices (twelve Roman Catholic, one Old Catholic, six Protestant churches, and a synagogue) the minster, dating from the 10th century, with fine pictures, relics and wall frescoes, is alone especially remarkable. This building is very similar to the Pfalz-Kapelle (capella in palatio) at Aix-la-Chapelle. Among the town’s principal secular buildings are the new Gothic town-hall, the post office and the railway station. There are several high-grade (classical and modern) schools, technical, mining and commercial schools, a theatre, a permanent art exhibition, and hospitals. Essen also has a beautiful public park in the immediate vicinity. The town originally owed its prosperity to the large iron and coal fields underlying the basin in which it is situated. Chief among its industrial establishments are the famous iron and steel works of Krupp (q.v.), and the whole of Essen may be said to depend for its livelihood upon this firm, which annually expends vast sums in building and supporting churches, schools, clubs, hospitals and philanthropic institutions, and in other ways providing for the welfare of its employees. There are also manufactories of woollen goods and cigars, dyeworks and breweries.
Essen was originally the seat of a Benedictine nunnery, and was formed into a town about the middle of the 10th century by the abbess Hedwig. The abbess of the nunnery, who held from 1275 the rank of a princess of the Empire, was assisted by a chapter of ten princesses and countesses; she governed the town until 1803, when it was secularized and incorporated with Prussia. In 1807 it came into the possession of the grand dukes of Berg, but was transferred to Prussia in 1814.
See Funcke, Geschichte des Fürstenthums und der Stadt Essen (Elberfeld, 1851); Kellen, Die Industriestadt Essen in Wort und Bild (Essen, 1902); and A. Shadwell, Industrial Efficiency (London, 1906).