The history of the can started during the first years of the Napoleonic Wars, when the French government offered a reward of 12,000 francs to the one who could invent a cheap and effective way of preserving large amounts of food over a long time.
In 1809 the Frenchman Nicolas Appert discovered that food cooked inside an unleaked jar doesn’t spoil – the idea of canning was born and Appert became “the father of canning”. So basically he’s the one, we all owe ravioli in cans somehow.
£500 in 1810 = 700 canned baked beans today
One year later in 1810 Appert got what he deserved: Count Montelivert, a French minister of the interior, handed him over 12,000 francs – about £500 at the time. (Nowadays you’ll get more than 700 canned baked beans for that.)
Also in 1810 the Frenchman got inspired by Appert’s idea, adapted it, and engaged an agent named Peter Durand to patent his very own method of preserving – this time by using a can. His patent was filed on August 25th in 1810. De Girard’s invention is even known to be the modern-day process of canning foods. The agent Durand was so convinced by the idea of canning, that he wrote and published an English version of Appert's method and its potential.
In the mid-19th century canned food became a status symbol in Europe
In 1811 Durand sold the patent to Englishman Bryan Donkin. Donkin experimented with the technique and perfected the method of packaging food in sealed airtight cans, which were made out of tinned wrought iron. The process of making cans was very slow and complex, because at that time each can was made by hand. Because of that, in the mid-19th century canned food became a status symbol in Europe. (And even today a can can get you a lot of street credibility – at least if it’s the right one.)
In 1813 Bryan Donkin collaborated with two other business men. They opened the world's first commercial canning factory on Southwark Park Road in London, where they produced their first tin canned goods for the Royal Navy.
It was not until the 1930s that metal cans were finally used to store beverages, too. The first canned beer was sold in 1935 in Richmond, Virginia and got us all our well-deserved after work beer.
And never forget: ACAB – All Cans Are Beautiful.