Finally, ACCO turns to Union Carbide, whose proprietary Vinylite can be applied to the insides of tin cans.
Armed with a beer-capable can, American Can Company tests its protoype at the request of Anheuser-Busch and Pabst.
skunk). So ACCO uses brewer's pitch, a tar-like substance used to insulate
beer from metallic brewery equipment.
6 June 1933
From the first days of Repeal, alcoholic beverage containers were required to reflect federal taxes had been paid on the product prior to the packaging process. Usually, this was summarized as Internal Revenue Tax Paid,* and so beer cans sold during this period are referred to by collectors as "IRTP."
* Some manufacturers used the more clumsy Tax Paid At The Rate Prescribed By The Internal Revenue Law.
However, some brewers mistakenly thought the U-permit number was a suitable substitute for the IRTP statement, and so a handful of the earliest cans were sold without the IRTP statement. Understandably, these cans are extremely rare.
The IRTP law would be annulled on 1 March 1950.
29 January 1919
America loses its mind. Prohibition becomes law.
The Volstead Act, named after teetotaler Andrew Volstead, fortifies Prohibition, defining "intoxicating" as anything with more than 0.5% alcohol.
CONTINENTAL ENTERS THE FRAY.
13 August 1935
With the help of a giant, CCC solves the small guy's problem.
For its launch into beer cannery, Continental lands two brewers almost simultaneously: G. Heileman and Schlitz, (who create a new beer for the venture), and they solve a problem in the process.
After all, in order to can beer, breweries have to buy expensive canning machinery. And small breweries just can't dish out the revenue to install such equipment.
Late July/early August '35
America's largest brewer has hit the ground running with ACCO's beer can. It's a major blow to those who believe beer in cans is a fad.
Within a few months the Pabst can goes through several design changes. On their first redesign, they attach their proprietary "Tapacan" term to the label (probably on 11 August), and soon thereafter the trademark makes it way to the can's face.
At first Pabst decides not to can its best-selling "Blue Ribbon" beer. After all, they reason, if the newfangled beer can fails, why should we associate our finest product with it?
Instead, they decide, Pabst's excursion into canning should begin with their "Export" variety.
17 February 1933
Continental Can Co strikes first in the race to patent a can opener. Herbert Schrader submits his invention to the patent office, on behalf of Continental.
24 June 1933
E.G. Mason improves upon the Schrader invention. Check out CCC's second can opener patent here.
30 August 1933
Samuel Clifford Robison of Continental submits his invention for a flat top beer can, complete with a description of the inside coating process.
For that patent, click here.
NATIONAL CLONES THE FLAT TOP.
HEEKIN... 2ND, 3RD, OR 4TH?
Some time between January and October, 1935...
Beer can collectors have known for years that 1935 was a very busy year. But for fifty years, just how busy 1935 was remained a secret.
At some point in 1935, Bowser and Miltenberger's invention is licensed by the Heekin Can Company of Cincinnati who, with Burger Brewing (also of Cincinnati) packages beer in this behemoth of a can.
Notably, as illustrated in Bowser & Miltenberger's patent (above), the inner workings of this can were incredibly complex. Far from a simple container, this device was a workable beer delivery system — complete with valves, tubes, standpipes, and even an internally-mounted cork stopper.
What isn't clear from the patent is what lines the inside of the 248 oz "Can O Draft" to protect the beer from contacting the metallic surfaces within. Whatever it is, the can boasts it's "tasteless" and "odorless."
Were the instructions on this monster, to keep it "cold and still," prompted by its tendency to burst, or by the instability of its elaborate innards? Your guess is as good as mine.
For more on the Heekin Hercules, click here.
Volstead amended. President Roosevelt signs the Cullen-Harrison Bill, making 3.2 beer legal, beginning on 7 April.
But within a couple years, healthy sales of canned beer will convince Pabst it can sell its signature brew in cans.
However, that too
is a move they make cautiously; initially they only attach a blue ribbon to the label, without adding the words "Blue Ribbon."
But continued escalating sales will eventually convince Pabst the beer can is here to stay, and in 1938 they will happily include the term "Blue Ribbon" on their cans.
On Through the Summer of '34
ACCO spends much of the year perfecting their brewer's pitch. But the substance isn't exactly cooperating.
The better it sticks to corners, creases, & seams, the worse it responds to pasteurization, and vice versa.
Among the many breweries Continental attracted to the Cone Top can was the brewer who'd first tried to package its product with Heekin: Burger.
A Sales Portfolio from 1936 claims CCC canned 17 breweries' beers in 1935:
However, that claim may have been somewhat of a bravado-inspired
exaggeration. In fact, this ad from a January 1936 Brewer's Journal likely reflects a more accurate count. CCC had at most 12 clients as 1935 wrapped up (the ad shows eleven; Rainier is missing).
Working with Vinylite, ACCO develops a dual coat process ("C" enamel + Vinylite), and attach to it their "Keglined" trademark (like copyrights, trademarks are automatic and do not have to be registered to be valid).
25 May 1935
Babe Ruth hits his 714th, and last, home run as a professional baseball player.
22 July 1934
FBI agents fatally shoot Dillinger as he exits a Chicago theater.
Trial run of the new beer can
ACCO and Newark, N.J. based Gottfried Krueger Brewery packages 2,000 cans
of Krueger's Special Beer; sends 500 families 4 cans each, with a mail-in questionnaire about the new container.
Happily, the can's approval rating is 91%, and Krueger signs on with ACCO.
7 November 1933
ACCO's John Murch submits "Method of Lining the Insides of Cans" patent.
23 November 1933
ACCO submits the Groenke Can patent.
Late December 1933
ACCO inventors Dewitt Sampson & John Hothersall perfect the church key. Vaughan Novelty Mfg. Co. is commissioned to manufacture the openers.
to see the Sampson & Hothersall blueprint.
13 July 1934 - This ran in dozens of papers. Was there a 1934 test run in Farrell, PA?
Prohibition officially repealed.
Within six months of ACCO's market breakthrough, National comes along with its own flat top beer can. Not only that; National also buys the rights to use Vinylite, calling their own protective lining process "Double-Lined."
14 March 1934
Crown Cork & Seal files to patent a milk bottle that looks a lot like what would become their (and Continental's) "bottle top" beer cans.
Vinylite — the substance chosen to 'kegline' insides of cans — is the same polymer used to make vinyl records.
The earliest beer cans reminded consumers to
COOL BEFORE SERVING. Apparently brewers feared people would overestimate the beer can's abilities - thinking it was such a revolutionary creation it could keep a product chilled indefinitely.
Pabst files for trademark of the term "Tapacan" and its corresponding logo.
75 million cans sold before Christmas:
In the summer
of 1935 Northampton of Pennsylvania becomes the first brewery to can their beer with National.
Their Tru-Blu Ale and Beer are National's firsts.
Before 1935 ends, American is canning beer for approximately 20 breweries.
The successes of Krueger's & Pabst has attracted the likes of Scheidt, Ballantine, Fort Pitt, Gunther... and at least thirteen others.
Introducing the "Golden Keglined Can," Adam Scheidt Brewing becomes the third corporation to package beer in Canco cans.
Using their distinctive "Copper-Colored Cans," P. Ballantine and Sons becomes the fourth brewery to can their beer
So Continental devises a tin can that can be filled with bottling machinery. Cone top cans are literally metal bottles, and many brewers will only have to make a couple of minor adjustments to turn
their ordinary bottle assembly lines into cone top assembly lines.
Continental tags their product with the moniker Cap Sealed, to keep the bottle-to-can link in folks' minds (and to appeal to those uncomfortable using the Church Key), and coat the insides of their cans with a waxy substance.
From a 9 Nov 35 Madison, Wisconsin newspaper.
How many beers CCC can before 1935 draws to a close is unclear — most say 12 (I believe it's 11 - Rainier wasn't canned until 1936), but a Salesman's Sample Book from 1936 lists 17.
National Can ran this ad in numerous newspapers across the nation on 3 December 1935.
Brookyln-based King's signs with National in the first week of December. By a hair, NCC's end-of-1935 total is four.
However, National is plagued by problems with their packaging. For starters, the lids they use on their very first cans aren't strong enough to consistently withstand the pressures generated by beer. Secondly, their internal lining is unreliable, causing a high number of consumers to associate fouled beer with NCC's brands.
This September 1935 TIME magazine spoke of McKeesport's ongoing can lining problems.
National's customer base comes largely from brewers whose timing demands can not be met by a suddenly-swamped American Can Company.
1935 ad for canned beer. Note the free
offer to deliver in an 'Unmarked Sedan.'
Acme Brewing and Pacific Can introduce the Keglet flat top.
Red Top and Peter Fox Brewing Companies become the second and third to can their beers with National.
Sometime in 1909
The American Can Company (a.k.a. ACCO) researches canning beer at the request of Leopold Schmidt, and finds contemporary canning methods far too weak to withstand the range of internal pressures created during beer pasteurization.
By all accounts, the biggest hurdle is keeping beer from coming in contact with the metal surfaces inside the can.
Beer and metal don't mix (think
24 January 1935
THE BEER CAN IS OFFICIALLY BORN.
Krueger's Finest Beer
and Cream Ale are sold
in cans in Richmond, VA.
By March, sales are up
by 550%. Several
consider canning beer.
2 April 1935
Sampson & Hothersall receive a patent for the "Quick & Easy Opener.".
23 May 1935
Premier-Pabst is issued a U-Permit number for their new label...
Late June '35
Premier-Pabst fills their first cans, which ACCO has provided free of charge.
4 July 1935
Pabst introduces its new beer container on Independence Day.
11 July 1935
Pabst commits long-
term with ACCO.
Schmidt is also the first brewmeister to see far enough into the future to predict the canning of beer.
So, he visits the American
Can Company plant in San Francisco to look into the matter.
Whatever comes of his visit is unknown; and in ten years will be moot anyway...
29 October 1929 Black Tuesday
The Great Depression is upon us.
Banning alcohol turns out to have a much bigger effect on worldly matters than even the darkest of pessimists could've foreseen.
16 April 1925
ACCO inventor Charles Stollberg has figured out how to make a sufficiently sturdy tin can, and files for a patent on his design.
19 April 1927
Charles Stollberg's patent is granted. The world has its first bona fide beer can blueprint.
2 January 1935
Heekin Can Company's R.R. Bowser and J. E. Miltenberger apply for a patent on their "Liquid Dispensing Container."
Can collectors might be interested to note this occurred 22 days prior to the first sale of beer in cans.
Technically, this is the world's second beer can design, though the beer collecting community did not know of its existence for 50 years!
29 October 1935
Bowser and Miltenberger's Can-o-Draft patent is granted.
August- September '35
C.E. McManus of Crown
Cork & Seal files
numerous patent designs
for "Metal Containers".
18 September 1935
Brief news item runs nationwide:
The first flat fops were just that — flat. Later cans would have "smile beads" to provide better structural reinforcement.
22 June 1935
Arthur Hopkins of National sends his "Punch" opener blueprint to the US Patent Office.
Leopold Schmidt is a German immigrant, long-established in Montana politics and business, and quickly establishing what will become the enormously successful Olympia
Brewing Corporation in Washington.
During the beer can's first days many drinkers attempted to return their empty cans, as they'd done with bottles for years. Thus, lots of labels included messages reminding users the tin can was not refillable.
11 May 1934
Alfred L. Kronquest of Continental files to patent his "Metal Container for Beer." The similarity between this and Crown Cork & Seal's cone tops will later fuel rumors of the companies' merging.
Juice is already coming in flat top cans - which are a lot easier to produce than the beer can will be (no pasteurization process to elevate internal pressures), but the Robison flat top suggests something else is going on.
Could it be Continental has been planning to introduce flat top and cone top beer cans simultaneously?
Whatever CCC's initial intentions may have been, ACCO has obviously beat them to the flat top with their late '33 test runs.
But the can design is not what's keeping Continental from canning beer; again, the problem is finding the right material with which to line the inside of the can.
Over the next several months, engineers will try resins, flours, gums, and even sprayed asphalt.
24 July 1935
CCC's Kronquest finally finds a reliable protective lining - "Cerese EE Wax" - and files to patent the process Continental will use to protect beer from contacting the insides of its cans.
Did CCC invent
the Smile Bead?
Combined with C-enamel,
the wax is just what CCC
has been looking for.
Despite being outpaced
by ACCO, Kronquest
submits his patent with
drawings of Robison's
flat top. And look
closely - it's got smile beads!
Now, it's worth a head-scratch to consider the CCC church key patents will take over 3 years for the US Patent Office to approve, whereas the ACCO openers will take less than five months.
But, more puzzing is this: we all know Continental's legacy in the first days of canned beer is essentially as the anti-flat. So why a churchkey? And why is their first patented can design a flat top?
Krueger's Special Beer was near-beer.
Gottfried Krueger's "Special Beer" was sold for years during Prohibition. Ads from the 20s raved how "real" Krueger's Special Beer tasted.
If you have conflicting information, please send it my way.
Patent numbers 1,625,229 and 2,064,537 correspond to changes in the can designs themselves (e.g. improvements in soldering techniques — as seen on the left); not to the material used to "Kegline" cans' insides.
Trademark registration numbers listed on "Keglined" cans (92935, 197382, 268305, etc.) are those for the term CANCO and the CANCO logo.
There is no record of "Keglined" itself ever being granted a trademark registration.
For a deeper examination of trademarks, click here.
© 2001 - 2011 Phil Thompson