1840 - 1869

The roots of the Chemical Business of Evonik Industries


The Frankfurt Senate decided to rent the new precious metal separating works attached to the mint opened in 1840 to mint assayer Friedrich Ernst Roessler against a lease and security, to run as his own business. Roessler, a technician with an entrepreneur's far-sightedness, opened the separating works on January 2, thereby laying one of the foundations of today's Evonik Industries AG.


Chemist Theodor Goldschmidt founded the Chemische Fabrik Th. Goldschmidt in Berlin on December 8, another root of today’s Evonik Industries AG. The business was initially located on the Köpenicker Chaussee, immediately next to the calico printing works R. Goldschmidt & Söhne, one of Berlin's largest fabric-processing factories; its executive directors were Theodor Goldschmidt's uncles Karl and Eduard. Accordingly, the young chemical factory first primarily supplied products for textile refining, including preparing salt (sodium stannate), dextrin, and chloride of lime, tin salt and small amounts of stannic chloride.


Only two years after his factory was founded, Theodor Goldschmidt decided to move it because he needed more space. He chose a site on Berlin's Landwehr Canal. This laid the foundation for the, although still tentative, expansion of operations.


Shortage of space also necessitated changes at the Frankfurt separating works. There was not enough room at the mint to process by-products from the then customary separation of gold and silver using sulfuric acid. Consequently Friedrich Ernst Roessler built a chemical-technical laboratory immediately next to Frankfurt’s Schneidwallgasse. The location was to be the headquarters of Degussa AG and the Frankfurt site of Evonik Industries AG for the next 150 years.


Hector, the oldest son of Friedrich Ernst Roessler, took over management of the chemical-technical laboratory on Schneidwallgasse. In the same year he also started producing silver nitrate and a year later potassium cyanide. Potassium cyanide was required for electroplating; large quantities of it were needed in later years, as they still are today, for gold leaching. Thus, chemicals became an early addition to the metal division of Roessler's business.


Following the Austro-Prussian war, the city of Frankfurt lost its political autonomy and became part of Prussia. The mint works was now a royal Prussian department under the finance minister in Berlin. He took mint assayer Friedrich Ernst Roessler into his service. As a result Roessler had to withdraw from the private-sector separating business. The government terminated the lease on the premises in the mint building and permitted Roessler to take over the "fiscal separating works equipment against payment of the value of the raw materials and supplies" for his two oldest sons Hector and Heinrich, both trained chemists. Heinrich Roessler moved the precious metal separating business out of the mint to the nearby Hector Roessler chemical-technical laboratory on Frankfurt's Schneidwallgasse. A further factory was built for this laboratory on Gutleutstraße in Frankfurt am Main, on the site of Degussa's future Frankfurt facility, which since 2001 has belonged to the American company Ferro Inc.


Under the name Friedrich Roessler Söhne, the brothers Hector and Heinrich opened the Frankfurt Edelmetall-Scheideanstalt on January 1 as a purely private company. The precious metal business remained in the city center for over 100 years. In 1972 it was moved to the newly built metal works on the site of the then Wolfgang subsidiary, now the Wolfgang Industrial Park in Hanau. The precious metal separating business was sold off in August 2000 to the Norddeutsche Affinerie, Hamburg, which moved the business to the Elbe. Today the former metal works in Wolfgang Industrial Park is part of the Belgian Umicore Group.

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