Have you ever walked past a stove and admired its shiny surface or used a knife to cut tough meat and felt the sharpness of the blade? If so, then you’ve come across stainless steel.
Understanding the birth story of this incredible metal can help us appreciate all the ways it enhances our lives. Let’s look at the history of stainless steel in the United States.
The introduction of stainless steel
We can trace the origin of stainless steel to Sheffield, England in 1913, developed by Harry Brearley and his team at Brown Firth research laboratories. The first American patent for stainless steel will follow a few years later.
Stainless steel is an alloy of iron, chrome, and other metals, and you can find it in everything from kitchen appliances to surgical instruments. It is highly corrosion resistant and has a wide range of commercial and industrial applications.
Stainless Steel in USA
The early history of stainless steel in the United States is tied to the development of the nickel industry. In 1916, American chemist Elwood Haynes obtained a patent for an austenitic alloy called “stainless steel”. This first stainless steel contained between 16 and 26% chromium and up to 0.15% carbon.
In the years following World War I, the nickel industry in the United States grew rapidly. Nickel was essential for the production of stainless steel and other alloys. The US Geological Survey estimates that in 2019 the United States produced approximately 81,000 metric tons of nickel.
The first stainless steel production plant in the United States was built in 1923 by the American Nickel Company in Long Island City, New York. The plant produced 22 metric tons of stainless steel in its first year. By 1939, the company had expanded its operations to include a plant in Port Newark, New Jersey, which produced 66 metric tons of stainless steel.
During World War II, the demand for stainless steel increased dramatically. The war effort required large amounts of metal for military equipment and supplies. After the war, the stainless steel industry continued to grow.
Stainless steel today
Today, the United States is one of the largest producers of stainless steel in the world. In 2019, the US Geological Survey estimated that the United States produced 2.5 million metric tons of stainless steel.
The American stainless steel industry is highly concentrated. The top 10 companies account for approximately 75% of the various types of stainless steel production. The largest producer is AK Steel Corporation, which operates in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
The stainless steel industry in the United States is also very innovative. American companies are constantly developing new grades and types of stainless steel to meet the ever-changing needs of consumers and industries.
The next time you see a shiny sink or a sharp knife, remember the history of stainless steel and how it has improved our lives. We never know; the next big innovation in stainless steel may be just around the corner.