There are a number of us who assume that can openers and cans came into existence at about same period as it is supposed to be a mandatory tool which we must have to open the can nowadays. The fact is that it is not true as cans evolved in the first part of the 19th century, to help in storing food needed by the navy personals. On the other hand can openers were only invented about five years later by a man called Ezra Warner who thought of this brilliant idea. Before that people had no option but to derive some new and innovative methods of opening the cans and they mostly used hammer and chisel or sharp knives for this purpose.
The can opener which we all use and find very useful today has been around from 1925, and it was just a very small change from the original design developed in 1870. It just included putting a toothed edge to the wheel used for cutting. It is a true evidence to the utility value of the can openers that the only alteration from the time it was introduced have been the electric can openers, but we still can’t say that electric can openers are available everywhere. In fact it will be exceptional to come across a kitchen which does not have the traditional design can opener in their collection.
We all have used and seen pull-to-open cans which were invented some 50 years back but people even now use can openers to open thousands of cans each day because it is much cheaper to manufacturer cans which do not have a ring used for pulling. For some of us there is a kind of nostalgia value in using a can opener for opening a can especially if you have not used it for some time.
Still, the characteristic wheel design is not just the type of can opener which is available today. There is another well known design in the form of P-38 pocket can opener, which is used commonly in the army and is also sometimes distributed with food aid especially in developing world. They are also cheaper to manufacture as compared to a classic can opener, because it needs less metal. It is made up of just a metal blade shaped like a ‘hook’. If a person is experienced, he can use it much faster than a regular can opener.