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The Miracle of the Can

Jeffrey Syken

We take for granted today the simple “tin-can” in which many foods and consumer products are packaged and preserved without realizing the impact this seemingly simple invention and its evolution had on agriculture and the economic expansion of the nation. The can effectively extended the harvest season throughout the year by preserving foods and thus made growing more crops feasible and economically desirable.

The problem in the early days of canned foods was production; the canneries spread haphazard throughout the nation simply couldn’t produce enough cans to satisfy the ever-growing demand with their inefficient methods and independent production facilities. All that changed in 1901 when the American Can Company was formed and the industry consolidated.

Breakthroughs in can design, testing and production allowed the canneries to go from producing a few hundred cans a day to many thousands. This allowed farm production to increase which led to farm mechanization and expansion of cultivated land which beneficially affected the entire economy. With mechanization came the need for fewer farmers and migration to cities ensued where there was work in the increasing number of factories. All due in large part, to: “The Miracle of the Can.”

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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