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Dating Your Tins

With Chronology of Tin / Can Development

by Mike Reilly (completely revised January, 1999)

Updated 10/14/2012

     At some time, tin collectors want to know something about the history behind their tins or more often, how old they are. Most of the time, the tin will not have a date marked anywhere on it, and that's where some detective work on your part is required. Dating tins isn't difficult to do, though it may involve some of your time. This process can turn out to be both fun and personally rewarding. The following information can be used to help document the age of your tins.

     You will be fortunate to date your tin right away, most of them will require you to carefully study their appearance both from a structure stand-point and how they are decorated or finished. Some very obvious clues may not be sufficient, may be misleading, or have to be combined with other knowns to arrive at an accurate or close approximate date.

     Let's start off with some general things that apply to most 20th century tins and to some 19th.

      Addresses on tins can often be linked to a time period, even down to the exact year, if you use an old city directory or telephone book. If you're collecting local brand/company tins you probably have access to a library or historical society that have these books. By looking up the business in the directory you can determine when they moved to a new location or the address simply changed because of changes in the city's addressing system.

      If you're collecting a particular brand or have several major brands in your collection, it really pays off to know the manufacturer/distributor history. By tying in certain company events and changes, the graphics and text on your tin may be able to determine the time period it was introduced and used. Many companies have gone through name changes (ownership, brands, logos, trademarks, mergers) because of growth or merging. Knowing when these events took place and matching them to the name on the tin can help.

     Along the same lines; if you also collect magazines/newspaper ads for these companies/brands, they can date your tin by matching your tin's description to that in the ad. Many ads have a date on them  ( the page they're on or the date of the publication you find them in) and are an excellent reference tool as well as looking great themselves in your collection. Other point-of-sale (POS) advertising, particularly die-cut cardboard, may also provide dates. Another source of information could be a merchandise catalog. As an example, Sears, Roebuck & Co. sold many products years ago and you may be able to date an item by its appearance in the catalog.

     Some collectors shy away from collecting tins with paper labels, but besides being very attractive, they can provide the name of the label's printer or lithographer. Labels were not always printed in the same location (city or state) as that of the manufacturer or distributor so you may have to make some long distance phone calls or write some letters to learn about the printing company's history. The date of manufacture (printing) may appear on it or sometimes be stamped on the backside. This can only be determined if you're willing to remove the label from the tin.

   Numbers on labels such as "553" may indicate the year made. "553" is May, 1953. These numbers may also identify a label stock number but most likely would be identified as No. 1227.

     Note: Early paper labels may not have listed or pictured the product within the tin or can.

      Your tin may have graphics or text that can be attributed to a particular time period. Match clothing, furniture, table settings, automobile make, and slogans (ex. war slogans-BUY Bonds), etc., to other known advertising items. Advertisers tended to use the most modern fashions on their labels. Look for historical events and important people in the advertising. Much of it was used only for a short time, usually no more than five years, after the event or person was significant.  There are some exceptions to this; images of Abe Lincoln and Ben Franklin have endured for hundreds of years in advertising.  You may need to invest in some good history books, encyclopedias, and old product sales catalogs for reference sources. (Note: In our time of nostalgia advertising- this may not be entirely applicable, but other clues will provide more identification information.)

     The construction of your tin may also provide clues to its age. In the 1930's/40's tins were constructed of rather thick steel sheet. As time went on, the tin manufacturer realized that all that metal wasn't always needed to protect the product. They also found out that you didn't have to apply as thick a coating of paint, ink, or whatever they used to maintain a somewhat durable finish. So the coatings used became thinner. Paper label stock also became thinner around 1900.

     Note: Certain size tins were in use during particular time periods.

      Many tins have a copyright date on them. In some cases this can identify its age, but be cautious. Copyright (and Patent dates) can be misleading, appearing on the company's products for many years. A copyright date may appear but the product may not have been actually marketed until the following year or later. Find out more about Copyright and Patent information as you read the listing below.

      I'm going to be guessing here, but I would think that the "Limited Edition" became widely used after the 1970's. Many tins marked with this usually have a date associated with its issuance. It was also in the '70's, 1973 to be exact, that the UPC (Universal Product Code) label came on the scene and began appearing on products. So any tin with a UPC label was manufactured in the last twenty-five years.

      Don't forget about telephone numbers. Up until the early 1950's, telephone companies used a two or four digit number, sometimes with a hyphenated suffix. During 1954/55 (in the Milwaukee, WI. area), the old LIberty, LIconln, BRoadway telephone numbers with five digits were introduced. About 1962, rural communities around Milwaukee began using the full seven-digit phone numbers.

      If someone knows when the familiar 1-800 and 1-888 numbers were introduced as well as the Area Code system, I'd like to hear about it.

      What I've done here is created a chronology of tin container development along with certain events and laws that will enable you to more accurately pinpoint your tin's age. Some of it may be very difficult to use in determining a tin's age unless you're somewhat of an expert in production method changes and how to distinguish various types of lithography or metal ornamentation. You may need to consult other sources to gain a better understanding of historical, literary, and art influences and when they were significant.

  • 1300-1780  Canisters are hand-painted.

  • 1600's - paper labels are attached to bails of fabric/cloth.

  • 1700's - early in the century, labels are printed for medicine containers, later for wine bottles and used to identify tobacco products.

  • 1700's-1800's, Wrapper-style labels are used to enclose bottles and tins to keep out dirt and hide any rust.

  • 1798  Nicolas-Louis Robert invents a machine to make paper in France. Early paper labels were printed on hand-made paper and wooden presses.

  • 1798 - Aloys  (Alois) Senefelder invents lithography or "chemical printing".

  • 1798-1810: Paper labels used for decorating.

  • 1809 - Nicholas Appert wins Napolean's prize for canning food in glass bottles.

    The Tin Can is Introduced

  • 1810 - tins are patented in England by Peter Durand, "an iron can coated with tin".

  • Can Seams - The other major technological change in cans was the type of seam closur; granted a by King George III of England.

     Early cans were sealed the sides and top with lead solder – first by hand, later by machine. Solderless cans appeared in 1890s quickly became the dominant type after the introduction of the modern “sanitary can” in 1904.

    Hand-soldered seams - Globby, irregular bands of lead solder along edges and around top, cap, and base of can. Until the 1880s

    Machine-soldered seams - Bands of lead solder much thinner and more-evenly applied. After 1883

    Double locking side-seams - First solderless cans; side-seams crimped on inside or outside of can. Commercially available by the late 1890s. Used on modern “sanitary” cans

    Cans changed size over time, too, and some of these changes provide clues as to their ages. This is particularly true for evaporated or condensed milk cans. Note all measurements should be made in inches and sixteenths of an inch

  • 1810-1820: Hole-and-cap - Can lids have central cap where food was inserted before sealing. No vent hole; cans often swelled or burst during cooking

  • 1811-1830: Embossing used to decorate canisters.

  • 1813 - Bryan Donkin and John Hull making tins for food in England.

  • 1813 - British army supplied with rations in tins.

  • 1818- Peter Durand introduced the tin container in America.
  • 1819- Fish, oysters, fruits, meats and vegetables were being canned in New York by Thomas Kensett, Sr. and Ezra Daggett.
  • 1820s-WWI: Hole-in-cap - Same as hole-and-cap, but with tiny pin-hole in center of cap to act as a vent during cooking

  • 1825 - "vessels of tin" are patented by Ezra Daggett and Thomas Kensett.

  • 1830s- Huntley and Palmer of Reading, England were selling their cakes and biscuits in decorated tin boxes.
  • 1837 - Full color pictures made with seven-stone color images of red, yellow, and blue. Method perfected by Frenchmen, Godefroi Engelman and son, Jean. New process was called "chromolithographie".

  • 1838 - Captain Isaac Winslow, from the New England area, acquires Louis Appert's patents for canning foods.

  • 1839 (1837?) - Food packers Thomas Kensett of Baltimore and William Underwood (Deviled Ham) switch from glass to tin containers.

  • 1842 - Isaac & Nathan Winslow operate a can factory in Portland, Maine for food-preserving. "Hole-and-cap" cans were made by hand, about 60 per day per man. The circular tops and bottoms were cut out with shears, and soldered to the body with the aid of a zinc chloride flux. The top has a filling hole about an 1 1/2 inches in diameter with after filling was closed by soldering a slightly larger tin-plated disc over it.

  • 1847 - Allen Taylor invents a drop (pendulum) press for stamping out the cylindrical can ends.

  • 1847-1869  Stenciling and "paper transfer" are methods used for decoration.

  • 1849- Henry Evans, Jr. improved Taylor's patent with the "Pendulum": press for making can ends.
  • Late 1840's-Early 1850's  A combination press developed to stamp out, flange, and make the filling hole in one operation.

  • 1850-1860 - Louis Pasteur discovered that bacteria caused food spoilage. By heating a "closed" can these microscopic, single-cell plants could be killed. This could be done in a hole-in-cap can
  • c.1850 - earliest printed American cans made by Reckow and Larne in New York City.

  • By the Mid-1850s small seamless cans were being manufactured.
  • 1856 - Gail Borden began canning condensed milk in America. To get the contents out of this can you must remove all or most of the can end.
  • 1856 Henry Bessmer of England discovered, as did William Kelley of America in 1857, the process for converting cast iron into steel.
  • 1858 - Cans are positioned in solder bath to seal seam edges. Output per man is now a thousand per day.

  • 1859 A patent was granted for lock side seams for cans in America.
  • 1860's - Canning in America was an important business. "beautiful women" were the main advertising subjects.

  • 1861- 1865 - The U.S. Government, "The North", purchased quantities of Borden's condensed milk for military use. This proved to the public that canned products were safe and nutritious.
  • 1862 - the word "Trademark" began use but more used after 1875.

  • 1865 - Kerosene was first canned (in tall, rectangular cans with small caps).
  • 1865 - "Tax Stamps" required on tobacco products in the U.S.

    Post-Civil War Years

  • c.1865-1901: Ilsley of Brooklyn, N.Y. manufactures tins.

  • 1866 - First known "printed" metal box. A seamless oval tin holding a cake of solidified toothpowder made by Dr. Israel Whitney Lyon, a dentist, in California.

  • 1866-present Key Wind (key-wind tapered tins after 1895) - Cans opened by using a “key” to roll or tear away a metal strip from the top or side of the can used for coffee after 1917 (still used on some canned meats and fish [corned beef, sardines])
  • 1869 - the "lock seamer" is developed to form the body.

  • 1869 - Anderson and Campbell begin preserving vegetables.

  • c.1869-1901: Norton Bros. of Maywood, Illinois (until 1880 company was in Chicago) making tins. Made tins for Libby, McNeill & Libby.

  • 1870's - Ginna of New York, N.Y. begins producing tins. Hinged lid tins were on the market.

  • 1870-1879: one-color lithography or planography, printed on a colored base, in use.

  • 1871- The first American tinplate works was established.
  • 1872 - Libby, McNeill & Libby, Chicago, Illinois, develop method for canning corned beef and other meats. Tapered tins, like those still used for some brands of corned beef, were first marketed in 1875.

  • 1876 - automatic soldering of ends.

  • 1878 - Chase & Sanborn first firm to pack and ship brand name roasted coffee in sealed cans.

  • 1869 or late 1870's-1901: Daniel, Joseph and Guy Somers of New York developed their lithography techniques. Ginna and Co. of Brooklyn, New York, began producing fine artistic lithographed tins. Howe developed the "Joker" and "Little Joker" systems that automatically attached and soldered can ends. The English required their can manufacturers to stop soldering on inside side seams of cans. In America, this practice was discontinued at a later time.

  • 1880's - favorite advertising motifs used company buildings and award metals.

  • 1880's - "Packed with Choice Goods" an advertising phrase of the time.

  • 1882 - Chromolithography is introduced. These tins were lithographed by using a series of color plates. Multicolored tins were now on the market.

  • 1883 - First entirely automatic can line started by Edwin Norton.

  • 1884 - "Reg.", "Rd", or "Registered" with a number used in England to indicate the year of manufacture. A table of dates matching numbers reportedly exists.

  • 1885 - Evaporated milk canned in the United States. These cans are opened by punching two holes on opposite sides of the can lid or top.

  • 1888- Max Ams of Max Ams Machine Co. of New York developed a double side seam and gasket for cylindrical cans. This led to the "Sanitary Can".

The Gay '90's

  • 1890's - earliest cylindrical cans with paper labels may say "cut open on this line" or "cut off top". A line or dotted line with cutting instructions was printed at the label's top. Top was then cut off with a knife or cleaver. Early cans may include serving directions - heating the can's contents in boiling water without removing the lid. Other early cans had soldered tops that were opened by melting the solder. Another type had a ring soldered that was pulled to open the lid. A different version had a metal strip around the rim that was pulled (similar to present day frozen juice cans with plastic strips).

  • 1890's - blue and gray are popular advertising colors.

  • 1890's - labels are embossed with portions of the design raised. They were often finished with gold leaf or a cheaper mixture of bronze powder and lacquer (used like an ink).

  • 1891- The McKinley Tariff Act greatly reduced the flow of tinplate from Europe to America.
  • 1891-1901: Hasker and Marcuse Manufacturing Co. was founded in Richmond, Virginia. The flat top tobacco can was introduced on the American market.

  • 1891 - Color lithography now the rule in industry.

  • 1892 - Anderson and Campbell incorporate as "Joseph Campbell Preserve Company".

  • 1895- The tapered meat can was improved by the Norton Brothers of Chicago, when they added a scored key wind strip to the large end of the can.
  • 1897 - The log-cabin-shaped syrup tin was introduced, and discontinued after WW II (with modern reproductions).

  • 1898 - Charles M. Ames and Julius Brenzinger of the Max Ams Machine Company develop the first open-top or "sanitary" can. These first cans had a soldered lock-seam body, with ends crimped on and hermetically sealed using with paper gaskets or a "sealing compound". Initial results not very good.

  • 1898 - American Tinplate Company is formed.

  • 1898 - Cobb Preserving Company introduces the first fully automatic canning line.

  • 1898- Edwin Norton patented a vacuum pack tin.
  • Post-1900: Ellisco, Incorporated (first known as George D. Ellis & Sons - 1843), begins making undecorated cans.

    A New Century of Innovation  and Mergers Begins

  • 1900 - Tindeco (Tin Decorating Company) of Baltimore, Maryland starts operation. By the 1920s it was the leader in lithographed tin.

  • After 1900 - Hole-in-top (also called Vent-hole, Matchstick-filler, or Drop-of-solder) Cans have solid lids except for tiny pin-hole vent at center, which was sealed with a drop of solder after the contents were cooked. Evaporated milk cans almost exclusively of this type by 1920. You sometimes can tell a can that held evaporated milk from one that held condensed milk: if the can was opened with two tiny punctures (ice pick, nail, knife blade, etc.), it held evaporated milk. Condensed milk is too thick to pour through these small openings. Those cans had to be opened by partially removing the lids.

  • c.1900 - Litho stones were "stippled" rather than engraved with lines. This permitted better blending of colors on labels. Use a magnifying glass to examine label. Early stippling done by hand in a random manner; later, Benday screens were introduced with the stippled pattern aligned in rows.

  • c.1900 - "Patented" or "U.S. patent" first used.

  • c.1900 - "Packaged by white girls only" seen on certain Midwest food products.

  • early 1900's - sports (baseball and golf), automobiles, trains and balloons were favorite advertising design motifs.

  • 1900-1915 labels featured farm girl look wearing bonnets.

  • 1901 - A new improved version of the "sanitary" can is introduced and by 1908 is in wide spread use. Their sizes were originally designated by numbers, 1 for small through 10 for large or about 4/5 gallon. These tins/cans used a double seam and no longer required soldering to seal them.

  • 1901 - over 100 tin manufacturers combine to form the American Can Co. headed by Edwin Norton.

  • 1901 - Heekin Can Company opens in Ohio.

  • 1902 - "patent applied for" first used.

  • 1903 - Up to this year, no "wet packs" (packing vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, etc) containers had any organic coating or decoration (other than paper label).

  • 1903 - The Cobb Preserving Company develops the first "sanitary gold lacquer" finish for inside (and outside) cans.

  • 1903 - Rotary offset lithograph press developed which transferred the image from a rotating metal drum to a rotating rubber drum and then onto the tin.

  • 1903 - The Virginia Can Company combines with the U.S. Can Company in Cincinnati.

  • Commercially available by 1904 - Sanitary: Cans made entirely by machine, with one-piece lids – no caps or vent holes. No lead solder. “Modern” cans
  • 1904 - Sanitary Can Company is formed by the Max Ams Machine Company, the Cobb Preserving Company, and jobbers Bogle and Scott of New York.

  • 1904 - Edwin Norton forms Continental Can Company.

  • 1904 - Edwin Norton introduces the vacuum can (patent issued in 1898?). The first vacuum-packed coffee (in one-pound cans) was marketed by Hills Brothers in 1903/4.

  • 1904 - Because of financial difficulties, The American Can Co. closed 80 of its original 123 plants. William T. Graham is president.

  • 1905 - Trademark law revision prohibits use of American flag as part of a commercial mark or label.

The Law Steps In

  • 1906 - Pure Food and Drug Act passed. Mandated many health requirements, though no special wording. Also banned the word "cure".

  • 1907 - "Prince Albert" hinged tobacco tins patented (also see 1913 and 1914). These tins were made into the mid-20th century.

  • 1909 - Beer first offered in cans but quickly failed. Tuna also canned successfully for the first time.

  • 1910 - Insecticide Act of 1910 mentioned up to about 1930.

  • 1910 - Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval - their "tested and approved" seal.

  • 1910 - the color violet is a popular with advertisers.

  • c.1910  glossy-finish "shellacked" labels replace gold embossed ones.

  • 1911 - American Tobacco Company splits.

  • 1911 - the Shelley Amendment (to the Pure Food and Drug Act) prohibits false or fraudulent curative or theraputic claims.

  • 1911- Most California can manufacturers were producing sanitary cans.
  • 1912 - Al Bruns starts the Metal Package Company in Brooklyn. Reputed to be the best lithographer of cans in the country.

  • 1913 - Robert A. Worstall develops a pale finishing varnish based on tung oil and a special milky Congo resin (much resin came from Africa and the Far East) for the Ault & Wiborg Company. They in turn sell it to the Federal Tin Company of Baltimore for use on their Prince Albert cans. Use of this varnish produced a much whiter portrait of the prince in the oval medallion.

  • 1913 - the Gould Amendment (to the Pure Food and Drug Act) required the contents quantity on labeling.

  • 1913 - R.J. Reynolds test markets four brands of tobacco - Reyno, Red Kamel, Osman, and Camel. Camel wins out an is introduced to the public in Dec., 1914.

  • pre-WWI advertising features women with waist-length hair.

World War I, the Roaring '20's and Depression Era

  • 1914 - Continuous ovens for drying inked tinplate are used.

  • 1914 - Copyright symbol letter "C" in a circle is first used.

  • WWI - home canning tins with embossed lids listing vegetables are introduced. They had an easy closure mechanism.

  • 1916 - "Double-Tite" and later "Triple-Tite" covers developed for paint containers and other similar products requiring frequent reopening.

  • 19-teens (?): Metal Package Company, Boyle Can Company (Baltimore), and Shallita Brothers (New York) form the National Can Corporation.

  • 1919-1933 Prohibition - "2.75% alcohol limit" and "for medicinal purposes only" wording used. The word "beer" couldn't be used.

  • 1920's - Citrus fruits and tomato juice appear in tin containers. The hole-and-cap tin pretty much gone from use.

  • 1920's - the "roll-form" and "wing-form" tin production methods are introduced and increase can manufacture output.

  • 1920's - "salt added" and "sugar added" wording must be included on labeling.

  • c.1920's - Art Deco style becomes popular.

  • 1920's - "packed in sanitary cans" or "hermetically sealed" phrases not seen much due to increased public knowledge of cans and their uses.

  • 1921 - Campbell's acquires the "Franco-American" brand.

  • 1921 - Dewey and Almy introduce a natural rubber latex compound to aid in sealing certain types of cans.

  • 1921 or 1922 - "C Enamel" developed containing small amount of zinc oxide to combat sulfur in such foods as peas, corn, beans, meats and fish. The zinc oxide gave the "sanitary gold lacquer" a translucent appearance. This coating prevented discoloration of vegetables and other reactions with the metal can.

  • 1922 - Joseph Campbell Preserve Company becomes known as Campbell Soup Company.

  • 1924 - The "key-opening" feature and "vacuum packed" begins with coffee cans.

  • 1924 - earliest "bathing beauty" seen on product labeling.

  • 1927 - Technique of photolithography developed.

  • 1927 - Caustic Poison Act requires labels to add dangerous chemical warning and antidotes on products.

  • Pre-Depression,  Smokestacks commonly seen in advertising as a sign of a prospering business.

  • early 1930's - Photomechanical half-tones, using a fine dot matrix, replaces the "stippling" (see c.1900 for info).

  • 1930's - orange color becomes popular in advertising.

  • 1930's  - Women in advertising have the contented, wholesome housewife look.

  • 1930's - Many labels show recipes for the product inside the can/tin. "Union Label" becomes an important addition on many labels (primarily used to designate a unionized printing shop).

  • 1930's-50's  Designs become more stylized. Photographic labels on slick, shiny paper popular (except during WWII). Block lettering and geometric designs are used.

  • 1932 - "Reg. U.S. Pat. off." (Registered with the United States Patent Office) first used.

    Post-Prohibition Era

  • 1933 - "Internal Revenue Tax Paid" on labels from 1933 until March 1950.

  • 1935- The invention of C-enamel allowed the flat top and bottom beer can to be introduced. Later that year the cone-top beer can was also introduced. The "Church Key" was invented to open the flat top beer can. This opener makes a triangular shaped hole in the can's top. The cone-top can allowed beer bottlers to retain their old bottling equipment.
  • 1935 - Beer is canned for the domestic market.

  • 1935-mid 1950's: Cone-top beer can.

  • 1937 - The oval cans for hams, chicken and other lunch meats come on the market.

  • 1937 - Electrolytic tinplate first produced for the general market by the Gary Sheet and Tin Mill. Product quality - flaked, discolored, wouldn't lithograph or solder.

  • 1938 - Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act requires labeling of certain products - showing the food's name, the net weight, and the name and address of the manufacturer or distributor. A listing of ingredients was also required on most items.

  • 1938 - The standard wrap around label for the number 300 or 303 can (sizes of today's canned peas) first used. Prior to this, most labels didn't wrap around the side of the can/tin.

  • c.1940 - "Patent pending" first used.

    World War II Era

  • 1940's  Pin-up girl types in advertising, appealing to servicemen.

  • WWII - one color labels with eagle and war equipment pictured for military use.

  • Early 1940's - Continental develops the one pound "bug bombs" for military insecticide use.

  • 1940's-50's Cartoon-like figures appear on advertising showing product or pointing to the instructions.

  • 1941 - Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval - seal changed to "guaranty" seal.

  • 1943 - one and two digit postal zone codes introduced.

  • WWII - It appears that the hole-in-cap was taken out of production.
  • 1947 - First low cost aerosol insecticide can sold to public by Continental. Had concave top and bottom with a special valve soldered to the can. (As early as 1945?)

    Prosperity Around the Corner

  • Late 1940's-early 50's Thin, well-dressed women are drawn in a stylized technique.

  • after 1949 - Registered symbol of letter "R" in a circle is first used.

  • 1950 - Oleomargarine Act requires conspicuous labeling of colored oleomargarine.

  • 1950 - Federal Court of Appeals rules that "purpose of the drug" must be included in the drug label directions.

  • 1950's - Pacific Can Company joins National Can Corporation.

  • 1950's - turquoise is a popular color.

  • 1955 - Campbell's buys the C.A. Swanson Company.

  • 1955 - Microwave ovens are introduced and labeling reflects new cooking directions.

  • 1956 - Since before 1913, the American Can Co. had not bought or merged with other companies. It now bought interests in collapsible metal and plastic tubes, Dixie cups, and a variety of products from the Marathon Corporation.

  • 1958 - Motor Oil sold commercially in aluminum cans.

  • Late 1950s- A soft aluminum top was added to the metal flat top beer can.
  • 1959 - First all-aluminum beer can sold by Adolph Coors Co.

The New Health Conscious Public

1960 - American Can Co. has about 80 can factories and forty-two metal decorating plants.

1960 - Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act puts warning labels on hazardous household chemical products.

1962 - Good Housekeeping Seal reads - "Good Housekeeping guarantees - If product or performance defective, replacement or refund to consumer." The pull-tab beverage can was introduced in 1962.

1963 - Zip Codes are introduced and appear on product advertising.

1963- The aluminum tear-top can and the D & I (drawn and ironed) aluminum can were introduced.

1965  Tin-free-steel cans are made.

1965 - "Warning, the Surgeon General has determined that smoking may be hazardous to your health."

1965 - elegant table setting with candelabrum and product popular in advertising.

1966 - Fair Packaging and Label Act - all consumer products in interstate commerce must be labeled with accurate information.

1970 - "Warning, the Surgeon General has determined that smoking is hazardous to your health."

1972- The State of Oregon required beer can tabs to remain with the can.

1973 - Nutrition labeling required by FDA on food packaging containing one or more added nutrients, or where labeling or ads included claims about product's nutritional properties.

1975 - Good Housekeeping Seal changes due to Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. "Good Housekeeping promises a limited warranty to consumers - replacement or refund if defective."

1980 - Zip+Four zip code introduced.

1980- 3M developed a peel scotch tab for drink cans.

early 1980's - "Use by" or "Sell by" (Expiration dates) printed on packaging.

1980's-90's Tuna fish products labeled "Dolphin Free" or "Packed in the USA".

1984 - Sodium or salt labeling required on nutrition panel.

1985 - Messages about tobacco dangers to pregnant women appear in advertising - containing carbon monoxide, cause cancer or emphysema, etc.

1989 (November) - Health warnings placed on liquor bottles in U.S.

c.1990 - "Fat-free" added as a selling feature.

1990 - Nutrition and Fair Labeling Act creates strict definitions of terms: free, reduced, lean, less, light, extra lean, low, fewer, high, more, and good source. Also established guidelines for links between foods and health related conditions.  Note: Because Act was not mandatory until 1994, some labels may be found overprinted to conform with new law (this allowed manufacturers to use up existing advertising materials in stock.)

1990 - PLU numbers (bulk produce numbers) appear in the form of stickers on produce.

1990 - "% Alcohol" replaces "proof" as standard of measure on liquor products.

1992 - Terms "fat-free", "low-cholesterol" and "lite" are regulated.

1994 - Food labeling requires metric conversion of measurements.

1994 (May) - "Nutrition Facts" appear on health label listing percentage of daily nutritional values. All ingredients and additives used as preservatives, and all vitamin info must be printed. The term "ice milk" is eliminated.

1995 (June) - "Underage Sale Prohibited" first used by Philip Morris company.

1996 - "skim milk" becomes "fat free".

1998 "1% lowfat milk" is light milk" and "2% lowfat milk" becomes "2% reduced fat milk".

      I could have listed tons of information about various companies histories, their slogans, advertising, etc. but decided that would be just too much of a task. It would be interesting to do this for a particular company from time to time. If you have any such documentation that you would like to share with others please send it to email address below.

     Below you will find a selected series of Patent Numbers and the corresponding Month and Year within which it was issued. If you find a patent number on your tin, this listing may help you determine it's approximate age. Remember - using patent numbers may be misleading.

  • 1,922........pre 1841

  • 2,400........Dec 1841

  • 4,910........Dec 1846

  • 8,620........Dec 1851

  • 12,160........Jan 1855

  • 22,430........Dec 1858

  • 31,230........Jan 1861

  • 35,290........May 1862

  • 37,650........Feb 1863

  • 45,600........Dec 1864

  • 49,260........Aug 1865

  • 73,250........Jan 1868

  • 134,400........Dec 1872

  • 172,300........Jan 1876

  • 241,100........May 1881

  • 338,200........Mar 1886

  • 418,250........Dec 1889

  • 478,660........Jul 1892

  • 533,280........Jan 1895

  • 610,900........Sep 1898

  • 639,560........Dec 1899

  • 673,050........May 1901

  • 797,700........Aug 1905

  • 979,180........Dec 1910

  • 1,152,100........Aug 1915

  • 1,352,120........Sep 1920

  • 1,707,440........Apr 1929

  • 1,839,180........Dec 1931

  • 2,066,300........Dec 1936

  • 2,268,540........Jan 1942

  • 2,413,670........Dec 1946

  • 2,580,380........Jan 1952

  • 2,775,760........Dec 1956

  • 3,015,100........Dec 1961

  • 3,295,150........Jan 1967

  • 3,631,540........Jan 1972

  • 3,873,830........Mar 1975

  • 4,134,130........Jan 1979

  • 4,471,450........Sep 1984

  • 4,881,020........Nov 1989

  • 5,218,270........Jun 1993

  • 5,525,900........Jun 1996

Sources: Metal Decorating From Start to Finishes by Charles R. Bragdon; Tobacco Tins: A Collector's Guide by Douglas Condon-Martin; The Tin Can Book by Hyla M. Clark; The Label Made Me Buy It  by Ralph and Terry Kovel, 1998; plus a lot more unstuck from my brain.; How Old Is "Old"? - Recognizing Historical Sites and Artifacts by Sharon A. Waechter,


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