Tavern Trove: Beer Can History

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Beer Can History


The next challenge for the engineers was the lining. Steel had a well-earned reputation as a spoiler of beer. Each can company had to devise its own coating to separate the beer from the container. Independently, Continental Can and Crown Cork and Seal developed a wax that was sprayed at high temperatures into the can through the spout after it was assembled. The American Can Company with their flat top can enlisted Mobil Chemical to devise a lining that would eventually be trademarked ?Keglined?. It is now perhaps the most widely known trademark among can collectors today.

Now that the package was perfected, the marketers had to convince beer drinking America that canned beer was good beer. In addition to taking out advertisements in national and trade magazines, from the beginning can companies reserved up to 20% of the can?s label to promote the concept of beer in a can. On early cone tops a whole side panel was reserved for explaining how much better cans were than bottles. Moreover, brewers were so afraid the public wouldn?t associate beer with cans some early labels had the words beer or ale in letters up to three inches high!

One of the benefits of canned beer that really took hold was the idea of the one-way container. Until then, all beer and soda packaged for individual use was sold in bottles that were property of the brewer. They had to be returned and washed between each use.

Can companies emphasized the annoyance of returning the bottles, and they called in to question the cleanliness of the washed containers. The latter attack flowed seamlessly with many large ad campaigns of the day, which were attempting to equate hygiene with not only health, but also morality. The idea of the one-way beverage container gained a foothold in the American people, and the seeds of our ?Throwaway Culture? were sown.

Another complication was that the first people who drank beer in flat top cans had to be taught how to get the beer out. This necessitated the invention of the church key can opener and the inclusion of one in every six-pack. Also nearly all early cans have, printed right next to the seam, a how-to guide for using this new fangled opener. These Opening Instruction cans are highly collectible today. Of course, after 14 years of prohibition thirsty Americans were pretty shrewd in regards to getting their beer. They were able to figure it out. By the end of the 1930s, beer cans with opening instructions were mostly phased out.


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