History



I'm working on a school project about Alcoa. Where can I find more information?

Alcoa.com holds a wealth of information about the company, on a wide variety of topics. The best thing to do is to start at the Overview page, where you will find key facts and a streaming video overview of what we do at Alcoa. Then head over to It All Starts With Dirt for an explanation of the aluminum-making process and a company timeline. It also might be helpful to look at Alcoa locations worldwide, a list of Alcoa's businesses and the company's values.


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Who is the president of Alcoa?

Alcoa is led by our current chief executive officer, Klaus Kleinfeld. Click here to see his biography and the biographies of other Alcoa directors.


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When was Alcoa founded?

Alcoa began when Charles Martin Hall and a group of investors founded The Pittsburgh Reduction Company in 1888. In 1907, it became known as the Aluminum Company of America, primarily because the former name did not indicate the work in which we were engaged, but also in part because the company was frequently confused with the American Reduction Company, which was a local garbage collection and disposal company. It remained the Aluminum Company of America until 1999, when it was officially renamed Alcoa, Inc. to represent the fact that we are truly an international company doing business around the world. You can also view the full interactive timeline to see other notable events in Alcoa's history.


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Where is Alcoa located?

Headquartered in New York, and with many management functions in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Alcoa has over 200 locations in 30 countries, covering six continents: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. To see all Alcoa locations around the world, click here.


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What business is Alcoa in?

Alcoa products can be found in the aerospace, alumina, aluminum ingot, automotive, commercial transportation, industrial products and services, and packaging markets. To serve these markets, Alcoa has many business units; to see a list of them all, click here.


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When are you going to bring back the great song, "Alcoa Can't Wait for Tomorrow?"

While "Alcoa Can't Wait for Tomorrow" was indeed a great song, and a famous piece of our history, Alcoa is not bringing it back for commercial use. You can still listen to the song any time you like, though, at our It All Starts With Dirt page. While you're there, check out some other fun and interesting information about Alcoa, like how we make aluminum.


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Why is aluminum sometimes spelled with an extra "i," as "aluminium?" Why is it spelled differently in different places?

The modern-day spelling of the word in the United States is aluminum, even though the rest of the world spells it "aluminium." A brief trip back through time can illustrate the evolution of the dual spellings in the United States. Alcoa was founded as the Aluminum Company of America in 1888, at the time called the Pittsburgh Reduction Company. The name Aluminum Company of America was adopted in 1907, primarily because the former name did not indicate the work in which we were engaged, and also in part because the company was frequently confused with the American Reduction Company, which was a local garbage collection and disposal company. The story that an early order of stationery arrived with the word aluminium misspelled as aluminum has circulated for many years, but is false.

We have found examples as early as 1854 where the Washington, DC newspaper, the Daily National Intelligencer used the "aluminum" spelling, as did the New York Tribune in 1856, and Scientific American magazine in 1857.

In 1894 the spelling was still debated when The Aluminum World newsletter published an article by Professor Joseph W. Richards of Lehigh University who used the "aluminium" version, and the magazine deferred to the author's wishes for his article. The editors felt compelled to address the spelling issue and published a brief column citing various dictionaries and authorities of that time. The Aluminum World stated, "We use the shorter method in the title of this magazine because of this custom of the trade in this country [the United States]."

Among the authorities cited in this column, the explanation from H. C. Bolton, in the New York Tribune of Dec. 1, 1890 that "the question is one of education, habit, and taste; most manufacturers and dealers in chemicals use aluminum, while many teachers and investigators prefer aluminium" seems most reasonable and is borne out by the fact that the word is spelled aluminium on the patent issued to Charles Martin Hall for his process of obtaining the metal from alumina. Hall's patent, the "Process of Reducing Aluminium by Electrolysis," was the discovery on which the Aluminum Company of America was founded.

It appears that the "trade custom" of using the shorter spelling in the U.S. gradually won out over the longer "academic custom" to become the preferred usage for all disciplines in the United States, or as Hunt and Clapp [Alfred Hunt and George Clapp, two of the original investors in Hall's process] stated emphatically in their letter to the Standard Dictionary in 1892, "The way of pronouncing and spelling the name in this country is entirely aluminum."


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Did Alcoa ever manufacture aluminum Christmas trees? How can I find out more?

Alcoa did not manufacture aluminum Christmas trees, but many manufacturers used Alcoa aluminum in their construction. There is some information on aluminum trees and the companies who manufactured them at a web site for the Aluminum Tree and Ornament Museum. The Museum displays trees from its collection each Christmas season at various locations each year. If you want to learn more about the museum, see there is an article in the Washington Post or one from National Public Radio.

There may be more information on aluminum trees in our archives at the Western Pennsylvania Historical Society, located at the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center.

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What was the first thing ever made from aluminum, and when was it made?

The first known item made from aluminum was a baby rattle made for Napoleon III in the 1850s. Napoleon also provided his most honored guests with knives and forks made of pure aluminum. At the time, the newly discovered metal was so rare, it was considered more valuable than gold.


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I found an old aluminum teapot at a flea market, and it has a symbol on the bottom with the word "aluminum" crossed with the acronym "A.C.O.A." inside a shield. Did Alcoa make this teapot, and if so, is there any way to tell when it might have been made?

The A.C.O.A. acronym stands for the Aluminum Company of America, which was the company's name from 1907 to 1999, until the name officially changed to Alcoa. Our trademark has changed considerably over the years, from a circle to the shield on your teapot to the current blue square with an "A" inside. No matter what the appearance of the trademark has been, we have always signed our work with pride. Check out how the trademark has evolved over the years and see which time period each trademark fits into.


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What was the first thing made from Alcoa aluminum?

Early on in Alcoa's existence, back when it was still called the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, the first employee, Arthur Vining Davis, had a teakettle made out of Alcoa aluminum. He only wanted to demonstrate that there was a market for this metal that no one knew of, but when he took the teakettles to the Griswold Company of Erie, Pa, the owner insisted on ordering 2,000 kettles, and Alcoa was forced into the fabricating business. Now, we make thousands of products. Click on our product catalog to see them all.


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Where can I request Alcoa publications or reports?

You can view electronic versions or request print copies of many Alcoa publications on Alcoa.com. Go to our Invest page to see our current and past Annual Reports. You can also see our corporate and regional Sustainability Reports.


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My friends are so envious of the WearEver cookware I bought over 40 years ago and still use almost every day, because it never burns food, it cleans in a snap, it's lightweight, and it still looks as great as the day I bought it. I haven't seen it for sale since I bought it from a salesman in the 1960s, but I would love to buy a few new pieces of WearEver for myself, and as gifts for my jealous friends. Do you still sell WearEver? Where can I buy it?

Alcoa no longer makes WearEver cookware, though we remember it fondly, and to this day it's an icon in cookware. Alcoa sold the WearEver business to a company called Mirro in 1982. You can find modern versions of WearEver cookware, along with a list of stores that sell them, at www.WearEver.com.


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Didn't Alcoa once own CUTCO cutlery? Where can I find it now?

Yes, CUTCO Cutlery was introduced in 1948 as a new product for Wear-Ever Aluminum, which was a subsidiary of Alcoa. The name of the new cutlery line was derived from a company once owned by Wear-Ever, the Cooking UTensil COmpany - CUTCO.

Alcoa sold the company in 1982, but you can still buy CUTCO cooking utensils and find information about how to send your items for repair on CUTCO's website, www.cutco.com.


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How can I research Alcoa's history?

For many questions about Alcoa's history, the answers lie on our It All Starts with Dirt page. But if you don't find what you're looking for, you can check the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, where Alcoa donated its archives in 1995. The Society is located at the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional history Center or Library and Archives. For an even more detailed search, use the finding aids website or contact the historical society at the address below:

Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania Library and Archives Division
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
library@hswp.org


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