A Misnomer Mystery Finally Solved - "The Truth About Koulz's Alloy"
Copyright By David Cassel
April 24, 2002



A Misnomer

A Misnomer Mystery

Finally Solved

 

Copyright

By

David Cassel

Author of

“United States Pattern Postage Currency Coins”

 

 

David Cassel is presenting a follow up article to an interesting subject addressed in his “United States Pattern Postage Currency Coins,” published in 2000, a survey of U.S. pattern Postage Currency 10 cent coins of 1863 and the related issues dated 1868 and 1869.

 

While he has been up-dating his manuscript, post-publication, he decided that a new edition or a revised edition is premature.  Although there have been several areas of new information which account for small changes, a new edition along the lines of his sold out premier edition is not contemplated at this time. However, he decided to write an article to up-date one of the most puzzling aspects of his research, the Koulz’s Alloy ten cent pattern coins of 1869, Judd 716 / Pollock 795, an alloy of silver, nickel, and copper.  



 

From a technical standpoint, I’ll stand pat with my Chapter 9, which deals with the Postage Currency related pattern dimes of 1869.  My continuing research in this area involved not only the coins, but also more so, the man…or, better, the misnomer.  But first, let me lay the groundwork by restating a portion of Chapter 9, which deals with the Koulz’s Alloy pattern coins.  For the following passage will setup my up-date.

 

“A supposed German chemist, Koulz was the inspiration for both the first reverse design, ‘SIL.9’ over ‘NIC.1’ above a line which is over the date ‘1869’ and second reverse design elements, ‘SIL.’ over ‘NIC.’ over ‘COP.’ above a line which is over the slightly curved date ‘1869.’  An effort to garner some additional information on Koulz, proved fruitless.  Regretfully, this cataloguer with the help of numismatists in Germany and the United States using the facilities of libraries, encyclopedias, and the Internet could come up with not a single reference to Koulz, not even his first name, except that in the 600 page German lexicon, Koulz may not be a German name.”

 

‘“What little we know originated in a booklet entitled “Suggestions to Congress of the Finances of the United States” submitted to the Chamber of Commerce of New York, by H. E. Moring, in 1869. This is where, more or less, from the earliest pattern book reference to Koulz found in the Adams and Woodin “United States Pattern, Trial, and Experimental Pieces,” published in 1913 and reprinted in 1959, Dr. Judd, Andrew Pollock and now this cataloger essentially restate what, according to Andrew Pollock III, in “United States Patterns and Related Issues” was offered: 

                                                                                                                                   

 ‘In 1869 the Mint experimented with an alloy consisting of 41% copper, 33% nickel, and 26% silver.  The alloy was invented by the German chemist, Koulz, and promoted by a New York chemist [and Metallurgist, Stefan] Krackowizer.  Dr. Judd in his pattern book quotes the commentary of W. E. DuBois who describes the alloy as follows:  ‘Mr. Eckfeldt made a small bar, and gave it three meltings.  It rolled down with great difficulty, splitting and cracking in spite of all the precaution and annealings.  Mr. Barber made a reverse to try it under the press (using the dime head for the obverse,) and a faint impression was produced in the steam press.  The metal is totally unfit for coinage, and the color is bad.’  Director Pollock considered the ‘Koulz’s alloy’ coinage at some length in his Annual Report of the fiscal year ending June 30, 1869. ‘Under the coining press it was barely possible to produce a feeble impression, on account of the intense hardness, and danger both of breaking the dies and flawing the planchet.  In short, nothing could be more unfit for coinage.’”

 

“With the obverse designed in 1836 by Christian Gobrecht and re-designed in 1859 by James B. Longacre, dimes were created with the dateless Seated Liberty obverse die created during the transition period of 1859 - 1860.  Note the broken “S” serif of the first “S” in “STATES.”  William Barber designed the reverse in 1869. Another interesting mule was created.  Once again, a coin having a common die element with the Postage Currency coins was created.   1869 would be the year that the dateless obverse  element of the Seated Liberty Postage Currency ten cent coins would see its final appearance with two different reverse designs, each, rather plain.”

 

Now, the fun begins.  As previously noted, no supporting evidence of Koulz (the man) was ever found despite the exhaustive effort of many of my numismatic friends and my efforts.  There is no denying that the rare pattern coins attributed to Koulz do exist.

 

Reluctantly, we found the name Koulz may have been a simple typographical error that originated in 1869 with the publication of “Suggestions to Congress of the Finances of the United States” submitted to the Chamber of Commerce of New York, by H. E. Moring.

 

We did find a plethora of information on Montchal Ruolz.

 

Montchal Ruolz  was born in Paris in 1809 and died in Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1887.  Note the similarity in the spelling of Koulz and Ruolz.  Note also how easy a letter “R” might resemble a letter “K”.  A drop of water, for example, on the top of the “R” could blur the letter into looking like a “K”. Note also how simple it would be to transpose “uo” with “ou”, especially if a writer in English were translating the work of a Frenchman.  Consider how easy it might have been for the author Moring or his stenographer to have heard the name Ruolz and mistaken it for Koulz. Of  the highest consideration is how H.E. Moring may have interpreted the name if it had been seen in old German script. This is how the names Koulz and Ruolz would appear in old German script: Koulz Ruolz.  Observe how similar the letter “K” ( K ) is to the letter “R” ( R ).   If Moring saw the letter

                                                                                                                                           

R.  ( R ) in Ruolz he might have thought he was looking at the letter “K”.  Old German script was in common use in 19th century Germany and not so common in 19th century America.

 

The life span of an individual 1809 – 1887 certainly is consistent with the design and striking of a coin in 1869.  Consider also, that author H.E. Moring in 1869, referred to Koulz as a German chemist.  As you will see, Ruolz was a French chemist. 

                                                                                                                               

A French biography stated Ruolz was a scholar and savant who presented at the Opera-Comique in 1830 with F. Halevy.  In 1835 through 1839 Ruolz composed operas, cantatas, and melodies.  Apparently, he was not all that successful as a composer as his brief career, prompted by a reversal of fortune, led him to study in the field of chemistry.  It is in the field of chemistry that the name Ruolz was made famous. Ruolz discovered in 1841, the process for gilding and silver plating metals by the action of  “pile voltaique.”  He gave his name, “Procedure Ruolz” to these procedures by which he could apply with great ease silver or gold to an object by first dissolving silver or gold into cyanide of potassium.  In 1855 while serving in the French Artillery, he discovered how to make steel and how to transform phosphorous metals.  French inventor, Henri-Catherine, Count of Ruolz, Montchal, composer and chemist, obtained as many as seventeen patents in addition to his basic one of 1841 and one of these additions, the twelfth, relates to the nickel-plating of copper, brass, bronze and iron, using a nickel-chloride solution.  Montchal Ruolz had studied electrolytic gilding and, on finding that process satisfactory, he generalized it by applying it to the electro-depositon of other metals, such as silver, platinum,...1
 
Before long an unbelievable large number of trade names (some of which were the registered trademarks of the makers) had been coined for this alloy; these are set out in the table below. Actually it was not until the present century that these copper-nickel-zinc alloys came to be know as nickel-silver, but that designation has been included in this
list for the sake of completeness. "A (partial) list of trade names for Nickel Silver follows: ".….,Nickel oreide, …..., ‘Ruolz’s alloy, ….., White metal, ....
2

A French Patent: 10,472, 1841- for what is referred to as “Ruolz’s alloy was granted in 1841.3

What is known as “Neusilber” (German Silver) is referred to by many designations including “Ruolz’s Alloy. 4

 

Ruolz is defined in a glossary as “A gilded or silvered metal named after the inventor of the process who was a French chemist.” 5

 

The Galvanic Process was perfected in 1839 by the Frenchman Ruolz. 6

 

An abandoned process by the end XVII and early XVIII century for metal plating consisted in the placement of gold or money leaf on a support that was a plate of copper. 

                                                                                                                                            

Then this metal plate disappears and is replaced by the galvanoplastie.  It is a process that consists in depositing the metal on a support and employs the use of electrolysis.  The process was discovered in 1840 by Ruolz.”  7

 

In still another source, the history of plating deals with Ruolz, “In 1842 Ruolz succeeded in depositing metallic alloys from solutions of mixed salts.” 8

 

“Instructions on electrotype copies of Daguerreotype pictures and Magneto electric and Galvanic gilding and silvering was according to the processes of Elkington [sic], Roulz [sic], and Fitzeau.”  9

 

According to “Patent Materials” “In 1843, Bunsen, a German invented a new electric battery, and two years afterward (1845), Elkampton [sic] and Ruolz discovered electro-metallurgy.” 10

 

Most compelling is a German website “Schmucklexikon” (jewelry dictionary): “Argent Ruolz / Argent Francais 37% kuper, 25% nickel, 33% silber,” (Dictionary definition of argent - Archaic silver; figuratively, whiteness, silvery; white; shining.) 11   

 

Apparently, no recognition from “Schmucklexikon” was given the name Koulz when defining “Ruolz’s Alloy,” which is not too dissimilar to the 41% copper, 33% nickel, and 26% silver, as suggested in H. E. Moring’s publication.  Recall also that coin # 44 (Judd 716 / Pollock 795) in “United States Pattern Postage Currency Coins,” tested by electron microscopic analysis contained: 27.4% copper, 42.1 % nickel, and 30.4% silver.  Other “Koulz’s Alloy coins have varying proportions of copper, nickel and silver.  The actual coin design specified only “SIL., NIC., COP.”  No attempt to quantify the relative amounts of the metals was offered on the pattern coins.

 

Another possibility regarding: "Suggestions to Congress of the Finances of the United States" submitted to the Chamber of Commerce of New York, by H. E. Moring, in 1869, New York chemist Krackowizer may have either descended from a person who lived in Krackow, Poland or may be someone pulling our leg, perhaps a "Wizekracker."

We have an overwhelming amount of information published on a scientist, inventor, chemist, with a specialization in metallurgy by the name of Montchal Ruolz.  And, if one discounts the first mention of Koulz’s Alloy, “Suggestions to Congress of the Finances of the United States” 1869 and subsequent mention of Koulz’s Alloy, which undoubtedly stem from the first mention, we must conclude that the name Koulz was substituted for the name  Ruolz.  Later mention of “Koulz’s Alloy can be found in “United States Pattern Trial, and Experimental Pieces 1913 and 1940 by Adams and Woodin, “United States Pattern, Experimental and Trial Pieces, 1959, 65, 70, 74, 77, 82 by J. Hewitt Judd, M.D., Scott’s Comprehensive Catalogue and Encyclopedia of U. S. Coins,  1971 by Don Taxay, and United States Patterns and Related Issues, 1994 by Andrew W. Pollock III, and possibly others.  

 

We have no other information on Koulz, not even a first name.  Ruolz rules for me.       

 

Thanks to my research staff:

Eberhard Auer

Andreas  Böhm

Wolfgang Böhm

Gunther Gonder

Alan Meghrig

Claire Shull                                                                                                                  

 

Footnotes:

1.      Nickel an Historical Review;” by F. B. Howard-White. 1963. Page 107

2.      Ibid. Page 273

3.      Ibid. Page 285,   Ruolz, Montchal, H.-C. de. Comptes Rend., 1841, 13, 998-1021.

4.      “250 Jahre Nickel, Nickel als Münzmetall” (“250 Years Nickel, Nickel as Coin Metal”) by Eberhard Auer, Siegfried Müller, and Rainer Slotta page 42.

5.      Treasures-in-Time” a glossary of Jewelry terms is available on the Internet.

6.       A Technical Dictionary of Printmaking”, Andre Begun,  found on the Internet at www.polymetaal.nl.

7.      (No title) Found on the Internet, www.antiquaires-contact.com

8.      (No title) Found on the Internet, www.nbplating.com/early

9.      The Daguerreian Society  found on the Internet at www.daguerre.org

10.  Scientific American vol 62 new series Jan 1890 – Jun 1890, p 83 Feb 8, 1890, “Patent Office Reform.”

11.  “Schmucklexikon” (jewelry dictionary) Found on the Internet, www.beyars.com