A timeline for pull tabs

Archaeology of Pull Tabs

So, why is this page called ‘a’ timeline, and not THE timeline?

Well because THE timeline for beverage can archaeology does not exist…yet. Oh there exist many timelines accross the web, but the real timeline varies according to the place you are located!

Most can information comes from the USA, both from a collectors perspective, as an archaeological perspective. However, if you are in the Europe, and you read that the first Sta-tabs were introduced in 1975, well sorry sister, you missed the real date by almost 15 years for your own country because in most of Europe, the Sta-tab only arrived in 1990.
And the self-confident collector that dates push-button cans to the 70s without even blinking his eyes…well he is equally wrong, because they were also produced in the 90s in Europe. And we haven’t even begun to discuss China or Africa..(not that i know ;-)).

So you see, timelines are bound to context within a continent. But also within the USA, dates may change, local breweries in state A might have done local things, that happened later in state B, etc.

Even though you must be warned that what you will read below is mainly USA-valid data at this point (unless otherwise specified), here’s ‘a’ timeline* with names and dates that give you something to hold on to. Life is sketchy enough as it is… we do need things to hold on to, even when we know its in vain. Good luck.

A timeline

  • 1933 First beer in cans made by the Gottfried Kreuger Brewing Company, Newark
  • 1935 January 24 – First commercially sold canned beer, again by Kreuger
  • 1935 first cone-top can appears
  • 1937 different sized appear on the market, among which the J-spout cone
  • 1939 first ‘Crowntainer’, a two piece drawn steel cone, is produced by Crown company.
  • 1950 ‘Internal Revenue tax paid’ message disappears from cans
  • 1955 last Crowntainers produced
  • 1955 last cans with opening instructions produced (had a picture of church key on side)
  • 1958 First all aluminum paper-label flat top can – i have no idea what this is, by the way.
  • 1959 First 2 piece aluminum can produced
  • 1960 last cone top produced
  • 1962 zip tab can (Pittsburg brewing company, Iron city beer)
  • 1963 first 12 oz  all alumum seamless tab top can
  • 1964 First U-tab produced (DB Maxwell, 1993)
  • 1964 First can end with smile beads (DB Maxwell, 1993)
  • 1966 Welded seam cans appear on the market (DB Maxwell, 1993)
  • 1969 Cans outsell bottles for the first time
  • 1972 ‘Bottle bill’ State of Oregon law against the usage of pull tabs
  • 1974 First  ‘barrel shaped’ can (Maxwell says this was in 1972!)
  • 1975 Sta-tab introduced by Falls City
  • 1975 Push button can introduced by American Can Company
  • 1975 first UPC  ‘universal product codes’  (streepjescodes)
  • 1977 End of the push buttons in the USA – (Would revive briefly in Europe in the 1990s)
  • 1980 UPC codes now on all USA cans.
  • 1983 Last ring pull cans produced in the USA…but definetly not in Europ
  • 1984 Last straight edge can produced in USA
  • 1987 Introduction of the 206 can end
  • 1988 Alcohol warnings on beer cans appear in the USA (Maxwell says 1989)
  • 1990 Europe switches to Sta-Tab cans
  • 1993 USA last drawn steel can produced
  • 1998 Ball Corp acquired Reynolds metals industry
  • 2013 first L-I-1 Spamcan can – the Crown 360 end.

For this quick timeline I used several sources, among which the BCCA website and at least three other pages and the article by D.B. Maxwell. ‘Beer Cans: A Guide for the Archaeologist’. I do like to cite people properly, but I must admit most data in this list can almost be regarded common knowledge. I read it on so many sources, I really sometimes can not recall where I first read something. But if you feel wrongly cited or ignored, contact me!