The company’s earliest predecessor was incorporated as the American Metal Co. Limited (Amco) in 1887 when it was spun off from the Frankfurt-based Metallgesellschaft, a metals trading concern. In 1884 Metallgesellschaft sent Berthold Hochschild to New York to initiate a metal-trading business. There Hochschild quickly built Metallgesellschaft’s U.S. metals business, due in great part to startlingly productive U.S. copper mines. Amco exported nickel and opened treatment plants for lead and copper. The fledgling company benefited from its German connections during this period, as Germany consumed one-third of U.S. copper exports. Following U.S. entry into World War I in 1917 the 49% German stake in Amco was seized by the U.S. Alien Property Custodian and resold, and all trade with Germany was halted. The huge profits generated by Allied military needs, however, more than compensated for the loss of Amco’s German business. Use of the metal molybdenum also increased during the war. Molybdenum’s special properties as an alloying metal in steel were first recognized during the late 19th century. By 1916 demand for its properties, battle-tough hardness and elasticity, was great. Max Schott, head of Amco’s Denver, Colorado, office, promptly enlisted the aid of Amco’s leadership to buy a mine in Climax, Colorado, that would eventually produce 75% to 85% of the world’s molybdenum. The Climax Molybdenum Company was formed in 1917 by a syndicate that included American Metal Company.
By 1924 it was recognized that molybdenum, or “moly,” was more than a wartime wonder. Its use as wire for vacuum tubes and incandescent lamps; in steel for machines, railroad and construction equipment, and automobiles; and its compounds in dyes and pharmaceuticals, caused Scientific American
in March 1924 to label the nascent industry “one of the most important branches of American metallurgy.”
During the interwar years Amco diversified into copper- and zinc-smelting plants. Also after the end of the war, Amco’s German connection re-emerged. The Germans who formerly had owned 49% of Amco’s stock were alleged to have paid a $441,000 bribe to the Alien Property Custodian, Thomas W. Miller, in a convoluted attempt to gain control of the $7 million that had resulted from the sale of the Germans’s Amco stock in 1917. Miller turned the $7 million over to the German contingent and was subsequently indicted for his actions.
Copper once again came to the forefront of American Metal Company’s concerns in the 1930s, with the overseas development of the Roan Antelope
and Mufulira mines on the Rhodesia-Congo border. The Roan Antelope mines were one-third owned by Amco, and the Mufulira mines were two-thirds owned by Amco, through its majority ownership of Rhodesian Selection Trust, Ltd. African investment would prove to be among American Metal Company’s most volatile, and profitable, ventures. In 1952 Amco’s stake in these mines brought the company about $4 million. American Metal Company expanded its African holdings in 1946 by buying, with the Newmont Mining Corporation
and Rhodesian Selection Trust, Ltd., the Tsumeb mine in South West Africa, now Namibia. The South African government that controlled South West Africa had seized the copper, lead, and zinc mine from its German owners during World War II.
Amco consistently augmented its holdings in North America, as well. Southwest Potash Corporation—later AMAX Chemical Corporation and by 1991 AMAX Potash Corporation—and Heath Steele Mines Ltd., both wholly owned subsidiaries, were formed in 1948 and 1954, respectively. Amco also began developing oil properties in concert with Climax Molybdenum in 1950. In 1957, the two companies, via a stock swap, merged. Climax had been modernizing its facilities, and production of molybdenum had doubled from 1951 to 1955. Climax also had begun mining tungsten and vanadium, as well as developing its uranium interests. Climax president Arthur H. Bunker became chairman of the newly named American Metal Climax, Inc. (AMAX).
During the 1960s, AMAX’s Southwest Potash company pursued lead in a joint lead-mine-smelter venture with the Homestake Mining Company
that went on-line in 1969; and formed AMAX Petroleum Corporation in 1962, which the following year acquired the oil and gas properties of four separate petroleum companies. Also in 1962, AMAX began work in aluminum by buying the Michigan-based Kawneer Company and Chicago’s Apex Smelting Company. In 1965 a new AMAX subsidiary was formed to hold the aluminum subsidiaries: the AMAX Aluminum Group. By 1990, it would be the third-largest U.S. aluminum company.
Of intrinsic importance to the company’s future was its entrance into the coal market in 1969. Ayshire Collieries of Indiana was purchased and would soon become a new subsidiary: AMAX Coal Company. Four years later, it was the fifth-largest U.S. coal producer. By 1980, it was number three.
In 1974 American Metal Climax, Inc. officially adopted its nickname and became AMAX Inc.
Close Up of Vignette:
Registered Note, specimen, late 1900’sPrinter: American Bank Note Company Dimensions:
8” (h) x 12” (w)State: NY-New York Subject Matter: Metals and Related
| Specimen Pieces Vignette Topic(s): Male Subject
| Mining Scene
| Heavy Equipment Featured Condition:
No fold lines, punch hole cancels in signature areas and body, very crisp.