Abstract: Banging the Tin Drum: The United States and the Quest for Strategic Self-Sufficiency in Tin, 1840-1945

Mats Ingulstad


Ever since the arrival of the Mayflower North America has been considered a continent blessed by Divine Providence with all kinds of natural resources. Yet tin was found only in meagre quantities, even as the United States grew into the world's largest consumer of tin for civilian and military purposes. This paper discusses the various American strategies for coping with its import dependence and for diminishing the British control over the international tin industry. The methods ranged from support for domestic exploration, the use of tariff barriers to protect the infant industry, subsidies for mining and smelting, to the wooing of foreign ore suppliers from the British fold. Yet not even the U.S. Congress could decree the existence of natural resources in the bedrock, and it took the global conflagration of the Second World War to break the British stranglehold on tin smelting.