Jonathan Brecher submitted this interesting question about early uses of aluminum as a COMMON metal. Thanks. -Editor
For many years aluminum was more valuable than gold. Several processes developed in the 1850s lowered its price, but when the pyramidal
aluminum cap of the Washington Monument was produced in 1884, the cost of aluminum was still about $1 per ounce, similar to the cost of
All of that changed in 1886 with the discovery of the Hall-Héroult process for production of aluminum, followed by the opening of
the first large-scale production plant in 1888.
Prior to the 1880s, some of the rarest products of the US Mint were struck in aluminum, including some patterns and medals. By the time
of the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, aluminum was readily available, and many souvenir tokens were struck in the "new
metal" and sold cheaply. In 1885, there were under 300 pounds of aluminum produced in the US. In 1893, there were over 300,000 pounds
That raises the question: What was the earliest numismatic use of aluminum as a COMMON metal? For exonumia, it would have to be
something produced in the 5 or so years leading up to the Columbian Exposition. For circulating coinage, I'm guessing a little bit
later. Can an E-Sylum reader propose a good candidate in either category?
The question came to mind following my purchase of the attached 28.8 aluminum token/medal dated 1885. The Educator Food Company was a
Boston-based company that sold crackers and was an early competitor to Nabisco. It was founded in 1885, so presumably this piece was
produced somewhat later and isn't itself a candidate for "earliest". If not this, then what?
We couldn't locate this specific topic in the E-Sylum archive. What do readers think?
QUICK QUIZ: What U.S. numismatic personality is intimately connected with the Hall process? -Editor
Wayne Homren, Editor
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