Days when people used swords
and hammers to open canned food
In the early 19th century, consumers
found it extremely difficult to open tinned food. Soldiers had to use swords,
bayonets and even gunfire to open the tins. Sailors were told “to cut round on
top with a chisel or a hammer.”
Housewives used household tools such
as knives, screwdrivers and hammers to open the tins. Others asked shopkeepers
to open them in their shops.
The early food tins were sometimes
heavier than the food they contained!
The demand for tinned food was
therefore lukewarm. Tinned food was mainly consumed by sailors and soldiers
until it became available to the public in 1830.
The word “can” was coined in 1939 by
book-keepers at Underwood’s cannery in Boston,
USA, as an
abbreviation for “canister.” William Underwood of England
set up the first cannery in America
during the 1920s. In British English, food that has been preserved by being
sealed in a tin is called tinned food.
Peter Durand of England created the use of “vessels
of tin or other metals” for “preserving animal and vegetable food.”
In 1855 cutler and surgical
instrument maker Robert Yeates of England invented a penknife with
blades that folded into a handle. The device proved useful as a can-opener.
Three years later, Ezra Warner of the
invented a two-bladed can-opener that was described as “part bayonet, part sickle.” Then came a tin with a key fixed to the top for opening. In 1970,
William Lyman of the US
introduced the first can-open with a cutting wheel.
A US company later promoted the
modern form of rotary can-opener in 1927. It took 53 years before a British
metal maker, William Cookson, invented the tear-open can.