Lee Valley Tools Gardening Newsletter
Vol. 2, Issue 5
October 2007
 
What Is It?
 

Bull's Head Can Opener


Bull's head can opener


The use of the can for food preservation was invented in England around 1810. It was almost 50 years later that a can opener was finally invented. Until then, consumers were left to their own devices. Instructions on the can sometimes recommended using a chisel and hammer to open it — a tough job, considering many cans often weighed as much as (if not more than) the contents inside.

Eventually, manufacturers were able to produce thinner cans, and in 1858, Ezra J. Warner, of Waterbury, Connecticut, patented the first can opener. It had a pointed blade the user pressed into the can. Then, a second, curved cutter blade could be worked along the rim to remove the lid.


Bull's head can opener
 
The implement shown here works in a similar manner. Known as "The Bull's Head", the design reflects the fact that beef was among the first foods to be canned. Although neither the manufacturer, nor the date of manufacture of this particular item are known, similar can openers usually date to the late 19th century. The handle was typically made of cast-iron. The short, pointed blade at the top was used to pierce the lid, and the longer blade (below the bull's head) sliced along the rim to open it.

In 1870, William W. Lyman patented the arguably safer, user-friendly rotary model many of us have in our households today.



 
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