THE HISTORY OF THE CAN IS LITERALLY A HISTORY of western civilization, and its innovation an engine of prosperity in the United States. Two centuries ago, the first cans were designed to sustain world powers in their quests around the globe. In boomtown America, the can was key to big business and broader frontiers. Today, can making is a major economic force; the more than 130 billion cans Americans use each year generate about $15.7 billion in direct economic activity. The industry employs more than 28 thousand employees with plants in 33 states, Puerto Rico and American Samoa.
The can has moved as fast as consumer demand has grown; always adapting, innovating and satisfying while preserving the qualities that provide its inherent value—protection and strength. From the original, crude tinplate canisters shaped by hand to the lightweight, completely recyclable containers produced mechanically today, the can preserves and endures like no other package available.
What’s more, the can brings products into our hands and into our homes, allowing us to enjoy things made at another time in another place which we otherwise would never experience. Exotic foods and out-of-season produce are merely the beginning of what is now within reach. Food supplies aid third-world countries, blood plasma rescues wounded soldiers, and a vast array of household products are kept safely in the home, thanks to the utility of the can.
Because we have come to rely so much on the convenience and easy familiarity of canned products, almost imperceptibly present in every part of life, we are the “tin can civilization.” Without fanfare, the can has played an essential role in the standard of living we enjoy by making the products we want cheaper, safer, easier, more readily available and reliable. Our health and long life expectancy have benefited from nutritious canned foods; our wealth and productivity have increased as cans made their products more cost-effective and accessible; and the innovation and improvement of canned products has left more time for life and leisure.
Research and continual improvements guarantee that the can will consistently and faithfully remain the necessary-but-unnoticed, unsung hero of contemporary living.