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The entrepreneurial spirit clearly runs in the Reynolds family: Richard S.
Reynolds, creator of "Reynolds Wrap" was the nephew of tobacco king
R. J. Reynolds. In fact, the younger Reynolds
worked for his uncle during the summers of his youth, until in 1919, he started
his own business, the U.S. Foil Co., supplying tin-lead wrappers to cigarette
and candy companies.
In the 1920s, the price of aluminum dropped, and Reynolds switched from tin
to this new lightweight, non-corrosive metal. The material's advantages were
numerous, including that it could be rolled much thinner than existing metal
packaging and was less expensive because of the greater yield of foil per pound
of metal. In addition, aluminum foil was more brilliant and more appealing to
the eye. Moreover, it had protective qualities which made it valuable as a packaging
In 1924, Reynolds and his Louisville, Kentucky-based company bought the enterprise
that made Eskimo Pies, which were wrapped in foil. Four years later, Reynolds
purchased Robertshaw Thermostat, Fulton Sylphon, and part of Beechnut Foil,
adding the companies to U.S. Foil to form Reynolds
Metals. In 1926, the company began using aluminum foil as a packaging material
for the first time. By 1930, Reynolds sales had reached nearly $13 million.
Continuing to expand and grow, the company moved its headquarters to New York
City. The company created the first high-speed, gravure-printed foil, aluminum
bottle labels, heat-sealed foil bags for foods and foil-laminated building insulation
paper. In 1938, the company's executive offices were moved again, this time
to Richmond, Virginia.
Reynolds could see in the late 1930s that it was possible that the United States
would enter World War II. He knew that meant demand for aluminum would increase,
as it could be employed in many of the supplies troops would need overseas.
At that time, Reynolds Metals began mining bauxite (aluminum ore) in Arkansas
in 1940 and opened its first aluminum plant near Sheffield, Alabama, the following
year. In 1947, the company came up with its most famous creation, Reynolds Wrap
Aluminum Foil, which sells extraordinarily well in supermarkets all over the
world today and transformed food storage everywhere.
Meanwhile, Reynolds Metals pioneered the development of aluminum siding in 1945,
and R.S. Reynolds began predicting a growing demand for additional aluminum
during peacetime. He knew it wouldn't take long before new aluminum-producing
facilities would need to be built to meet demand. Reynolds Metals Company leased,
and later bought, six government plants that were up for disposal.
Reynolds continued to grow, opening mining operations both in the US and around
the world. The company also began to introduce new consumer and industrial products
-- in 1982, for example it introduced Reynolds Plastic Wrap. On May 3, 2000
the company merged with Alcoa to become the
largest aluminum company in the United States.
Over the years, Reynolds' four sons had each played an important part in the
company's success. In 1948, at a Board of Directors meeting, Reynolds announced
that he would be turning over the leadership of the company to his sons. He
remained actively involved in the company, however, until his death in 1955.