Today’s Alcoa is built on a foundation of operating excellence dating back nearly 130 years to the world-changing discovery that made aluminum an affordable and vital part of modern life. As the inventor of the aluminum industry, we have followed on with breakthrough after breakthrough in best practices that lead to efficiency, safety, sustainability and stronger communities wherever we operate. It’s a legacy we’re proud of, and one that will drive us to achieve new goals as we look ahead.
July 9, 1886
Charles Martin Hall discovers the smelting process.
Working with his sister Julia in a shed attached to the family home in Oberlin, Ohio, chemistry student Charles Martin Hall discovers a way to produce aluminum through electrolysis that drastically reduces its cost. Hall patents his process and an industry is born around the light, strong metal. Around the same time, the same process is discovered by chemist Paul T. Héroult of France, and it comes to be known as the Hall-Héroult Process. Today, the Hall-Héroult Process is the one method by which every aluminum producer in the world operates.
October 1, 1888
The Pittsburgh Reduction Company
In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Alcoa founder Charles Martin Hall finds experienced, hard-working visionary backers (led by Captain Alfred E. Hunt) for his aluminum reduction (electrolysis) discovery. The company is first incorporated as The Pittsburgh Reduction Company and opens a pilot production facility on Smallman Street. Hall hires his first employee, Arthur Vining Davis. Today, that same company is known as Alcoa.
New Kensington: cradle of aluminum innovation
As demand for the new metal grows, Alcoa moves its operations from Pittsburgh to nearby New Kensington, PA, where it scales up to produce aluminum ingots as well as fabricated aluminum products. For many years, no other company in the world can catch up with the breadth and depth of Alcoa's aluminum production.
The aluminum teakettle
The Pittsburgh Reduction Company, eager to open new applications and enter new markets, enters the home cookware market with light, sturdy, no-rust teakettles.
Aluminum makes automobiles lighter and faster
New Alcoa alloys make aluminum a strong, machinable substitute for heavier metals in automotive design. This breakthrough leads to growth in fabricating lightweight aluminum bodies, drivetrain and engine castings, and other parts for automobiles at New Kensington.
The world’s first flying machine is powered by an aluminum heart made from Alcoa’s new metal. To save weight, the engine block and crankcase of the Wright Brothers' historic "Flyer" are cast from aluminum supplied by The Pittsburgh Reduction Company.
A new name
The Pittsburgh Reduction Company changes its name to The Aluminum Company of America. This will remain its legal name for the next 91 years.
Alcoa introduces aluminum foil
Reflecting heat and keeping foods cooler and fresher, aluminum foil was introduced to America by Alcoa in 1910.
Alcoa opens in Europe
Alcoa established a presence in Europe through a bauxite partnership in Southern France. It is the beginning of what will become a global, integrated aluminum network.
A company, a name, a town in Tennessee
Looking to expand, the Aluminum Company of America buys 700 acres of land in North Maryville, Tennessee and begins to develop a company town and a smelting complex running on hydroelectricity from the nearby Little Tennessee River. The town incorporates in 1919 under the name "Alcoa," which eventually becomes the unofficial name of the company.
First aerospace alloy
Alcoa's first aerospace alloy, 2017-T4, is a critical material for building the historic USS Shenandoah rigid airship. A century later, 2017-T4 is still used for aircraft sheet and plate. More than 90% of all alloys currently used in the aerospace industry were developed by Alcoa research.
World War I
As the U.S. enters World War I, 90% of Alcoa’s aluminum production is used by the U.S. military for mess kits, canteens, helmets, gas masks, identification tags and other applications. Today, U.S. defense still relies on strong, lightweight aluminum for use in structural components, equipment, armor and many other applications.
The aluminum bus
In 1925, Alcoa partners with General Aluminum Products Company, the first company to build an aluminum bus body. Today, aluminum is still making buses more environmentally friendly by reducing the overall weight of the vehicle, which significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions associated with global warming.
A public company
On July 31, 1925, Alcoa's common stock is listed on the New York Curb Exchange, forerunner of the American Stock Exchange.
Alcoa pioneers lightweight, energy-efficient aluminum windows
As one of its first applications in the building and construction market, Alcoa pioneers aluminum windows with the installation of the first residential windows. Today, aluminum windows are just one of many beautiful, durable and energy-saving applications in the building and construction market.
Alcan is born
By 1928, Alcoa has over half of the world capacity in primary aluminum. In June 1928, the company transfers all international holdings, some 34 companies worldwide, to a new company called Aluminum Limited of Canada, which will be renamed Alcan in 1966 and become part of RioTinto in 2010.
The world's first aluminum research laboratory
On a hill overlooking the Allegheny River and Alcoa's production facility along its banks, the company builds a campus-like facility dedicated to finding new aluminum applications, testing its performance, and improving production processes.
Alcoa increases efficiency of public works projects
Following the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, Congress authorizes the construction of thousands of miles of levees in the Lower Mississippi Valley in one of the largest public works projects in the nation's history. The project proceeds faster and more efficiently thanks to a key innovation: Alcoa aluminum replacing steel in the booms of giant draglines used to move earth for levee construction.
Lightweight, high-performance aluminum ships
The racing yacht Ranger, successfully defending the America's Cup against a British challenger, is a radical departure from typical heavy-displacement yacht design. Key to its speed is the world's first mast, boom, and spinnaker pole made entirely of Alcoa aluminum.
World War II
Alcoa’s aluminum becomes critically important to the U.S. military during World War II. With astounding speed, Alcoa meets the wartime challenge, building more than 20 smelting and fabricating plants in three years. Key to the war effort are alloys specially formulated to be forged into ultra-strong propeller blades, engine parts and structural components for aircraft and military vehicles.
First aluminum truck wheels
In 1948, Alcoa aluminum is forged into large wheels for long-haul, fuel-efficient transportation. They debut on Mack trucks.
Alcoa sponsors Edward R. Murrow’s See It Now
In a post-war boom of consumer spending growth and mass media, Alcoa seeks to become a household name. The company helps usher in the Golden Age of Television, sponsoring Edward R. Murrow’s historic See It Now CBS news program for about $50,000 per week.
Alcoa charters a new development organization: Alcoa Foundation. The Foundation will play a significant role in strengthening sustainability in Alcoa communities worldwide. Since 1952, Alcoa Foundation has invested more than $570 million in Alcoa communities, and is one of the largest corporate foundations in the United States.
First aluminum-sheathed high-rise building
Featuring an all-aluminum exterior and many other innovative architectural elements, the Alcoa Building in downtown Pittsburgh is completed in 1952. It will serve as the company’s headquarters for more than 40 years. It also ushers in a new era of high-rise buildings clad in Alcoa aluminum. By 1958, more than 600 major buildings made of Alcoa aluminum rise in cities across the country.
First aluminum wheel for a passenger car
Alcoa develops the first aluminum wheel found on a modern passenger car: the lightweight spoke wheel on the 1955 Cadillac Eldorado. The extremely strong wheel, forged on a giant press from hot aluminum, is standard on the Eldorado and optional on other 1955 Cadillacs.
Expansion in South America
Alcoa, with bauxite mining interests in Suriname, signs an agreement with the country's government to develop a hydroelectric project and smelter, the company's first major international development since 1928.
Alcoa of Australia
Alcoa joins with Western Mining to form Alcoa of Australia to develop Australia’s huge bauxite reserves.
The can opener becomes extinct
Alcoa works with the Pittsburgh Brewing Company to introduce easy-open aluminum pull tabs on cans of Pittsburgh Brewing's Iron City beer. By the end of 1963, the aluminum top has been adopted by most brewers and is on 40% of all U.S. beer cans. Today, because of innovations like the pull tab, and because of aluminum's recyclability, the canned beverage market is virtually 100% aluminum.
Aluminum innovation gets a new home
Alcoa builds the world’s largest light metals research center, the Alcoa Technical Center, outside of Pittsburgh, PA. A successor to Alcoa's Aluminum Research Laboratory in New Kensington, the Technical Center still fuels Alcoa innovation today.
Alcoa incorporates Companhia Mineira De Aluminio — Alcominas, now known as Alcoa Aluminio. It is the foundation for a full presence in Brazil that will include hydroelectric power, mining, refining and smelting.
Aerospace Castings Enable More Fuel-Efficient Engines
Howmet Corporation, which will become part of Alcoa in 2000, is the first company to offer hot isostatic pressing (HIP) services to the aerospace industry. The HIP process, which eliminates internal microshrinkage, helps engineers design components for critical, highly stressed applications and will help create new generations of more powerful, more efficient jet engines for decades to come.
Alcoa Recycling is born
Alcoa Recycling Company is incorporated to support the company’s goal of enhancing sustainability by increasing its recycling activity. Aluminum is infinitely recyclable, and recycling uses 95% less energy than it takes to make aluminum from raw ore. Today, Alcoa recycles more than 1.3 billion pounds a year.
Alcoa's "Fantastic Finishes" campaign shines in NFL games
Alcoa's "Fantastic Finishes" ad campaign begins airing during the final two minutes of NFL games on CBS and NBC. The memorable campaign features 30-second clips of the greatest game finishes in league history. Catch a replay from 1982 or 1983.
From the beginning of the U.S. space program, Alcoa alloys and propellants help make many space milestones possible, from the first manned flight and the first moon landing to the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs.
The first all-aluminum automobile
With Audi's all-aluminum A8, introduced in 1994, aluminum reaches its full potential as a way to reduce weight, reduce emissions and boost performance. The A8's breakthrough is an all-aluminum space frame, designed and built with manufacturing techniques developed by Alcoa.
Alcoa officially becomes "Alcoa."
Known officially since 1907 as The Aluminum Company of America, the company decides it's time for a new name that reflects its status as a global company. The choice for the new official name is an easy one: "Alcoa," the well-known and popular short name coined first in 1910 as the name of a company town in Tennessee. The renaming coincides with relocating the company's headquarters from the Alcoa Building in downtown Pittsburgh to a new, environmentally advanced Corporate Center on Pittsburgh's North Shore.
Alcoa acquires Alumax
The $2.8 million merger expands Alcoa's smelter portfolio and extrusion business and gives it a stronger position in the automotive and construction markets. The combined company is the world's largest aluminum company, growing Alcoa's revenue from $13 billion to $17 billion, with 100,000 employees worldwide.
Alcoa merges with Reynolds Metals
The $4.4 billion merger of these two historic rivals adds impressive strengths to Alcoa's worldwide operations, including the Reynolds brand name, its packaging and consumer products businesses, smelting operations, manufacturing operations serving the construction and transportation markets, and bauxite reserves in Brazil, Guyana and Guinea. The merger creates a company with $20.5 billion in revenues and 120,000 employees in 36 countries.
Howmet Castings and Huck Fasteners
As part of a $2.5 billion acquisition of Cordant Technologies, Howmet Castings and Huck Fasteners become part of Alcoa. Howmet strengthens the company's position in high-performance jet engine blades, structural components and other superalloy castings. Huck is a pioneer and leader in the aerospace fastener industry.
The Dow Jones Sustainability Index
Alcoa is selected as a component of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, one of the most highly recognized and long-standing global sustainability indexes. Today, Alcoa is part of both the World and North American DJSI Indexes.
Fairchild Fasteners joins Alcoa
One of the world's premiere manufacturers of precision fastening systems and components, Fairchild makes products that are used primarily in the construction and maintenance of commercial and military aircraft. Fairchild will be combined with Huck into Alcoa Fastening Systems.
Non-stick Reynolds Wrap Aluminum Foil
Alcoa launches a nationwide media campaign to introduce Reynolds Wrap Release, a new aluminum foil with a special proprietary food-safe non-stick surface. Alcoa calls it "the biggest innovation in aluminum foil since its introduction in 1947."
The aluminum bottle
Alcoa works with Pittsburgh Brewing's iconic Iron City Beer brand to launch the first aluminum bottle to the North American beer industry. Aluminum bottles are unbreakable, keep beer colder longer, look better and recycle better than glass containers.
Joint Strike Fighter
Alcoa sets the record for the world's largest aerospace titanium die forging, a 17 foot long bulkhead for the U.S. military's advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Alcoa named one of the world's three most sustainable corporations
During a ceremony at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Alcoa is recognized as one of the top three sustainable corporations, from a global database of 2000, in Innovest's listing of the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations.
Expansion in Russia
Alcoa acquires two Russian fabricating facilities from RUSAL. The two facilities join Alcoa's flat rolled products, extrusion, and wheels and forged products systems and position Alcoa to better serve customers in Russia and throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Iceland: first greenfield smelter in 20 years
Alcoa opens the Alcoa Fjardaál smelter – the company’s first greenfield smelter in 20 years. Located in Reydarfjordur, Iceland, the smelter is one of the most modern and technologically advanced in the world, setting new benchmarks in protecting the environment.
Reynolds packaging business sold
Alcoa’s packaging and consumer businesses, including Closure Systems International, Consumer Products (including Reynolds Wrap products), Flexible Packaging, and Reynolds Food Packaging, are sold to Rank Group, a New Zealand-based privately-held company.
Partnership with Ma'aden to develop lowest-cost aluminum complex in the world
As a joint venture with The Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Ma’aden), Alcoa begins construction of the largest fully integrated project in Alcoa's history in Ras Al Khair, Saudi Arabia. It will be the world’s preeminent and lowest-cost producer of primary aluminum, alumina and aluminum products.
Ma'aden reaches First Hot Metal milestone
On December 12, the Alcoa Ma'aden joint venture celebrates its First Hot Metal milestone, marking the successful commissioning of the first of 720 smelting pots. The milestone is a key step toward commercial production at the smelter.
Ground broken for Middle East's first automotive products rolling mill
Alcoa and Ma’aden break ground for construction of expanded rolling mill capabilities at their combined aluminum complex in Ras Al Khair, Saudi Arabia. The expanded capabilities will enable the facility to supply aluminum automotive, building and construction sheet and foil stock to the Kingdom’s developing new industry and other global markets.
Aluminum lithium operation launched in Lafayette, Indiana
Ground is broken on a new state-of-the-art aluminum lithium facility adjacent to Alcoa's existing plant in Lafayette, Indiana. The $90 million, 115,000 square-foot expansion will produce more than 20,000 metric tons of aluminum lithium and will be capable of casting round and rectangular ingot for rolled, extruded and forged applications.
Automotive expansion in Tennessee
The company breaks ground on a $275 million expansion of Tennessee Operations to meet growing aluminum demand for auto production. The expansion will create an additional 200 full-time jobs in Tennessee when completed in mid-2015.
Automotive expansion in Iowa
A $300 million expansion at Alcoa's Davenport, Iowa facility adds 150 jobs and grows Alcoa's ability to supply aluminum sheet products to the automotive industry.
Reclosable aluminum bottle
Bud Light's new “Cool Twist” reclosable aluminum bottle is based on Alcoa’s patented bottle technology, uses Alcoa’s aluminum bottle sheet, and carries the Alcoa logo on the package.
Firth Rixson acquired
Jet engine component leader Firth Rixson strengthens Alcoa's robust aerospace portfolio and doubles Alcoa's average revenue content on high-growth engine programs. The acquisition increases Alcoa's ability to offer isothermal and ring forgings made of nickel-based superalloys, titanium, stainless steel and advanced aluminum alloys.
Ma'aden-Alcoa JV fully operational
With the first production run of alumina from Saudi Arabian bauxite, Alcoa's joint venture in Saudi Arabia is fully operational as a mining, refining, smelting and rolling complex. The Ma'aden complex, a joint venture of Alcoa and The Saudi Arabian Mining Company, is the lowest-cost aluminum complex in the world.
Upstream business reshaped
Alcoa closes its Point Henry aluminum smelter and two rolling mills in Australia and sells its ownership stake in the Mt. Holly aluminum smelter in Goose Creek, South Carolina and its stake in the Jamalco mining/refining joint venture in Jamaica.
Alcoa acquires TITAL
TITAL is a leading manufacturer of titanium and aluminum structural castings for aircraft engines and airframes. This acquisition establishes titanium casting capabilities in Europe and expands Alcoa's aluminum casting capacity.
Alcoa acquires RTI International Metals
With RTI, a global leader in titanium and specialty metals, Alcoa expands its reach into titanium—the world’s fastest-growing aerospace metal—and adds advanced technologies and materials capabilities, including additive manufacturing (3D printing).
Tech Center expands additive manufacturing research
A $60 million expansion project at the Alcoa Technical Center near Pittsburgh accelerates the development of advanced 3D printing materials and processes. Alcoa will produce materials designed to meet increasing demand for complex, high-performance 3D-printed parts for aerospace, automotive, medical, building and construction and other high-growth markets.
Smelter curtailments drive competitiveness
Alcoa announces planned production curtailments of 503,000 metric tons of aluminum and 1.2 million metric tons of alumina to ensure continued competitiveness amid prevailing market conditions.
Alcoa announces plan to separate into two industry-leading companies
Alcoa approves a plan to separate the company into two independent, industry-leading, publicly traded Fortune 500 companies. The Upstream Company (to be known as Alcoa Corporation) will comprise Bauxite, Alumina, Aluminum, Casting and Energy business units, as well as rolling mills. The Value-Add Company (to be known as Arconic) will include Global Rolled Products, Engineered Products and Solutions, and Transportation and Construction Solutions.
$410 million bauxite supply contracts
Alcoa World Alumina and Chemicals secures multiple bauxite supply contracts valued at more than $410 million over the next two years. Under the contracts, AWAC will supply bauxite to external customers from four of its global mines as it continues to successfully build its third-party bauxite business. The new contracts serve customers in China, the United States, Europe and Brazil.
Alcoa separates into two independent companies, Alcoa and Arconic
After 128 years of operating as a vertically integrated company, Alcoa separates its mining/refining/smelting and power businesses (retaining the name "Alcoa") from its fabrication businesses, now known as "Arconic."
Pittsburgh becomes global headquarters
Alcoa designates Pittsburgh as its global headquarters in a move to reduce complexity and save costs. The headquarters move, effective on September 1, is announced in conjunction with the consolidation of seven other administrative offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia.