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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 ( 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 employees.

“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,” said Kleinfeld.

“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.

“Alcoans’ 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,” said Belda.

“I’ve been 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 superjumbo.

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 programs.
  • 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.
  • Architectural Firsts

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 without polishing.

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.