January 19th is National Tin Can Day, a day that celebrates the storage of perishable foods in tin cans.
British merchant Peter Durand received the original tin can patent in 1810. Ezra Daggett and Thomas Kensett received the U.S. patent on January 19, 1825. The first practical can opener wouldn’t be invented until 50 years after the first tin can was invented.
In 1813, John Hall and Bryan Dorkin opened the first commercial canning factory in England. In 1846, Henry Evans invented a machine that could manufacture tin cans at a rate of 60 per hour—a significant increase over the previous rate of only six per hour.
The first tin cans were thick. They had to be hammered open. As cans became thinner, it became possible to invent dedicated can openers. In 1858, Ezra Warner of Waterbury, Connecticut patented the first can opener. The U.S. military used it during the Civil War. In 1866, J. Osterhoudt patented the tin can with a key opener that you can find on sardine cans.
The inventor of the familiar household can opener was William Lyman, who patented a very easy to use can opener in 1870. The invention included a wheel that rolls and cuts around the rim of a can, a design we are familiar with today.
The Star Can Company of San Francisco improved William Lyman’s can opener in 1925 by adding a serrated edge to the wheel. An electric version of the same type of can opener was first sold in December of 1931.