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The Hard-Luck Texas Town That Bet on Bitcoin—and Lost

China's Bitmain said it would build the world's largest bitcoin mine in Rockdale, Texas. Then the price of bitcoin plunged, taking with it the town's hopes for a revival.

In 1952, The Saturday Evening Post christened Rockdale, Texas, “The Town Where It Rains Money.” An estimated 100 million tons of lignite coal lay buried a few miles south of the city limits, and Alcoa had just swooped in to build a $100 million smelter that would use the cheap energy source to produce aluminum for fighter planes, skyscrapers, auto­mobiles, and more. “At the mere mention of somebody blowing into town with $100,000,000 to spend, many citi­zens were seized by attacks of vertigo,” wrote local author George Sessions-Perry. “Others merely went off and lay down in an effort to regain their composure. Then things began to happen.”

Seemingly overnight, Rockdale’s population doubled to 5,000. A photo accompanying the Post story shows resident millionaire H. H. “Pete” Coffield and the mayor hosting a party for new Alcoa employees on a patio surrounded by a lush garden. The women wear cocktail dresses, and the men wear ties. “What makes us feel best of all,” Sessions-Perry continued, “is that we’re making a sizable pile of something that the nation needs.”

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