Alcoa Inc. (The Aluminum Company of America) was founded in 1866 by Charles Martin Hall after he discovered the process for smelting aluminum. This process is still the only known process for making aluminum. The new company was called the Pittsburgh Reduction Company.
By 1903 the company was manufacturing aluminum at three sites and was the only legal producer of aluminum in the United States. The company faced competition only from foreign producers, who were subject to high tariffs.
From 1938 to 1940 Alcoa was involved in a trial with the U.S. government concerning its monopolistic hold on the aluminum industry. Alcoa was ordered to break up. World War II meant an increased demand for aluminum, one that Alcoa was unable to fill. The U.S. government built two plants which were operated by Alcoa. After the war, the U.S. government sold these two plants to new rivals.
During the 1970’s, with smelting increasing in cost, Alcoa began to look for alternatives, settling on recycling. By 1979 the company was reprocessing 110 million pounds of scrap aluminum and by 1985, 500 million pounds.
Today Alcoa is the world’s third largest producer of aluminum and conducts operations in 31 countries. It is involved in all aspects of the industry: technology, mining, refining, smelting, fabricating, and recycling.
Alcoa’s products are used in aircraft, automobile, commercial transportation, packaging, building, and construction, defense, industrial, and oil and gas worldwide. The company has over 60,000 employees and had $25.9 billion in revenue in 2011.