And yet, the hardest part lay ahead.
had to convince business men of the validity of his process, by constantly
improving it and by making the old guard appreciate the qualities of the
new metal. A difficult task in the last few years of the 19th century,
when steel was at the height of its popularity. He suffered many setbacks,
one of them at the hands of Mr. Péchiney, also known
as Alfred Rangod, who had taken over at Henri Merle's death
the management of the company Produits chimiques d'Alais et de Camargue.
asked for an appointment with Mr. Péchiney, who agreed
to see him at his Salindres manor house. They discussed the matter of aluminum
very cordially, ending with a game of billiards, which unfortunately resulted
in the host's resounding defeat. Irritated, Pechiney revised his earlier
judgment, and stated : "Aluminum is a metal with few applications, it
serves to make eyeglass cases, and whether you sell it for FF 10 or FF
100 per kilo, you won't sell a kilo more. If you were making aluminum bronze,
that would be another matter, since it has many uses, and if you could
produce it cheaply, the prospects would surely be worth looking into".
After which, he warmly congratulated his visitor on his youthful enthousiasm,
and sent him on his way.
Fustrated but not discouraged, Héroult
looked for support elsewhere. Legend has it that one evening he was seated
at the terrace of a Paris café, expostulating to all who would listen
that businessmen and bankers understood nothing, least of all his own invention.
A man is said to have come forth, saying : "My name is Jules Dreyfus,
I may be able to help you". and thanks to him, Héroult was
put in touch with a Swiss company, the sons of J. G. Neher, who operated
a metallurgical plant at Neuhausen, on the banks of the Rhine. They immediately
grasped the possibilities, and agreed to create a Swiss metallurgical company
with Héroult as technical director. Another step toward the
distant goal was achieved.