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October 1, 2008
Alcoa Celebrates 120 Years of Innovation
PITTSBURGH--Alcoa (NYSE:AA), the company that created the modern aluminum industry,
today marked its 120th anniversary with the launch of a website (www.alcoa.com/history)
celebrating the Company’s progress since
October 1, 1888, the day it was incorporated as The Pittsburgh Reduction
Company in Pittsburgh, PA.
The new website features interactive displays showing how Alcoa has been
inventing the future since 1888. Since its founding day, Alcoa has grown
from a spark of innovation to become the world’s
largest aluminum producer which today operates approximately 350
facilities in 34 countries around the world with approximately 97,000
“It is the great work of our forefathers that
allows us to be in an excellent position in many of our businesses,”
said Alcoa President and CEO, Klaus Kleinfeld. “I
see their hard work and achievements as a constant reminder of what we
as Alcoa stand for and of our obligation to do the same for the next
generation of Alcoans.
“We have a rich heritage and tremendous
accomplishments. It is our part now to take it to the next level,”
“Alcoa invented the modern aluminum industry
and has been at the forefront of every major event in the industry for
the past 120 years,” said Alcoa Chairman Alain
Belda. “From the first droplets of aluminum
from Charles Martin Hall to helping new markets such as the aluminum can
emerge, to putting a man on the moon, Alcoa has been front and center.
commitment to innovation and solving customer needs along with our focus
on sustainable development has helped us prosper for 120 years and is
what will help us continue to prosper for the next 12 decades,”
fortunate to have been a part of Alcoa since 1977 –
for more than 30 years – and have seen
firsthand how the Company and its employees have continued to stay at
the forefront of the industry,” said Franklin
Thomas, lead director on Alcoa’s Board of
Directors. “Just as the leaders did 120 years
ago, Alcoans partner with customers to grow new markets while designing
the opportunities of tomorrow.”
Highlights from the site include:
An interactive “time machine”
reviewing the key aspects of the Company’s
history, and an overview of how Alcoa has evolved to where its
products are used in markets all over the world -- from consumer
electronics, green buildings, aerospace, oil and gas, ground
transportation, packaging and more.
- First commercial aluminum process -- 1886
The process of creating aluminum metal from aluminum oxide (alumina)
through electrolysis was discovered in parallel by two men: Alcoa
founder Charles Martin Hall of Oberlin, Ohio; and Paul L.T. Héroult
of France. Hall's patent for the process prevailed in the US and
survived numerous challenges. Though the Hall - Héroult
process has been refined many times, its basic principles are still used
today to produce nearly every ounce of aluminum smelted by aluminum
producers worldwide. The process cut the price of aluminum dramatically
and transformed it from a precious metal into a strategic material whose
properties of strength, lightness and durability would open up a world
of new engineering possibilities.
Based on this discovery, a group of Pittsburgh entrepreneurs including
Hall, Captain Alfred Hunt, George H. Clapp, and others gathered to
incorporate the company. Its original name, The Pittsburgh Reduction
Company, was changed to the Aluminum Company of America in 1907, and
then to Alcoa in 1999. Alcoa's first employee, Arthur Vining Davis,
worked with Hall to start production in a small plant in Pittsburgh's
Strip District. Davis stayed with the company for 69 years, serving for
29 of those years as its first Chairman of the Board. The company's
earliest products were aluminum pots and pans.
- First use of sustainable power to make aluminum -- 1893
Alcoa was the first aluminum company to harness sustainable hydropower
to drive the smelting process with a plant built in Niagara Falls in
1893. Hydropower helped Alcoa further drive down the price of aluminum.
Today, hydropower is still a critical part of Alcoa's strategy to
maximize its sources of sustainable, clean energy. It powers Alcoa
smelters from Tennessee and Washington in the US to Brazil, Canada and
Iceland using renewable hydropower.
- First aluminum to fly -- 1903
The Wright Brothers' historic flight took off with an Alcoa aluminum
crankcase. Its lightness helped tip the balance of power and weight that
changed the world of transportation forever. Since that day, Alcoa has
played a key role in nearly every major innovation in aerospace
aluminum, including such milestones as one of the world's first
passenger planes, the Ford Trimotor; the first transatlantic flight in
1927; the overwhelming rollout of American aircraft aluminum capacity
that helped turn the tide of World War II; the world's first passenger
jet, Boeing's 707; and today's latest breatkthrough, the Airbus A380
Alcoa aluminum was first in space as well. Sputnik, the Russian
satellite that shocked the world in 1957 and began the space race of the
50s and 60s, was built in a plant now owned and managed by Alcoa. And
Alcoa alloys and propellants have helped make many American space
milestones possible, from the first manned flight and the first moon
landing to today's Space Shuttle and International Space Station
- The first Aluminum Research Laboratory - 1930
Alcoa was the first company to formalize and dedicate resources solely
to the development of new aluminum technology and applications with the
founding of the Aluminum Research Laboratory in New Kensington,
Pennsylvania in 1930. "The Laboratories," as it was known, has been the
world's primary source of aluminum innovation in both metallurgy and
production processes ever since. Alcoa research has produced nearly
every aerospace alloy used in the 20th century, plus advances in
aluminum beverage can production, architectural materials, recycling and
smelting technology. Today, the Alcoa Technology Center is the hub of
Alcoa's global research network, drawing on talents from all over the
globe to further basic and applied research in light metal science.
Alcoa aluminum helped build the Empire State Building in 1931, the World
Trade Center in 1973, and many other architectural landmarks. The
original Alcoa Building in Pittsburgh, built in 1953, was a functional
showroom of the principles of aluminum-intensive architectural design
for the times. The use of aluminum throughout reduced the weight of the
structure to provide substantial savings in the building's steel frame.
The company's new Corporate Center, built on Pittsburgh's North Shore in
1998, is a showcase of aluminum-intensive Green building applications,
from natural lighting, to recyclable materials and open office design.
- The first large-scale process for all-aluminum cans -- 1968
Alcoa teamed up with customer Pittsburgh Brewing to introduce the first
Easy-Open beer can in 1962 and pioneered the technology for rapid
production of aluminum cans in 1968. Aluminum quickly overtook steel as
the preferred container. Along with the aluminum can, Alcoa introduced
America's first consumer can recycling program, complete with recycling
centers and television marketing. Today, aluminum's environmental and
cost advantages are moving to bottle-style beverage packaging as well.
In 2005, Pittsburgh Brewing once again made packaging history by
introducing the first aluminum beer bottle in North America.
- The first aluminum wheel -- 1948
Alcoa introduced the forged aluminum wheel in 1948 and created an
immediate market for the stronger, lighter, more aesthetic wheel.
Commercial truckers still swear by their "Alcoas" for durability, fuel
efficiency and an unbeatable shine on the road. Today Alcoa's Dura-Bright®
XBR technology makes it even easier to keep Alcoa wheels looking great
The aluminum wheel is just one part of the history of aluminum solutions
for the automotive and transportation industry introduced by Alcoa. In
1994, Alcoa and Audi teamed up to introduce the A8, the world's first
passenger car to use an all-aluminum body and spaceframe design to
provide strength, performance, safety and comfort at a level never
before achieved. Today, with fuel and emissions performance more
critical than ever, automakers are turning to Alcoa for innovative
solutions throughout the entire design and manufacturing process.
Note to Editors: There should be an accent on the "e" in the name "Héroult"
in this news release.