Everyone who has ever been to a supermarket knows what a tin can is. It’s that cylindrical metal thingy (sometimes cubicle) that is always wrapped in some nice label. There is almost always some form of delicious food in it. The tin can has been part of our lives as far as any of us living right now can remember.
So, how long has the tin can been around for anyway?
We need to go way back to the 19th century to answer that question. That is when a guy named Peter Durand was granted a patent for the tin can in the year 1810. There is an interesting story behind this involving the British and the French.
The French Directory dangled a 12,000 francs reward for anybody who could come up with a revolutionary means of preserving food. In came an unknown guy from Paris named Nicholas Appert. Appert spent 15 years researching before finally developing a vacuum-sealed glass container as the solution. His invention was put through the test and passed with flying colors. The French Directory were impressed and Napoleon himself presented Appert with the reward.
Of course, the British heard about it. Not satisfied with just mimicking the success of the French, the British wanted to go one step better. So they turned to tin instead of glass. Tin doesn’t break as easily as glass and be just as easily sealed air tight. Thus was born the tin can.
Although he was granted the patent for the tin can, Durand himself did not go into mass production. The first tin can production was begun by two other Englishmen by the name of Bryan Donkin and John Hall. Donkin and Hall studied Durand’s tin can patent and went ahead to setup a canning factory. By 1813, the pair were supplying food in tin cans to the British army.
When another Englishman by the name of Thomas Kensett migrated to America, he brought with him the tin can industry. He set up a small plant at the New York waterfront and began producing oysters, meats and vegetables in tin cans.
Today, modern machinery has accelerated the production of tin cans a hundred fold. Tin cans of various shapes and sizes can be mass produced with just the touch of a button.