Today in 1941, US Patent 694584 A was issued, an invention of William G. Wagner, for his “Bottle Cap.” There’s no Abstract, but the description claims that the “object of the invention is to provide an improved bottle cap for use on conventionally shaped or conventionally formed bottle mouths wherein the cap is of such design that it may be readily applied to the bottles by means of conventional bottle capping machines, the cap being advantageous in that it forms and maintains a superior seal with the bottle mouth.”
Today in 1981, US Patent 4253878 A was issued, an invention of Robert L. Weaver and Alastair M. Jamieson, assigned to The Molson Companies Limited, for their “Light Protective Bottle Glass.” Here’s the Abstract:
A light protective bottle glass for use in beer bottles to prevent or reduce flavor deterioration by exposure to light is prepared by adding 0.065 percent by weight of nickel oxide to the Ultraviolet Absorbing Green glass usually used in green beer bottles.
Today in 1933, US Patent 1899203 A was issued, an invention of Joseph Charle Auguste Labreche, for his “Combined Bottle Opener and Key Ring.” There’s no Abstract, but the simple description states that the “invention pertains to a novel combined bottle opener and key ring designed a to be carried conveniently-in the pocket.” Weird to think that this had to be patented, they seem so ubiquitous now.
Today in 1950, US Patent 2497870 A was issued, an invention of Stanley W. Dennis, assigned to the Crown Cork & Seal Co., for his “Container Closure.” There’s no Abstract, but the description states that the “The present invention relates to closures.” Happily, they expound upon that somewhat:
More particularly, the closure of the present invention is an improvement on closures of the type shown, described and claimed in a number of prior patents to G. W. Booth, owned by the assignee of the present application, such as Patents 1,956,209, Reissue 19,422, 1,956,213, 1,956,214, 1,956,215 and 1,956,217. Certain features of the invention, however, as regards cap structures, have utility and may be used in connection with caps of other types, as will be apparent from the following description and the appended claims.
Today in 1951, US Patent D162082 S was issued, an invention of Carl G. Preis, for his “Combination Can and Bottle Opener.” There’s no Abstract, but the rather short application states simply that Preis has “invented a new, original, and ornamental Design for a Combination Can and Bottle Opener.”
Today in 2011, US Patent 20110036840 A1 was issued, an invention of Tal Zakai, for his “Ring Pull Can Cap.” Here’s the Abstract:
The present innovation is a dual purpose “ring-pull/can cap”, which performs as both a sealing cap for metal beverage cans in addition to its traditional usage as a can opener. The design is a modification of the U.S. Pat. No. 3,967,752 “easy open wall”, which is the current opening mechanism on most consumer beverage cans, also known in the industry as an “easy open end”. The “ring-pull/can cap” is an improvement of the well known ring-pull design found on most metal cans today, but also allows consumers to close and seal off the can when not in use.
There are two popular opening methods that have been used for opening metal cans to date: The “full open” mechanism and the more recent “half open” mechanism, as described below. The present invention deals with the improvement of the popular “half open” method, which currently does not allow the beverage can to be resealed after opening.
Today in 1960, US Patent 2925237 A was issued, an invention of John L. Fox, for his “Can and Bottle Opener.” There’s no Abstract, but the application states that his ” invention relates to a can and bottle opener, and more particularly to a can and bottle opener which can be moved to an out-of-the-way position when it is not being used.
An object of the invention is to provide a can and bottle opener which includes a novel mounting means so that for example with the opener mounted beneath a kitchen cabinet or shelf, the device can be kept in an out-of-the-way position until it is being used, and wherein when the device is being used it can be readily moved to an operative position, and wherein the opener of the present invention is provided with a magnetic means.
Today in 1938, US Patent 2108096 A was issued, an invention of James E. Barsi, assigned to Anheuser-Busch, for his “Merchandise Display Apparatus.” There’s no Abstract, but the application states that “this invention relates to apparatus of the kind that are used for advertising and displaying merchandise and has for its main object to provide an advertising and/or display apparatus that is of attractive appearance and of such construction that, in addition to holding a plurality of samples of the advertised product in such a way that said samples may be easily handled and inspected by the public, it will also display in an attractive manner other articles or packages containing material that is particularly adapted for use in connection with the advertised product. For example, if the apparatus is intended to be used primarily to advertise a certain brand of beer, it will be equipped with a tray or equivalent part for holding a plurality of bottles or cans of beer and it will also be equipped with a shelf or equivalent part for sustaining packages of various kinds of food that are frequently served With beer, such for example, as pickles, olives, cheese, sausage, crackers, etc.”
Today in 1939, US Patent 2147004 A was issued, an invention of Samuel Arnold Wark and Alfred C. Torem, for their “Beer Can.” There’s no Abstract, but this is just four years after the introduction of beer cans, and this is one of the more inscrutable applications I’ve read with statements like the “drawing is intended as informative rather than restrictive.” It also says simply that their “invention relates fluids under pressure are to be held, designed as a can for beer.” The rest doesn’t seem to be as informative, or well-written or even flow like many others. But it looks more like modern cans that the cans from the late 1930s.
Yesterday’s Beer in Ads post featured an ad for Budweiser from the 1970s. The ad, Pick-A-Pair Twice!, was trying to get people to buy not one, but two six-packs. I wondered in the post when the 12-pack debuted. My ignorance about this stems largely from having grown up in Pennsylvania, which is a case state, one of the weirder examples of what happened when alcohol laws were left to the states following the repeal of prohibition.
I’d never really thought about the 12-pack package until I was posting that ad last night. I remember reading about breweries experimenting with different size packages in groceries way back when until they decided six was the right weight for women shopping to pick up and bring home (assuming that’s even true).
After high school I went into the military, stationed in Virginia and then New York City, but generally went to bars and rarely bought beer for at home since I lived in a barracks. After my stint in the army, I moved back to PA. When I moved to California in 1985, there were 12-packs everywhere, though in retrospect I don’t remember even paying any special notice of them. By that time, most of the beers I was interested in came in 22 oz. bottles, or maybe six-packs. Who was the first early small brewer to have 12-packs? My guess is probably Samuel Adams. Sierra Nevada wasn’t until the latter 1990s, I believe. I was still the chain buyer at BevMo when they debuted. RedHook might have been early on, too.
Anyway, I wasn’t expecting an answer, but happily Dave “Beer Dave” Gausepohl sent me an excellent response. Beer Dave is breweriana collector of epic proportions, and has over 400,000 items in his collection, He’s also a board member of the BCCA — the Brewery Collectibles Club of America and a frequent contributor to All About Beer magazine. Here’s his short history of the 12-pack, written extemporaneously, from his own studying of beer history, reprinted with his kind permission.
Six-packs appeared first by Pabst just following World War II. They tested numerous package sizes and determined in a sexist fashion that the average housewife could comfortably carry six beers home with the shopping. The 12-pack came a few years later, and it resembled the dimensions of the Full Sail Session 12-packs. This was due to the fact that the first cans in 12-pack packages were cone top and crowntainer cans. This was also a corrugated carton. These cans were able to be filled on most breweries bottling lines with little retooling and they did not have purchase separate packaging equipment. The one way bottle was much more desired than cans when the flat top can debuted in 1935. World War II also limited the steel for cans and returnable bottles were a friendlier package towards the war effort.
In the 1960s when the convenience store took off, six-packs were the package of choice. They worked with the shelf space mostly laid out for milk and dairy items. The moisture of the retailers’ refrigeration equipment also was not kind to packaging larger than six packs. Also glass was still the package of choice for beer. Glass was a cheaper package than steel or aluminum. Many breweries had 8-pack glass as their package. It was not until after the oil crisis of the 1970s that the weight of packaging became a major cost factor. This movement pushed breweries to pursue cans over glass.
Rainier debuted the Cold Pack in the early 1960s. In the Midwest it was not until the late 1960s when Stroh’s pioneered a similar 12-pack with a foilized paper that could with withstand the moisture of the refrigeration systems used at retail. A number of carton manufacturers like Mead developed waxed versions of cardboard to withstand the moisture levels. Corrugated rather than cardboard was the leader prior to the advent of the moisture resistant 12-pack. Back then just like today wet corrugated boxes have NO strength or purpose.
The Pick-A-Pair campaign was a huge success for Budweiser. Ironically a number of states did not allow for 12-packs to be sold. The eight-pack was the largest package allowed to be purchased at retail in numerous states. The enormous growth to the suburbs also increased the demand for a larger retail pack. Since the country was driving to the store rather than walking or taking the bus or street car, more items could be carted home on the average shopping trip. The development of the supermarket drove this demand for package innovation. Also, the advancement of the size of the household refrigerator made this a more inviting package.
Prior to the 1970’s Returnable bottles in the 12, 16 and even quart bottle were very much a part of how beer was retailed. These fiberboard cases were very durable and withstood many trips back to the breweries to be refilled. These were a desired package with the on-premise trade. I imagine you remember the heavy wooden crates and glass bottles that soft drinks were packaged in until the 1980s.
Thanks Beer Dave. Now you know.