1870-1889

Founder era and founder crisis

1873

When the German Reich was established in 1871, the currency was changed to the Mark, the unified Reich gold currency. This rendered all the old currency (Gulden and Taler) of the smaller German states worthless. The new Marks and Pfennigs had to be minted using the precious metal recovered from the now defunct coinage. The Frankfurt-based company Friedrich Roessler Söhne was technically equipped to handle the anticipated large separating contracts, but lacked the capital, as the German Reich required large guarantees. The brothers Hector and Heinrich Roessler therefore decided to convert their company into a joint stock company. Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt, formerly Roessler, was established on January 28, 1873.

1875

The foreign base for the Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt (Degussa AG since 1980) was set up in Austria. Louis Roessler, the fifth son of the mint warden, established an agency in Vienna. From these beginnings the Louis Roessler Ges.m.b.H emerged in the 1930s after several intermediate stages and the start of inhouse production. Following Austria's annexation by Hitler’s Germany, the company was amalgamated with other Vienna bases in 1940 into a branch of the Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt. After World War II it went to the former Soviet Union as “German property”. As a result of the Austrian State Treaty (1955) it then went into Austria's possession. The company was bought back through a holding company by Degussa and renamed the Österreichische Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt vormals Roessler.

The Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt insured its employees “…against both temporary and permanent incapacity to work” with the Allgemeine Versicherungsbank in Leipzig. Statutory health and accident insurance was not introduced in Germany until eight or nine years later.

The death of company founder Theodor Goldschmidt on January 4 was a severe blow to the Chemische Fabrik Th. Goldschmidt, occurring in the midst of the so-called “Founder crisis.” The poor state of the Berlin textile trade had already reached a critical point in 1873, following competition in 1871 from Alsace-Lorraine's sophisticated textile industry. This led to many bankruptcies, including that of R. Goldschmidt & Söhne. For Chemische Fabrik Th. Goldschmidt, the Berlin location was no longer an advantage as its customers were now in the western part of the new German Reich. On the death of their father, sons Karl and Hans were still minors. The trust management of the company by their brother-in law, chemist and Africa explorer Otto Kersten, helped to fill the gap. Under Kersten, the company, now an OHG (general partnership), remained on the same track; however, with the manufacture of zinc chloride a new and important business area was added.

1880

The production of heat-resistant gold foil for decorating glass, porcelain and ceramics started, using a process developed by Heinrich Roessler. The gold foil business became a worldwide success. The Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt took over the sales and later the production of the two gold foil manufacturers already operating in Germany. This resulted in many years of agency agreements with Great Britain, France and Russia. The manufacture of other ceramic paints began in 1881 with porcelain artists' paints. Underglaze paints followed in 1882. 1930 saw the advent of various silver burnishers and 1931, the manufacture of glass frits. Offering a wide range of precious metal preparations and decorative paints, plus pigments, frits and underglazes through to special raw materials, the former Degussa became one of the leading suppliers to the ceramics industry with production facilities in the Federal Republic of Germany - and since 1990 also in Colditz in Saxony, and in Italy, France, Spain, Brazil, Mexico and Japan. The company was sold off in 2001 because it no longer was part of the core business.

1882

Franz Roessler, the sixth son of the mint warden, started production of Frankfurt gold foil in the U.S. - in Brooklyn, New York. The manufacture of other ceramic paints, and also potassium cyanide, acetone and chloroform followed. This led in 1889 to the establishment of the Roessler & Hasslacher Chemical Company in New York, with a production facility in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. In the years that followed, other associated companies and a factory at Niagara Falls were established. It gradually took over the whole production program of the Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt. Unfortunately, however, the company was requisitioned during the World War and was lost.

Since the traditional sulfuric acid separating method in use at the time was beset with serious ventilation problems, Heinrich Roessler developed and patented a “Method to eliminate sulfurous acid from foundry smoke and factory gases using copper sulfate and atmospheric air.” This method, which was adopted by other European separating works, also incorporated a recycling process, namely the recovery of sulfuric acid.

Having recently gained his doctorate in chemistry, young Karl Goldschmidt initially took over sole management of Chemische Fabrik Th. Goldschmidt. From 1888 the brothers Karl and Hans Goldschmidt shared this responsibility for around 30 years. A division of labor was soon defined. Karl Goldschmidt saw himself as an entrepreneur and later became involved in social politics, while the gifted chemist, Hans Goldschmidt, pushed ahead with the technical development of the company.

In the same year experiments began at Goldschmidt in Berlin into the detinning of tin plate waste. Tin was a very expensive commodity in Europe, the raw material being imported mostly from South America. A thin coating of tin transformed ordinary sheet steel into valuable tin plate, one of the foundations of today's consumer goods industry. On the other hand, the iron and steel industries were searching for ways to separate tin from the sheet again. The then new Siemens-Martin process for recovering steel required large quantities of old metal, whereby tin was an unwanted attendant material.

1884

The Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt introduced the eight-hour working day, in the form of so-called “English working hours.” This meant that two half-hour breaks were added to the eight-hour working period so that employees spent a total of nine hours at work. It was not until 1918 that the eight-hour working day became standard practice in Germany under new legislation.

1885

The Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt erected the first new administrative building on the road Schneidwallgasse in Frankfurt am Main - right next to the separating plant. It was the first new administrative building to have manager’s offices and meeting rooms as well as offices for clerical staff and a “telephone exchange.” In 1905 the company had another office building constructed on Weißfrauenstraße. Both buildings were destroyed in the World War II (1944). However, in 1950 another administrative building was erected on Weißfrauenstraße in the still badly destroyed downtown area of Frankfurt. Further buildings followed: the “Skyscraper” at what is now Willy-Brandt-Platz, and the buildings on Seckbächer Gasse, on the Main River and on Neue Mainzer Straße. As part of the reorganization of the present day Frankfurt site, construction work began in 1981 on the site encircled by these buildings, which was then Degussa's administrative headquarters. The so-called Kreuzbau was finished in 1984, and the building to the south, with the company restaurant, two years later. Most of these buildings were demolished by their new owner, DIC, in 2011/2012. Plans call for building the Maintor area in the same location.

1887

The Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt erected the new administrative building on the road Schneidwallgasse in Frankfurt am Main - right next to the separating plant. It was the new administrative building to have manager’s offices and meeting rooms as well as offices for clerical staff and a “telephone exchange.” In 1905 the company had another office building constructed on Weißfrauenstraße. Both buildings were destroyed in the World War II (1944). However, in 1950 another administrative building was erected on Weißfrauenstraße in the still badly destroyed downtown area of Frankfurt. Further buildings followed: the “Skyscraper” at what is now Willy-Brandt-Platz, and the buildings on Seckbächer Gasse, on the Main River and on Neue Mainzer Straße. As part of the reorganization of the present day Frankfurt site, construction work began in 1981 on the site encircled by these buildings, which was then Degussa's administrative headquarters. The so-called Kreuzbau was finished in 1984, and the building to the south, with the company restaurant, two years later.

1888

In Bradford, England, the German-born chemicals trader Bernard Frederick Laporte founded B. Laporte Chemical Manufacturer and Drysalter, a company for manufacturing hydrogen peroxide, which was used as a bleaching agent in the textile industry. Following its great and rapid success, ten years later a new works was built in Luton, north of London. The company's strong growth led in 1908 to the founding of B. Laporte Ltd. Even before the World War, new products containing sodium perborate, sulfurous acid and blanc fixe (for the paper and rubber industries) were available. Barium peroxide was also available as of 1917. Even after the death of its founder in 1924, Laporte initially remained a small company, a typical supplier, mainly to the textile industry.

1889

Following the introduction of electrolytic detinning, the Chemische Fabrik Th. Goldschmidt was credited with developing the industrially viable and at the same time profitable method of recovering tin from tin plate. This had major consequences since the necessary expansion of the Berlin factory, now employing around 60 workers, was not possible. Moreover, the markets for both tin and detinned plate were mainly located in the Rhine-Westphalia industrial region. As a result the company had to move. The relocation started in 1889 with the acquisition of a site with good transport links to the north of Essen. Construction started the same year.

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1890 - 1899