Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, August 01, 2021

You can now buy it pretty cheaply by the roll, but once upon a time, aluminum gave precious metals a run for their money:

In fact, aluminum became more precious than gold and silver in the 19th century, because it was harder to obtain. The French government once displayed Fort Knox-like aluminum bars next to the crown jewels, and the minor emperor Napoleon III reserved a prized set of aluminum cutlery for special guests at banquets. (Less favored guests used gold knives and forks.) The United States, to show off its industrial prowess, even capped the Washington monument with a six-pound pyramid of aluminum in 1884.

But the aluminum market suffered a mighty crash shortly thereafter. Entrepreneurs in the United States and Europe finally figured out how to separate aluminum from minerals cheaply and also how to produce it on an industrial scale… In the mid-1800s, the first aluminum ingots on the market went for $550 per pound. Fifty years later, not even adjusting for inflation, it cost 25 cents for the same amount.

Presumably, had this elemental ore maintained its rare status, by now we’d be chugging down our beverages from pop-top cans made of tin, and oohing-ahhing whenever somebody whipped out a no-credit-limit American Express Aluminum Card.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/01/2021 03:30pm
Category: History, Science
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