Food preservation in metal cans was invented in 1810. Those early cans were opened with a hammer and chisel, which is one of the reasons canning in glass jars was more popular. The can opener was invented in 1858, and improved upon in 1926. But you didn’t need to remove the entire lid to open a can of beer or soda, so people used a church key, often called a bottle opener these days.
Ermal C. Fraze owned a tool company in Dayton, Ohio, and also several patents. He was at a picnic in 1959 and wanted a beer, but he didn’t have a church key with him. Frustrated, he ended up poking a hole in the can with the fin of his automobile. Or at least, that’s the story. One would think that at a picnic, someone else would have lent Fraze a church key, but it’s possible that everyone else was drinking lemonade and Fraze brought his own beer. At any rate, he decided this was a problem he needed to fix. That led him on the road to developing the pop-top, and the reason our drinks now come in aluminum cans instead of steel.
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Read the story of the pop-top can, along with other can-opening innovations, at Smithsonian.