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INDUSTRIES: Business History of Metals
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March 14, 1801 - Colonel Paul Revere (65) purchased land, house, trip-hammer shop or slitting mill, "cole" house in Canton, MA; started first industrial copper rolling mill in America to roll copper into sheets; sent to Maidstone, England for rolls; 1802 - first major contract; order for 6,000 feet of copper sheathing to cover dome of relatively new Massachusetts State House in Boston to prevent water leakage; 1803 - commissioned to provide copper sheathing to protect hull of Constitution or "Old Ironsides"; subsequently manufactured copper boilers for Robert Fulton's early experimental steamships, turned out muskets and brass cannons for War of 1812, manufactured copper dome of New York City Hall; May 1909 - plant closed, factory site acquired at auction by Plymouth Rubber Company; 1928 - Revere Copper and Brass Co. Inc. formed.

December 17, 1805 - Jean Dony obtained concession of Vieille-Montagne mine in Moresnet (border between Belgium and Germany); 1837 - became "Societe Anonyme des Mines et Fonderies de Zinc de la Vieille-Montagne"; 1906 - Union Miniere du Haut Katanga (UMHK) founded to exploit rich mineral resources (copper, cobalt, tin, precious metals) of Belgium's colony of the Congo (1968 - nationalized by Zairian government); 1989 - subsidiaries of Union Miniere, Metallurgie Hoboken-Overpelt (copper, lead, cobalt, germanium, precious metals, special metals), Vieille-Montagne (zinc) and Mechim (engineering) merged, transformed Union Miniere into integrated industrial group; 2001 - name changed to Umicore (materials technology group at frontier between metallurgy, chemistry, materials science); 2005 - more than 14,000 employees, annual turnover of €6.6 billion euros.

December 16, 1851 - Hiram W. Hayden, of Waterbury, CT, received first U.S. patent for "Machinery for Making Brass Kettles and Articles of Like Character from Disks of Metal"; 1852 - sold patent to The Waterbury Brass Company, dominated manufacture of brass kettles in country.

1855 - Henri Merle founded Compagnie des Produits Chimiques Henri Merle in in Salindres, near Alais, in Gard region of France, to produce caustic soda from coal, salt, pyrites, limestone ; 1860 - began producing aluminum metal, used chemically-based process developed by Henri Sainte-Claire Deville in 1854 (made aluminum through electrolysis of alumina), granted 30 year monopoly by Napoleon III; 1877 - Alfred Rangot became manager of plant (father-in-law named Pechiney); 1897 - renamed Société des Produits Chimiques d'Alais et de la Camargue; 1948 - name changed to Pechiney SA; 2003 - world's 4th largest producer, developer of aluminum products, 34,000 employees, 320 manufacturing and sales facilities in 50 countries; February 6, 2004 - became wholly-owned subsidiary of Alcan Corporation (acquired for for $4.52 billion); became world's biggest aluminum producer (ahead of Alcoa); 2007 - Alcan acquired by Rio Tinto.



Alfred Rangot (A.R.) Pechiney  - Pechiney SA (

October 3, 1868 - William H. Remington, of Boston, MA, received a patent for "Improved Process for Electroplating with Nickel"; nickel plating.

February 23, 1886 - Charles M. Hall invented the electrolytic process for manufacture of aluminum (electrolysis of aluminum oxide dissolved in a cryolite-aluminum fluoride mixture to separate aluminum from its ore) in the woodshed behind his family's home eight months after finishing college.

1887 - Enos A. Wall realized potential of copper deposits in Bingham Canyon, 15 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah; acquired claims to land; 1890 - underground mining began; 1898 - Samuel Newhouse, Thomas Weir formed Boston Consolidated Mining Company; 1903 - Daniel C. Jackling, Wall formed Utah Copper Company; 1906 - began digging (with financing from Guggenheim Exploration); Kennecott Mines Company formed in Alaska (named for explorer, naturalist Robert Kennicott); 1910 - Utah Copper merged with Boston Consolidated; 1915 - 25% interest acquired by Kennecott (all assets acquired in 1936); 1981 - acquired by Standard Oil of Ohio; 1987 - acquired by British Petroleum; Kennecott became part of BP Minerals America; 1989 - BP mining assets acquired by Rio Tinto Zinc; later merged Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd.; named Rio Tinto.

November 1888 -  Charles M. Hall, metallurgist Alfred E. Hunt formed Pittsburgh Reduction Company, began production of first commercial aluminum; April 2, 1889 - Hall, of Oberlin, OH, received several patents: for a "Process of Reducing Aluminium from Its Fluoride Salts by Electrolysis"; for the "Manufacture of Aluminium"; for a "Process of Electrolyzing Crude Salts of Aluminium"; for a "Process of Electrolyzing Fused Salts of Aluminium"; for a "Process of Reducing Aluminium by Electrolysis"; inexpensive electrolytic process to extract aluminum from its ore; aluminum is the most abundant metal in the earth's crust, not found naturally in pure form, must be separated from its surrounding ore; 1907 - company name changed to Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA).

Charles Martin Hall Charles Martin Hall - founder, Pittsburgh Reduction Co.  ( archive/resources/oberlin/Hall_CharlesMartin.jpeg)

November 30, 1899 - The Hartford Electric Light Company (Hartford, CT) used aluminum for first time commercially in the U.S. as an electrical transmission conductor from its waterpower plant at Tariffville, CT to Hartford, CT; 1955 - washed away in the flood.

1902 - Northern Aluminum Company incorporated (Canadian subsidiary of Pittsburgh Reduction Company); 1925 - renamed Aluminum Company of Canada; 1928 - Aluminum Limited incorporated (parent of ACOC); 1982 - merged with The British Aluminium Company plc; 1985 - acquired most of aluminum assets of Atlantic Richfield Company in U. S.; increased presence in markets for fabricated products; 1987 - reorganized, name changed to Alcan Aluminium Limited; 2001 - renamed Alcan Inc.

1919 - Richard S. Reynolds, Sr., nephew of tobacco king R. J. Reynolds, founded U.S. Foil Company in Louisville, KY; supplied lead, tin foil wrappers to cigarette, candy companies; 1924 - acquired Eskimo Pie Corporation (largest client, product wrapped in its foil), founded by Christian K. Nelson and Russell C. Stover in 1921; 1926 - began producing aluminum foil for packaging (price of aluminum dropped, switched from tin to lightweight, non-corrosive metal); 1928 - acquired Robertshaw Thermostat, Fulton Sylphon, part of Beechnut Foil; created Reynolds Metals Company; 1947 - introduced Reynolds Wrap Aluminum Foil, transformed food storage; 1948 - Richard S. Reynolds, Jr. took over; April 26, 1955 - registered "Reynolds Wrap" trademark first used September 11, 1953 (wrapping sheets); September 13, 1960 - registered "Reynolds Aluminum" trademark first used in June 1952 (aluminum and aluminum alloys in cast, rolled, extruded, and drawn form); 1976 - David P. Reynolds (grandson) took over; May 3, 2000 - merged with Alcoa; became largest aluminum company in United States.

April 20, 1926 - Colin G. Fink, of New York, NY, received a patent for a "Process of Electrodepositing Chromium and of Preparing Baths Therefor"; chrome plating.

November 2, 1957 -Titanium Metals Corp. of America (TIMET) opened first titanium mill in Toronto, OH for rolling and forging titanium = third birth of a tonnage structural metal industry in past century ( aluminum, magnesium, titanium); ingots are forged into slabs, billets and bars; slabs are hot rolled to sheet and plate or cold rolled for strip and welded tube applications, bar, rod, wire.

(Alcan), Albert W. Whitaker (1974). Aluminum Trail. (Montreal, QU: Alcan Press, 488 p. [2nd ed.]). Whitaker, Albert W., 1892- ; Aluminum Company of Canada.

(Alcoa of Australia), Geoffrey Blainey (1997). White Gold: The Story of Alcoa of Australia. (St. Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 264 p.). Alcoa of Australia--History; Aluminum industry and trade--Australia--History.

(Alcoa), Charles Carl Carr (1952). Alcoa, An American Enterprise. (New York, NY: Rinehart, 292 p.). Aluminum Company of America.

(Alcoa), Junius David Edwards (1955). The Immortal Woodshed; The Story of the Inventor Who Brought Aluminum to America. (New York, NY: Dodd, Mead, 244 p.). Hall, Charles Martin, 1863-1914; Aluminum industry and trade -- United States.

(Alcoa), George D. Smith (1988). From Monopoly to Competition: The Transformations of Alcoa, 1888-1996. (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 554 p.). Academic (Economics Dept., NYU). Aluminum Industry, Aluminum Company of America.

(Aluminium de Grece), Ivan Grinberg et Philippe Mioche (1996). Aluminium de Grece: l’Usine aux Trois Rivages. (Grenoble, FR: Presses Uiversitaires de Grenoble, 318 p.). Aluminium de Grece (Firm); Aluminum industry and trade --Greece; Corporations, French --Greece.

(American Smelting & Refining), Issac F. Marcosson (1949). Metal Magic; the Story of the American Smelting & Refining Company (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, 313 p.). American Smelting and Refining Company.

(American Brass Company), Compiled and Edited by Jeremy Brecher, Jerry Lombardi, and Jan Stackhouse (1982). Brass Valley: The Story of Working People's Lives and Struggles in an American Industrial Region. (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 284 p.). American Brass Company -- History; Brass industry and trade -- Connecticut -- Naugatuck River Valley -- History; Brass industry and trade -- Employees -- Labor unions -- Connecticut -- Naugatuck River Valley -- History; Brass industry and trade -- Connecticut -- Naugatuck River Valley -- Employees -- Interviews; Ethnology -- Connecticut -- Naugatuck River Valley; Naugatuck River Valley (Conn.) -- Social conditions; Naugatuck River Valley (Conn.) -- Economic conditions; Naugatuck River Valley (Conn.) -- Biography.

(Cornish Copper Company), W. H. Pascoe (1983). CCC, The History of the Cornish Copper Company. (Redruth, Cornwall , UK: Truran, 202 p.). Cornish Copper Company--History; Copper industry and trade--England--Cornwall (County)--History.

(Eagle-Picher), Douglas Knerr (1992). Eagle-Picher Industries: Strategies for Survival in the Industrial Marketplace, 1840-1980 (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 268 p.). Eagle-Picher Industries--History; Nonferrous metal industries--United States--History.

(Elkem Metals Company), Tim McKinney (1992). Elkem Metals: 90 Years of Progress in the Kanawha Valley, 1901-1991. (Charleston, WV: Pictorial Histories Pub. Co., 149 p.). Elkem Metals Company--History; Hydroelectric power plants--West Virginia--Kanawha River--History; Metals--Purification--West Virginia--Alloy--History; Kanawha County (W. Va.)--History.

(International Silver Company), Earl Chapin May (1947). Century of Silver, 1847-1947; Connecticut Yankees and a Noble Metal. (New York, NY: R.M. McBride & Company, 388 p.). International Silver Company; Silverwork--New England.

(Pechiney), Pierre Doray (1989). Formation et Mobilisation Industrielle: Le Cas d’Aluminium Pechiney. (Lille, FR: Presses Universitaires de Lille, 230 p.). Aluminium Pechiney (Firm); Aluminum industry and trade --Employees --Training of --France; Occupational training --France; Manpower planning --France.

(Pechiney), Daniel Karlin, Remi Laine (1994). La Multinationale: Voyage au Coeur du Groupe Pechiney. (Paris, FR: A. Michel: ARTE/La Sept editions, 454 p.). Aluminium Pechiney (Firm); Aluminum industry and trade --France; International business enterprises --France.

(Pechiney), Philippe Mioche (1994). L’Alumine a Gardanne de 1893 a Nos Jours: Une Traversee Industrielle en Provence. (Grenoble, FR: Presses Universitaires de Grenoble, 179 p.). Aluminium Pechiney (Firm) --History; Aluminum industry and trade --France --Gardanne --History --20th century; Gardanne (France) --Economic conditions.

(Pechiney), Muriel Le Roux (1998). L’Entreprise et la Recherche: Un Siecle de Recherche Industrielle a Pechiney. (Paris, FR: Rive Droite: Institut d’Histoire de l’industrie, 499 p.). Aluminium Pechiney (Firm); Aluminum industry and trade --Technological innovations --France --History; Research, Industrial --France --History.

(Pechiney), Gerard Vindt (2006). Les Hommes de l’Aluminium: Histoire sociale de Pechiney 1921-1973. (Paris, FR: Editions de l’Atelier, Editions Ouvrieres: Institut pour l’Histoire de l’Aluminium, 254 p.). Aluminium Pechiney (Firm) --History --20th century; Aluminum industry and trade --France --History --20th century; Aluminum industry and trade --Social aspects --France.

(Pechiney), Philippe Thaure (2007). Pechiney: Vendu: Grandeur et Decadence du Plus Grand Groupe Industriel Francais. (Paris, FR : Mines Paris, les Presses Paritech, 306 p.). Aluminium Pechiney (Firm) --History; Aluminum industry and trade --France --Management --History.

(Poongsan Corporation), Choong Soon Kim (1992). The Culture of Korean Industry: An Ethnography of Poongsan Corporation. (Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 248 p.). ungsan Kumsok Kongop Chusik Hoesa (Korea); Metal trade--Korea (South)--Case studies; Business anthropology--Korea (South)--Case studies; Industrial management--Korea (South)--Case studies; Economic development--Religious aspects--Confucianism--Case studies; Capitalism--Korea (South)--Religious aspects--Confucianism; Korea (South)--Economic conditions; Korea (South)--Social conditions.

(Revere Copper and Brass), Isaac Frederick Marcosson (1955). Copper Heritage; The Story of Revere Copper and Brass Incorporated. (New York, NY: Dodd, Mead, 254 p.). Revere Copper and Brass Incorporated.

(Vivian Younger Bond), Godfrey Harrison (1959). V. Y. B.: A Century of Metal Broking, 1859-1959. (London, UK: Vivian, Younger & Bond, 103 p.). Vivian, Younger & Bond, ltd.

Ryuto Shimada (2005). The Intra-Asian Trade in Japanese Copper by the Dutch East India Company During the Eightenth Century. (Boston, MA: Brill, 225 p.). Nederlandsche Oost-Indische Compagnie--History--18th century; Copper industry and trade--Japan--History--18th century; Copper mines and mining--Japan--History--18th century; Copper industry and trade--History--18th century; Netherlands--Commerce--Asia--History--18th century; Asia--Commerce--Netherlands--History--18th century. 

(Stolle Corporation), Geoffrey Williams ; foreword by Congressman Rob Portman (2004). Ingenuity in a Can: The Ralph Stolle Story. (Wilmington, OH: Orange Frazer Press, 117 p.). Stolle, Ralph J. 1904-1996; Inventors--United States--Biography; Inventions--History; Tin containers. Changed soda pop culture; created method for manufacturing easy open, pull tab, seemingly mundane device but an engineering feat.


Business History Links

Institut pour L'Histoire de L'Aluminium                                                                              

L’Institut pour l’histoire de l’aluminium est une association à but non lucratif régie par la loi de 1901 et compte quelque 350 membres. Créé en 1986, il bénéficie aujourd'hui du soutien financier d'Alcan et s’appuie sur un conseil scientifique composé de professeurs d’université spécialistes d’histoire économique et de gestion.


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