As the Super Bowl draws near (and by the way, it’s this Sunday, February 2, 2014) we thought we would have some fun with major metals in the Super Bowl. As you likely know, aluminum canned drinks play a big part in game-day celebrations, but do you know who invented the first pull tab top for canned beverages?
The first pull tab (called the zip top) was invented in 1959 in Dayton, OH by a man named Ermal Fraze (founder of the Reliable Tool and Manufacturing Co.). He received U.S. patent No. 3,349,949 for the design in 1963 and immediately sold his invention to Alcoa Inc. (founded in 1886 and currently the world’s third largest producer of aluminum) of Pittsburgh, PA.
Alcoa convinced Iron City Beer (of Pittsburgh) to test these new tabs. The idea took off despite initial complaints about sharp edges (where people had cut their fingers, lips and even noses), and the confusion about how to use them (for which they added instructions to the top of the can). In the first year, Iron City Beer saw a 233% increase in sales.
Despite the success of Iron City Beer and Schlitz (who picked up the new pull top shortly after), many companies refused to try this new invention because it added anywhere from 1-5 cents to the cost of production of a six-pack. Many companies saw it as a phase that would eventually die out. That said, by 1965, 75% of breweries throughout the nation had converted over to the zip tab.
In 1975, the tabs became even better with the invention of the StaTab, which stayed connected to the can after opening and thus made for less of a choking hazard.