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Fascinating facts about the invention
of the
can opener by Ezra Warner in 1858.
The first practical can opener was developed 50 years after the birth of the metal can.  Canned food was invented for the British Navy in 1813.  Made of solid iron, the cans usually weighed more than the food they held!  The inventor, Peter Durand, was guilty of an incredible oversight. Though he figured out how to seal food into cans, he gave little thought to how to get it out again.  Instructions read:  "Cut round the top near the outer edge with a chisel and hammer."  Only when thinner steel cans came into use in the 1860s could the can opener be invented.  The first (patented in 1858), devised by Ezra Warner of Waterbury, Connecticut, looked like a bent bayonet. Its large curved blade was driven into a can’s rim, then forcibly worked around its edge.  Stranger yet, this first type of can opener never left the grocery store.  A clerk had to open each can before it was taken away! 
p117.jpg (11065 bytes) The modern can opener, with a cutting wheel that rolls around the rim, was invented by William Lyman of the United States in 1870.  The only change from the original patent was the introduction of a serrated rotation wheel by the Star Can Company of San Francisco in 1925. The basic principle continues to be used on the modern can openers, and it was the basis of the first electric can opener, intorduced in December 1931.   Pull-open cans, patented by Ermal Fraze of Ohio, debuted in 1966.


History of Household Items    from The Great Idea Finder


The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle: And Other Surprising Stories About Inventions
by Don L. Wulffson / Paperback - 128 pages (1999) / Puffin

Brief factual stories about how various familiar things were invented, many by accident, from animal crackers to the zipper.
Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition (September 1989) / HarperCollins
Discover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items, expressions and

DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / Less than $25.00
See how the computing capacity of World-War II era room-sized computers is now surpassed by hand-held devices; visit Zenith to see a side-by-side comparison of regular television and HDTV; discover how a Cold War era NASA program is transforming personal photography, and get the inside story about MP3s.

Household Wonders  
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / Less than $25.00
HOUSEHOLD WONDERS tells the story of seven taken-for-granted inventions that make modern life comfy, fast and clean: the stove, sewing machine, refrigerator, air conditioner, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, toaster and mixer.customs.

National Museum of Science and Technology
The largest of its kind in Canada devoted to Science and Technology education. Only when thinner cans of steel came into use in the late 1850's was it possible to create a can opener.

They Invented it When? The Can Opener
News of science, medicine, and technology by Fenella Saunders.
Can Opener Project
This can opener design was a class project by students at Temasek Polytechnic School of Engineering. Lots of COOKIES at this site.

Black & Decker Grand Openings Can Opener
by Black & Decker
/ EC1200 / ASIN: B00004SC5M / Less than $20.00
Everything from little tuna and soup cans to tall coffee and juice cans fits under this countertop electric opener. A built-in knife sharpener and bottle opener make it a convenient tool for busy households.

Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised March, 2005.

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