“The town that aluminum built;” “the Aluminum Capital of the World;” “the definitive company town in its heyday:” these all describe the central Arkansas community of Bauxite. According to Ernie Deane’s “Arkansas Place Names,” the Pittsburg Reduction Company is credited as founder of the town named for the famous ore in 1907, though the General Bauxite Company had opened a mine and plant a few years earlier in 1897. The mining industry is gone today but the town remains a thriving community.
At the peak of mining, Bauxite had more than 7,000 residents who lived and worked there. Most of the company town no longer exists except for the community center. Today the community center houses the Bauxite Museum, dedicated to the history of the town and the industry that built it. Displays at the museum cover three decades, from the 1920s through the 1950s, and deal with such topics as family/community, the mining industry, the area’s ethnic diversity, military heritage, school days and sports. One of the most unusual and popular exhibits is what is known as "Bauxite Teeth," a problem that affected both workers and residents in the early days of mining. Though the local water stained teeth an unpleasant brown, doctors found the “Bauxite Teeth” to have harder enamel and be healthier than normal.
Other ways Bauxite honors its heritage is the naming of the high school athletic teams – “The Miners” -- while two main thoroughfares are named Alcoa and Reynolds after the major aluminum producers who mined there during the prime days of the industry. The ore also serves as the official state rock which is hard enough to have been used in various types of construction. It was used in 1887 to surface the road from Sweet Home to Little Rock. And in 1893 residents of the next-door-neighbor town of Benton used the then unknown substance to build a home for Dr. Gann in lieu of payment for bills. The solid structure still stands and houses the Gann Museum of Saline County.