1890 - 1899
New facilities, innovations and growth
Goldschmidt's new factory in Essen went into operation in February following the company's move from Berlin. Its core business was tin plate detinning. It also continued to supply many textile chemicals. Detinning quickly became very successful: by 1892 the workforce had doubled to 120 compared to 1889, and by the company's fiftieth anniversary in 1897 the number had risen to 217.
In the separating plant of the Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt, modern silver electrolysis was introduced to replace traditional sulfuric acid separation. Gold electrolysis followed four years later.
For the time the Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt introduced "Relaxation breaks for workers" of three to six days, depending on length of service. Goldschmidt also allowed its employees to take vacations. In 1906 a guaranteed vacation entitlement was established.
Goldschmidt applied for patents for two of the most important innovations in the firm's history. The patent was for an improved - cyclical - electrolytic detinning process. For the time ever, tin could be separated from tin plate almost completely in one operation. This continuously increased throughput, effectiveness and profits from tin plate detinning. The metallic tin was 99.8 percent pure - a percentage never previously achieved - and was sold under the name "Baum" (tree), a long-time Goldschmidt trademark.
However, perhaps more significant was the licensing of the thermit process developed by Hans Goldschmidt, the inventor of aluminothermics. The high reactivity and heat build-up of the aluminum mixture created by Hans Goldschmidt, which continued to burn independently when ignited, was initially used to produce carbon-free metals such as chrome, ferrochromium and manganese. However, the thermit process really began to enjoy wide-spread use some years later with the rapid development of transportation systems. To this day, it remains the main method used to weld rails for streetcars and railroads, a process essential for rail transport comfort and safety.
Following the introduction of the company health insurance fund the previous year, Goldschmidt set up the Ernst-Stelzer pension fund named after a former foreman. With the company’s relocation to Essen in 1890, the forward-thinking Karl Goldschmidt had already considered it his duty to support with company funds Berlin workers who were too old to move to Essen. This welfare idea gave birth to the new pension fund with an endowment capital of 10,000 Reichsmark. Workers and company paid proportionate contributions, which were used to assist workers and their families in the event of long-term incapacity or death. The Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt had already set up its pension fund in 1885.
In partnership with the Aluminium Company, London, the Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt established the Electro-Chemische Fabrik Natrium GmbH in Frankfurt am Main. This company built a facility in Rheinfelden on the Upper Rhine where Europe's hydroelectric power station had just gone into operation. The facility was used to manufacture metallic sodium using fusion electrolysis based on a process developed by Hamilton Y. Castner. The Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt needed sodium to produce cyanide salts. Production began in 1899. In the same year the sodium peroxide plant also began operation. Over the years the Rheinfelden facility - wholly owned by the Scheideanstalt after 1919 - became the springboard for various developments, especially in the field of active oxygen compounds (per compounds) and the pyrogenic silicic acid AEROSIL®.
In the same year, a majority-owned subsidiary of AEG, the Elektrochemische Werke GmbH, was also established in Rheinfelden. It also used energy from the new hydroelectric power station. Its executive director was the chemist Walter Rathenau, the son of AEG founder Emil Rathenau. Walter Rathenau was later foreign minister of the Weimar Republic until his assassination in 1922. The rock salt obtained on site in Rheinfelden was electrolytically separated into chlorine and sodium at the facility; the chlorine was processed into chloride of lime, the sodium into soda lye. After passing through the hands of Chemische Werke Griesheim Elektron and Dynamit Nobel AG, the facility was acquired by Hüls in 1988. During the 1999 merger between Degussa AG and Hüls AG the two Rheinfelden facilities were combined into one. They had undertaken cooperative projects previously though. Silicon tetrachloride had been produced since 1942 in the future Hüls facility. This chemical compound was used in Degussa's neighbouring facility to produce the pyrogenic silicic acid AEROSIL®.
The "Workers Committee" was elected, which represented the interests of the workers vis-à-vis the management of the Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt and participated in wage settlements. The "Executives Committee" for the company's white-collar workers was elected in 1901. It was not until February 1920 that the "Works Council Law" introduced government legislation concerning the participatory rights of employees.
The public rail welding using the thermit process developed by Hans Goldschmidt was commissioned by the Essen Streetcar Company. The welded joint was pressed together, packed in a mold and the thermit weld mass ignited over it in a crucible. Liquefying at approx. 3,000°C, the steel mass flowed into a rail gap, where it cooled quickly. The weld then only had to be reground and was soon fit for traffic. Until the World War, the thermit process was mainly used for streetcar lines and private railroads, while the large railroad companies remained skeptical.
Go to1900 - 1909