Hand-hammered metal sheets have been used since ancient times for architectural purposes. Water-powered rolling mills replaced the manual process in the late 17th century. The process of flattening metal sheets required large rotating iron cylinders which pressed metal pieces into sheets. The metals suited for this were lead, copper, zinc, iron and later steel. Tin was often used to coat iron and steel sheets to prevent it from rusting. This tin-coated sheet metal was called "tinplate. " Sheet metals appeared in the United States in the 1870s, being used for shingle roofing, stamped ornamental ceilings and exterior facades. Sheet metal ceilings were only popularly known as "tin ceilings" later as manufacturers of the period did not use the term. The popularity of both shingles and ceilings encouraged widespread production. With further advances of steel sheet metal production in the 1890s, the promise of being cheap, durable, easy to install, lightweight and fireproof gave the middle-class a significant appetite for sheet metal products. It was not until the 1930s and WWII that metals became scarce and the sheet metal industry began to collapse. However, some American companies, such as the W. F. Norman Corporation, were able to stay in business by making other products until Historic preservation projects aided the revival of ornamental sheet metal.
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