Humboldt State University ® Department of Chemistry

Robert A. Paselk Scientific Instrument Museum

The following history is provided courtesy of John and Geraldine Shannon, ©1999, and is reprinted with permission. For the original illustrated chapter and additional infomation (including a general history of the precision balance, other manufacturers, illustrations of assay balances, reprinted catalog materials, footnotes, etc.) see their book.
© Richard Paselk 2002


Seederer-Kohlbusch (SeKo)

John Meeks Shannon and Geraldine Collins Shannon

C. (Charles?) Herman Kohlbusch arrived in the United States on the ship Deutschland in August of 1851. He had come from Saxony, Germany where his parents lived and where he was born in June of 1822. Herman and his first wife migrated to America together and after arriving had three children: Charles, born in 1853; Elise or Lizzie, born in 1861; and Ida, born 1863.

It is not clear what happened to his wife of this time, but in 1874 he married Carolina (Lena in census reports) Volderauer, who had migrated from Prussia in 1860. There were four more children: Lena, born in March 1876 and Tillie (Mathilda), born in June 1878; and Fernando and Herman S. It is assumed that Herman S. is the Herman, Jr. included in the 1891 New York Business Directory, but neither his nor Fernando's date of birth is known. In 1900 the census shows that the C. Herman Kohlbusches had seven children, all living.

According to a 1950 brochure of the balance-manufacturing firm of Seederer Kohlbusch, the firm of Herman Kohlbusch Balance Company was established in 1859, while an entry in the 1887-88 New York Business Directory gives the date as 1860. In either case, Gopsill's Directory of 1860-61 states he was a machinist living at Palisade Avenue near Franklin in Hudson City, New Jersey. It is entirely possible that prior to and during that time he also worked for Becker & Sons in New Rochelle, New York, since during those years the concept of "apprenticeship" was still widely accepted as the way to learn a trade. The Census of 1880 lists his occupation as "scalemaker", but this could also have been his classification in the employment of Becker and Sons.

The first time his name appears as a balance manufacturer is in the 1884-85 New York Business Directory, where he is listed with an office at 21 Barclay; his home was then at 186 New York Avenue in Jersey City, New Jersey. This same Directory contains two additional listings-one for Charles Kohlbusch at 21 Barclay and one for Herman Kohlbusch & Son at 21 Barclay.

In 1887-88, Herman Kohlbusch was a manufacturer of balances and weights with an office, showroom and factory at 61 Warren (at the corner of College Place). Charles, his eldest son, continued to be involved in the balance business, but with an office at 35 Nassau and a home in Jersey City. This might mean that Charles opened an office at 35 Nassau, but the main factory and office were at 61 Warren.

In the 1890-91 Directory, the name of Herman, Jr. is added. As previously mentioned, the name Herman, Jr. doesn't show up in any other sources and it is assumed that this is Herman S., who died on January 22, 1904, just five weeks after the death of Herman, Sr. on December 15, 1903. Charles is no longer listed after 1892.

Wilson's Business Directory of 1893 states Herman Kohlbusch's office, show room and factory were located at 59 Nassau, corner of Maiden Lane; he was a manufacturer of analytical, assay, druggists, jewelers, and diamond balances and weights. The 1898 catalogue of Herman Kohlbusch also printed this information and adds that this is his only address.

It is interesting to note that an entry in Trow's shows Christian Becker was involved in scale manufacture at 7 Maiden Lane R34 and Herman Kohlbuschs' office in 1900 was located at 59 Nassau, corner of Maiden Lane. Examination of a map of lower Manhattan, reveals that the Reade, Maiden Lane, Barclay, Warren and Nassau street addresses of Kohlbusch and the Maiden Lane and Murray Street addresses of Becker are all in the present financial district. Research has shown that this area and especially the area of Maiden Lane was a very famous section of New York City in the early 1800s, continuing for many years. Not only was Maiden Lane New York City's first theatre district, but, more importantly, by 1840 the jewelers and allied craftsmen had also taken over the street as their own. By 1880 it had become the headquarters of the jewelry trade. It was only logical that Kohlbusch with his diamond balances would set up offices and factories in this area, and also that Becker would realize the potential sales of balances for such a gathering of craftsmen and establish an office there as well. All of these addresses can be found within a twelve-block radius and, if not actually on Maiden Lane, would at least be in close proximity.

There were also several Maiden Lanes in London and two of them were known localities of gold and silversmiths, assayers and instrument makers. One of these (which was eventually absorbed by Gresham Street) was the home of the Johnsons, assayers and goldsmiths. Another Maiden Lane existed near Hatton Wall, which was at one time the center of the diamond and jewelry trade. It was to this site that the Johnsons (mentioned above) moved in 1819. That Herman Kohlbusch as well as the Becker Company established offices in New York City on Maiden Lane is merely a coincidence. but it does raise the question of how that street of New York City, which became the center of the jewelry trade, came to be named Maiden Lane just as the center of goldsmithing and assaying in London was named Maiden Lane!

The only other change signified in these early directories happened in 1899-1900, when Herman's home is shown to be in Brooklyn. At this time Herman was 78 years old. It may be, however, that Herman, Sr. never lived in Brooklyn, since at the time of his death in 1903, his address was given as Jersey City, New Jersey. Herman, Sr. may have retired sometime around 1900, because Herman S. Kohlbusch was listed in the New York City Municipal Archives as conducting business under the name of Herman Kohlbusch, Sr. As late as 1920, Edgar Kohlbusch, the eldest son of Charles and Martha Kohlbusch, was listed as a manufacturer of scales and weights.

The firm of Seederer-Kohlbusch, Inc. (at various times with offices in Jersey City, New Jersey, New Rochelle, New York and New York, New York ) is listed as being incorporated in 1908. As it turns out, this is the date of incorporation of the firm of Herman Kohlbusch, Sr. and it seems evident that Seederer-Kohlbusch used that date, just as they used "est. 1859" in its advertising. Since the Manhattan telephone directory for 1925 lists only the firm of Herman Kohlbusch, Sr. and the 1926 directory lists the firm of Seederer-Kohlbusch as well as Herman Kohlbusch, Sr., it is assumed that the transfer of ownership took place between 1925 and 1926. The brand name "Herman Kohlbusch, Sr." seems to have been used for a number of years after the addition of Seederer to the company name, especially in the sales of the company's diamond balances.

A short time after the addition of Seederer to the name, the logo of Seederer-Kohlbusch became SEKO, Inc. and around 1978 Seederer-Kohlbusch, Inc. was purchased by Lectra Service of Englewood, New ersey.

Although Herman Kohlbusch made assay balances, they are somewhat rare. By studying various catalogues and private collections, the assumption can be made that the company found a particular niche in manufacturing and selling the small portable diamond balances in which the wooden case opened from one end and the beam was suspended on the under side of the open lid. Most other Kohlbusch or SEKO balances seen were chemical or analytical balances and the larger bullion balances.


Catalogue Listings


Vendor Catalog Scans

As a supplement to the catalog information gathered above by the Shannons (some of which is illustrated in their book), a collection of scanned images and descriptions of balances is available via the table below.

The images and catalog descriptions are scanned from vendor catalogs in the curator's collection, beginning in 1910, and ending in 1986. Unfortunately very few vendor catalogs in this collection feature SeKo balances, with few scans available and only for 1936 to 1960. An effort has been made to scan all of the balances of a given manufacturer in the catalog. It should be noted. however, that the distributors generally show only a selection of balances from any one manufacturer. Catalogs are selected from the curator's collection at approximately ten year intervals, when available, with a second criteria being representation of the specific manufacturer.

Time Period Catalogs 

Eimer & Amend Co. (1936)

Braun-Knecht-Heiman-Co. (1940)

Adolph Frese Co. (1950)

Fisher Scientific Co. (1958)

Central Scientific Co. (1960)

Index of Instruments

Museum Home

Instrument Literature


HSTC (1921-34)
HSC (1935-1953)
HSC (1954-1973)
© R. Paselk
Last modified 6 July 2007