A Brief History of Can Openers

It is not uncommon for people in today’s households to resort to a bit of mumbling and grumbling when they go to open that can of soup, only to find that their can openers has failed them. While it is only human nature to become frustrated when appliances and tools don’t perform as they should, perhaps learning a little history about the can open will give you a bit more patience with your can opener be it a hand held or an electric can opener.

Prior to the 1800s there really wasn’t much in the way of processed foods, and while those minimally processed foods were definitely healthy for you, they really could not be transported long distances. The forerunner of the tin can was processed foods in sealed glass bottles. While these foods did indeed stay fresh longer, they also were subject to breaking when transported over the those rough trails and roads that were the main way of traveling in the early 19th century. Then in 1910, the tin can was invented by a man named Paul Durand, and suddenly it was possible to transport food and keep it from spoiling for months on end without the need of drying it or refrigeration. Unfortunately, these first cans were so thick that the only to way to get one open was to use a hammer and chisel it open.

Forty years later, not only did the cans themselves change, but a man named Ezra Warner invented the first can opener. Often referred to as a bayonet due to it’s design, this can openers consisted of a bent bayonet looking blade that was forced into the can and then worked around the the edge to literally cut off the lid. It took a lot of work, but far superior to that of the hammer and chisel.

Twelve years later, in 1970 William Lyman invented a can opener that is pretty much like the hand openers we use today. This type of can opener was an improvement over the bayonet style, and allowed a faster and more efficient way to open those cans.

Then after the turn of the century when electric appliances began to flood the market, it was only a matter of time before an electric version of the can opener would be invented. The man credit with this invention was Preston C. West, and the introduction to an electric run can opener in 1931 seemed an astounding invention at the time.

Today the can opener is a kitchen tool most of us take for granted, until the device fails in the middle of opening up some type of can goods.