Sources/Disputed Info


Disputed Info:                                                                                                                                                                                                              Top of This Page


I don't own any of the cans shown on this site.  I used images found online, scanned from old journals, magazines, or books, and recreated digitally from multiple instances of the same.  These illustrate points in a timeline, nothing else.  If you feel I've improperly used an image of yours, email me.
eBay - overall, the best source for close-up imagery of rare, historic beer cans.
Google and Google Patents - the best single gathering source for all sorts of publicly available information.
US Patent and Trademark Office online - thorough documentation of American Trademarks since before the beer can was even conceived. - not free; not the most user-friendly search engine around; but with some patience & persistence you can find lots of cool articles and ads.
Time Magazine Archives - text-only archives of Time Magazine are available online, free of charge.

United States Beer Cans - The Standard Reference of Flat Tops and Cone Tops (2001)
Class Book of U.S. Beer Cans (1982)
The Beer Cans of Anheuser-Busch (1978)
Beer Cans Unlimited (1976)
The Beer Can Collector's Bible (1976)
The Beer Can - A Complete Guide to Beer Can Collecting (1976)
Numerous BCCA magazines dating from 1976 through 2002
1930s and 1940s Brewers Journals - The precious handful I got my hands on
United States Beer Cans with Opening Instructions (1998 - 2006).

Numerous beer can-themed web sites.  From a few of these sites I used images - or parts of images - to illustrate a point.  From the rest of these sites (most of them, in fact) I didn't borrow any imagery, but found information that helped me put everything together.  The websites I found most beneficial were:
The Rusty Bunch
Old Beer Cans
Rusty Cans
Tavern Trove
Beer Showcase
Rogalski Brothers
Art's Beer Cans
Larwood Limited
Crowntainer Central

and my favorite:

US Beer Can Museum
Some of the information I've discovered since putting this site together contradicts what I've believed for years.  It contradicts what most collectors have believed for years.  Here is some of that information, and where I learned it:

1.  The "Keglined" trademark was never registered:

Development (April 2011): I found it!
Found the trademark application. It was indeed registered with the USPTO on the 25th of September, 1934, but the date the trademark was first made public was before then. Even juicier, IMO: the USPTO was petitioned to cancel the registration by another company claiming their rights were infringed! More to come soon...

Bottom line: the term "Keglined" was a trademark, but it was a trademark that was never registered with the US Government. (added:) Yes, it was. The document, however, is not available through normal USPTO means.

There is a difference between to trademark and to register a trademark.

The term to trademark describes the action of creating an original brand name, logo, or picture, and associating it with a particular product.  Sticking a doodle on your product, adding a made-up word to your product's name, or even shouting an artificial word (like keglined) over the airwaves is the act of trademarking.

For instance, if a person sells a product, and during a live radio ad for it blurts out "it's 'Willa-manilla-teriffic'!!" then he or she has trademarked the term Willa-manilla-terrific.  Whether this person bothers to file an official record of his/her trademark with the US govt is another story...

That, of course, would be the act of registering a trademark.  Specifically, with the US Patent and Trademark Office.  Unfortunately, many aren't aware of the distinction, and to trademark -- in their minds -- is synonymous with to file an official record with the US government.

The very first time the American Can Company publicly associated the term "Keglined" with their product, the beer can, they trademarked "KEGLINED." (added:) And this was several months before September 1934!

However, the term "Keglined" was never registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office.  There are some early cans associating the term "Registered" with the trademark, but the word conspicuously disappeared within the same year (the minimum time a trademark is good is ten years; obviously registration had not already expired.  It was, after all, only 30 months since Repeal).  In other words, canners knew something about trademark registration, and corrected their mistake quickly.

It is a fact that many trademarks are never registered.  The primary purpose of registration is to constitute an official record of your ownership of the trademark; comes in handy in court.  But if it's a popular, well-known trademark -- one everyone knows -- then proving you own it in court would be a cinch.  It's not hard to see how filing an official record of ownership of a well-known trademark with the US Govt could be low on a company's priority list.

I've owned since January 2001, and for months, in an attempt to ensure I wasn't illegally using the term, I made very thorough searches into this matter.  Take my word for it -- the term was never registered.

Yes, I'm obsessing.  But here's why I think this is important to beer can historians:

Someone, decades ago, went on record specifically citing September 25, 1934 as the date "Keglined" was trademarked.  I'm betting whoever it was understood the difference between to trademark and to register a trademark.  If I'm right, that person was telling us, "the first time the word 'Keglined' was introduced to the public was on September 25, 1934."

Since then, unfortunately, the commonly-held misunderstanding of trademarks has worked its way into our hobby; a commonly-held belief about the world's first beer cans is wrong.  Even in Lilek's book the two concepts (trademark vs registering a trademark) are confused.  This was a huge disappointment for me.  On page 470, under the digital recreation of the Krueger's Special Beer can, Lilek states the can was made "Circa: Late 1933," points out the appearance of Keglined on the can (because he -- or his digital artist -- had added it to the image), and finally states the term "Keglined" was not trademarked "until 25 September 1934" !

The centerpiece of Lilek's work -- a exercise in pedantry -- has all the details wrong.  It's like creating the world's first unabridged dictionary, but getting the entry for "Dictionary" all wrong.

(Incidentally, I've found a few newspaper articles from mid-1934 indicating Krueger's Special was tested in Farrell, Pennsylvania at that time.  Was this the second Special can design... the first to introduce the "Keglined" logo to the public?)

We know a small image of the front of Krueger's Special can appeared in a 1933 brewers' article, and so either the can did not contain the term "keglined" as digitally recreated for the Lilek book, or the 25 September 1934 date is incorrect.

Who/what gave us the exact date "Keglined" was trademarked?  (If you think you might know, email me please.)  If the source is less than reliable, perhaps at some point during the height of beer can collecting (in the 70s) the date was proclaimed by an "expert" collector, and through repetition and over time it became part of the "gospel" (so much of which, I'm learning, is incorrect).  If, on the other hand, the 25 September 1934 date is accurate -- e.g., from a 1930's brewer-related journal, all of which exhibit diligent research work, IMO -- then a lot of money went into creating "official" documents (the Lilek monsters) with foolish errors.

2.  The Heekin Can-o-Draft contained 248 ounces, not 252 ounces:

To the best of my knowledge, nothing on the Heekin Can-o-Draft mentions ounces or "oz."  Hell, I even picked up a copy of the 1936 Popular Science Monthly (shown in the 2001 US Beer Cans book), and learned, sadly, the image and brief paragraph shown in the USBC is the all there is.  I ran numerous searches through and found no additional information on the can.  The patent I found on Google Patents does not allude to quantity.

The only specific indication of quantity I could find is the printing on the can - "each Can-o-Draft contains 1/16th barrel of draught beer," on one side, and "1/16th barrel" on the face.  That's 248 ounces, not 252.

As confirmed through 1934 - 1939 brewer/brewery-related journals and periodicals, a barrel of beer contained exactly 31 gallons (this is still true).  One sixteenth of that amount is 248 ounces.  One sixteenth of a barrel of wine -- 31.5 gallons -- would be 252 ounces.

3.  Crown Cork and Seal's first beer cans were not J Spouts, and were sold in 1936:

CCS began operating as Crown Can once it purchased the Acme Can Company in February 1936.  While paying for Acme (CCS paid in installments until October 1936), they used both the term "Acme Can Co" and "Crown Can" in trade.  Advertisements I located in October/November 1936 Fitchburg Massachusetts newspapers confirmed that Eblings Ale and Beer were already being sold in cans at that time.  Those cans were the tall, slim, paper label cans (like USBC 160-23).

4.  Near Beer?

Yes, that very first, elusive can we all dream about, Krueger's Special, was most probably full of near-beer.  All 2,000 of them.

The brewer had sold Krueger's Special near-beer all throughout the 1920s, bragging about (though implicitly) its similarity to the real thing, and in 1933 sent its Special Beer to 500 families in order to conduct an opinion poll on the newfangled beer can's likability.  I seriously doubt the brewer would have mailed alcohol to 500 families, especially so short a time after Repeal.

(I understand this is my most controversial claim so far.  I could very well be wrong about this one; I've thus far found nothing absolutely concrete to solidify my argument.  As such, this may become a suggestion, as opposed to some "boy, were we all wrong about..." entry. More to come, eventually: lots of 1920s ads, etc.)

5.  Sir Lady Frothingslosh in cans:

The 8 ounce cans were made available two Christmases in a row, not one.  Conventional wisdom says these guys appeared in late 1955, never to be seen again.  I've unearthed evidence either (a) the cans that didn't sell the first year were held over for the 1956 holiday season (ewwww!), or (b) the stuff was canned and sold two years in a row.  Still confirming...

6.  Dates:

Specifically, (a) "How do you get such exact dates?" and (b) "I think (some brand) beer can was filled before the date you've listed."

If I have reliable evidence of an exact date, I'll list it.  On Trademark registrations, for instance, businesses are required to list the date a trademark was first used.  Pabst's "Tapacan" registration and Anheuser-Busch's Eagle Claw drawing registration are two good examples.  We can tell from these documents the exact dates when Pabst put "Tapacan" on their cans and when the first Budweiser can was sold.  Patent application and grant dates are easy - they're listed on the patents themselves (viewable for free on Google Patents).  Newspaper stories are another reliable source of an exact date, especially when numerous stories from the same day (but different papers) talk of an event.  Chances are that event occurred on the day prior to its news release.

As far as U Permit Numbers go -- in a few cases, like Coors, the beer was canned within a couple weeks of a U Permit Number issue, but in most cases the period between U Permit Number issue and the canning itself was a month or longer.

                                                                I'll post more explanation as questions arrive...

© 2001 - 2011, Phil Thompson

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