A common question is “How
old is this can?” Wouldn’t it be great if early beer cans had a “born on” date
like so many cans do today? Unfortunately, they don’t, so you have to look
for other hints. Here are some of the clues used in determining the age of
a crowntainer. Click on a question to jump to more information.
Beer cans made their
debut on January 24, 1935 in Richmond, Virginia when the Gottfried
Krueger Brewing Company of Newark, New Jersey test marketed their
Krueger's Finest Beer and Krueger's Cream Ale.
These cans, produced by the American Can Company, had a flat top which
required opening instructions on the side of the can informing the
thirsty drinker how to puncture the top of the can with a tool that
became known as a "churchkey". Soon afterwards, the National Can
Company started manufacturing flat top beer cans.
In September 1935,
the first cap sealed cone type style beer can was introduced by the
Continental Can Company for the Schlitz Brewing Company. Crown
Cork and Seal become the fourth beer can manufacturer in 1936 after
acquiring the Acme Can Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In
1937, Crown Cork and Seal introduced their own version of a cap sealed
cone top called a J-Spout.
of manufacturing problems with the J-Spout, the Crown Cork and Seal
Company soon gave up on them and introduced a new two-piece cone top can
in late 1939. This new style of can, which was very different from
the rest, was hugely popular with small and medium sized breweries and
reigned for a 15-year period. Crowntainer
cans were first used by breweries beginning in September 1939, beginning
with the C. Schmidt & Sons brewery, and
continued to be used until the middle 1950’s when the Louis F. Neuweiler’s Sons brewing company gave them up.
So, if you have a crowntainer, it was produced between 1939 and 1955.
Prohibition, brewers had to pay Federal Excise tax on every barrel of
beer that they produced (while still in the vat). Starting June 1, 1935,
the US Government mandated that all beer containers have a specific
tax-paid statement printed on them. At first this statement read “Tax
Paid At The Rate Prescribed By Internal Revenue Law”. On October 1,
1938, this wordy statement was shortened to “Internal Revenue Tax Paid”
(IRTP). Since crowntainers weren't produced until late 1939, most of
them until March 30, 1950 carried the shorter statement saying “Internal
Revenue Tax Paid”. This statement is commonly referred to as
“IRTP”. Sometimes, the brewery abbreviated the words “Internal
Revenue” such as “Int Revenue Tax Paid”, “Internal Rev Tax Paid” and
“Int Rev Tax Paid”.
the earliest crowntainers
actually used the verbose statement “Tax Paid At The Rate Prescribed By Internal Revenue
cans that contain this statement include
Old Ox Head Ale (197-22),
Schmidt’s Cream Ale (198-30),
Schmidt’s Light Beer (198-31),
Standard Light Ale (199-05) and
Wiedemann Bohemian Special Brew (199-25). Regardless of the actual
verbiage, if a crowntainer has an IRTP statement, then it was made
between September 1939 and March 30, 1950. Nearly 80% of crowntainers
carry an IRTP statement.
It seems that every rule has an
exception. In the case of IRTP statement, there was another exception.
Cans produced in the United States for export to other countries for
civilians and also those produced for the military during WWII. These
cans had a statement saying “Withdrawn Free of Internal Revenue Tax for
Exportation” and usually carried the statement “Made in the U.S.A.”
Beginning in 1936 and continuing until March 30, 1950, any beer can
produced for military use had to carry the “Withdrawn”
statement. Just nine crowntainer cans carried such statements:
(192-6), Ebling’s Extra Special (193-9),
Ebling Premium Beer (193-14L),
Fitzgerald’s Burgomaster Beer
(193-34), Fort Pitt Beer (194-8), Hudepohl Pure Lager Beer (195-23),
Topper Lager Beer (197-35), Trenton Old Stock Beer (199-11), and
White Seal Beer (199-15).
“Crowntainer” was a trademark by the
Crown Cork and Seal Company that was registered with the US Patent
Office & Trademark Office (USPTO). The early Crowntainer cans carried a
statement stating that the patent had been registered.
REG'D U.S. PAT. OFF.
This marking appeared on Crowntainers
until their patent was finally approved on September 15, 1945.
After that date, the following patent statement appeared on all
REG. U.S. PAT. OFF. NO. 366873
DESIGN PATENT NO. 109311
Every crowntainer carried one of these
two statements and is a good way of narrowing its age. When
combined with the IRTP information, this can be used to easily group
crowntainers into three groups:
September 1939 to September 1945: these
had an IRTP stamp and a 2-line patent pending box
September 1945 to March 1950: these had
an IRTP stamp and a 4-line registered trademark box
March 1950 to about 1955: these had
no IRTP stamp and a 4-line registered trademark box
Some breweries were kind enough to help
us determine the date with just some simple math. The
crowntainers state “Since 1856” and on the side of the can have the
words “85 Years” or “86 Years” which dates those cans to 1941 and 1942
respectively. Some breweries included the date when their company
began brewing, but without the number of years in business at the time
the can was made, there isn’t enough data to calculate the year in
which the can was produced. Unfortunately, very few breweries
included both pieces of information.
Some breweries placed copyright
statements on their cans. For example, the
Namar Premium Beer has a
copyright date of ©1947 and Neuweiller’s Beer has a copyright date of
©1946. From this, you know that the can was produced in or after the
The copyright date can be misleading
because it reflects the year when the brand name was trademarked, not
necessarily when that style or version of the can was produced. For
example, the yellow label Altes Beer (192-01) and silver label
Beer (192-04) both show a copyright date of ©1941. This is accurate for
the yellow version, which was the first Altes crowntainer that was
used. However, this is not accurate for the silver version. This is
known since the latter carries the full four-line copyright statement
that proves that it wasn’t produced until after September 18, 1945.
simply used the same brand name copyright date. Another example of this
can be seen on the different versions of
Kamm’s Light Beer which all
carry a copyright of ©1940.
The copyright date can also be
misleading because it reflects the year when the brand name was
trademarked, not when the brewery started producing that brand in cans.
As notable examples, Gluek’s Beer and
Schmidt’s Light Beer show a
copyright date of ©1933, which is when prohibition was just ending and
before beer cans were even produced! Obviously, this is not an accurate
indication of the can’s age.
The base coat color of crowntainers was
one of five colors: silver, cream/yellow, white, dull gray
and olive drab.
Crowntainers were constructed from steel
and had a coat of aluminum paint applied over them. The breweries
then applied their graphics over the top of the silver base coat. This
is what earned crowntainer the nicknames of “Silver Growler” and
“Silver Bumper”. The early crowntainers came only with a silver base
coat. This by far was the most common color, with about 80% of
crowntainers using a base coat of silver aluminum paint.
Olive Drab: (example)
Beginning around August of 1944,
crowntainers and other cans produced for the war effort were coated in
an olive drab greenish-brown paint to try to match the color of all
other military supplies. The designs of military cans match the pre-war
designs sold back home. Olive Drab (OD) cans were produced only for
about a year and a half. Only six crowntainer cans were produced in
Olive Drab: Boston Light Ale (192-15),
Fitzgerald’s Burgomaster Beer (193-34),
Fort Pitt Beer (194-7 & 194-8), Hudepohl Pure Lager Beer
(195-23), and Old Topper Lager Beer (197-35). All of these cans also
carried a “Withdrawn Free…” statement, except for the first Fort Pitt
(194-7) that had just an IRTP statement.
Near the end of WWII in 1945,
Crown Cork & Seal quickly resumed production of Crowntainers. This was
possible since crowntainers were made of steel and didn’t require
tinplate that that was used in the war effort and didn’t become
available to other can manufacturers until 1947. When crowntainer
production resumed, cans had a dull gray (or battleship gray) color. Only
crowntainers were produced with this short-lived base color. All
of them carry the 2-line patent pending box which dates them prior to
September 18, 1945.
Crowntainers were unique in their
construction and manufactured from two pieces: the body and spout were
drawn and formed from steel and then the bottom was attached. Then, the
aluminum coating was applied and later the brewery’s graphics were
painted onto the cylinder. This is in contrast to all other beer cans
from that era, including cone tops and flat tops, were constructed from
three pieces. A flat sheet of tin was painted with the brewery’s
graphics then cut into rectangular pieces that were rolled into a
cylinder. The seams were fastened together and the top and bottom were
attached. It was much easier to apply colorful and intricate designs
to a flat sheet of tin that to a steel cylinder. Because of this
drawback, most crowntainers are looked dull in comparison to other beer
cans. To compensate, some brewers painted the entire crowntainer in a
white enamel paint to achieve a nicer looking package.
Instead of using white paint, some
breweries painted the entire crowntainer in a cream or yellowish enamel
paint. Although the white and yellow enamel painted cans started to
catch on after 1947, many breweries continued to use the silver base
coat into the 1950’s.
Painted Can / Silver Spout:
Some breweries combined the
techniques. They applied a white or yellow base coat to the body of the
can but left the spout in its original silver color. Only a handful of
cans used this technique.
The clues mentioned
above may be found right on the can itself. Another good way of
narrowing down the age of a can is by finding out when the brewery was
in operation. On my
Breweries page, there is a list of breweries that used (or tested)
crowntainer style cans. On the right are the approximate dates after
prohibition when they resumed producing beer and when they ended
production. Please note that a start date of “January 1” means they
began sometime during that year and an end date of “December 31” means
they shut down sometime during that year.
For example, the
Loewer’s Brewing Company of New York City began production in
September 1944 and ended in 1948. Any can produced by Loewer’s, like
their Blue Crest Beer, must have been during that period. As another
example, the Tivoli Brewing Company of Detroit changed its name to the
Altes Brewing Company in 1948. Therefore, any cans from Tivoli are
from 1948 or earlier.
Finally, it would be
helpful to know when a brewery produced a particular brand of beer.
For example, the Washington Breweries, Inc. of Columbus, Ohio produced
a German style beer called Noch-Eins. When World War II began, they
quickly changed the brand name to Washington XX Pale, complete with
red, white & blue colors and an American eagle. This change over
occurred around 1942.