Stainless steel is such a common part of life now that it’s hard to imagine life without it. We might not even think about how widespread and important stainless steel is to our society, but the history of this refined product can help us appreciate just how many ways this material is used.
The history of stainless steel products dates back to Pierre Berthier, a French metallurgist in the 19th century who noticed the distinctive properties iron-chromium alloys showed. Specifically an increased resistance to rust, no matter how wet or unpleasant the conditions were.
While the original studies where done with iron alloys, this paved the way for later French metallurgists to find a way to create carbon-free chromium, which held the key for melding it with steel without making the combination too brittle. This is why the beginning of the 1900s marked the birth of original stainless steel.
The race for stainless steel patents was on. France, Germany, The United Kingdom, and The United States all had scientists working on patents for their specific alloy that would come to be known under the general umbrella of “stainless steel.”
The American Stainless Steel Corporation, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (where else?), was the combination of investor money with a patent holder in the US and in Great Britain. However, it took some time for people to settle on the more common name – stainless steel; it used to go by different names such as Allegheny Metal, Staybrite Steel, Nirosta Steel, and finally, “unstainable steel.”
The First Stainless Steel Products
The many uses of stainless steel would come over time but in the beginning, the demand wasn’t remarkably high. Many of the first items made of stainless steel were cutlery sets. That’s right: forks, spoons, and knives.
However momentum would begin to shift as hospitals and doctors saw far improved results from stainless steel scalpels. During World War I, multiple aircraft used stainless steel in their parts for a more efficient, lighter, and stronger engine.
Post World War I
The use of stainless steel parts in engines of World War I planes paved the way for stainless steel to be quickly used in the engines of another vehicle that was being mass produced on an unprecedented scale: the automobile.
This was when different industries noticed the versatility and reliability of stainless steel. Tanks for moving chemicals were made of stainless steel, as were the earliest milk trucks that could now transport massive amounts of liquid from the farm to wherever it needed to go.
Swiss army knives switched over to stainless steel in 1921 and never looked back. Stainless steel also began to appear in construction, and the top 88 feet of the Chrysler building was famous for its stainless steel coating and decoration in an art deco style that remains to this day.
Modern Uses of Stainless Steel
Advancements in tools, technology, and technique have allowed for the customized use of stainless steel. Now, the material is being used in a wide variety of products that literally reach into the thousands.
From becoming the metal of choice for home and business, water heaters to razor blades, cutlery to major shipping containers, there are very few areas where stainless steel doesn’t make an appearance.
The history of stainless steel products goes hand in hand with the history of stainless steel itself. The two are impossible to separate from one another.
While this list is a long way from complete, just a few examples of great modern stainless steel products include:
- Medical tools (scalpel)
- Car and plane parts
- Giant tanks
- Water heaters
- Major building construction
- Ships and shipping containers
- Kitchen utensils and more!
Stainless steel is known for being extremely resistant to water and rust, making it an attractive option for any metal items that need to deal with those conditions on a consistent basis. Stainless steel looks good, bringing a sleek and modern style while offering a level of sturdiness and durability that is truly hard for any other possible alternative to match!