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Q: Which Came First, the Can Opener or the Can?

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A: While the mental_floss staff is still working ’round the clock to figure out that blasted chicken/egg question, this one we can definitely answer. In 1810, a British merchant named Peter Durand patented the tin can, making it possible for sterilized food to be preserved more effectively than was possible with breakable containers. The cans were especially useful for long ocean voyages, where glass bottles were prone to breakage, and soon the British Navy was dining on canned veggies and meat.

So far, so good. But what Durand (and everybody else for that matter) forgot to invent was a way to open the cans. For almost 50 years, getting into your pork ‘n’ beans actually required the use of a hammer and chisel. In fact, the first can opener was patented by American inventor Ezra Warner in 1858, but even that wasn’t particularly convenient. These early openers were stationed at the grocery store, and clerks did the honors. It wasn’t until 1870 that the first home can openers made an appearance.

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  • http://blog.myspace.com/tinkie101 tink

    Hammer and chisel??? YIPES!!! thanks for the trivia I never thought I’d want to know!

  • http://www.mentalfloss.com Will from mental_floss

    Thanks tink! Yeah, that’s what we’re here for – to teach you the stuff you didn’t realize you wanted to know.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    Perhaps one day they will invent a device that offers a convenient way to open the plastic packaging that contains electric razors, video game controllers, printer ink cartridges, and the like…

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    At present, a hammer and chisel seems to be the best option for the above… :-/

  • http://www.mentalfloss.com Will from mental_floss

    And graham cracker packaging.

  • Velox Mortis

    Chicken or the egg? That’s an easy one. A chicken is just a theropod dinosaur, and non-avian dinosaurs were laying hard-shelled eggs long before the chicken evolved.