American Beer Can with Handle

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With its gold and white stripes, red and blue lettering, and banner motif, this steel can contained 12 fluid ounces of “American Beer,” produced by American Brewery, Inc., one of the largest, post-Prohibition breweries in Baltimore, Maryland. Lettering on the can asserts “Internal Revenue Tax Paid” and the manufacturer’s mark reveals it was made at Continental Can Company in Baltimore. The most distinctive feature of the can is its metal handle. Notes from the object’s donor indicate that can companies “obligingly put handles on cans for breweries using their cans—a practice from 1933 to 1950, when labor costs [for soldering work done by hand] became too high.”
The American Brewery building in Baltimore was constructed in 1877 for brewer John Frederick Wiessner, one of many German immigrants who established breweries in the city in the nineteenth century. Weissner died in 1904 and his sons continued to operate the family’s independent brewery, J.F. Wiessner & Sons, at the site until 1920, when the enactment of the Eighteenth Amendment, prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, forced the brewery to close. In 1931, the American Malt Company purchased the historic building and began modernizing the plant. At the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the company began producing beer under the American Brewery, Inc. label. The American Brewery operated at the site until 1973.
This beer can with a handle is part of a large collection of brewing material donated to the museum in 1967 by former brewmaster Walter Voigt, of Ruxton, Maryland, near Baltimore. Voigt’s collection consists of objects and archival materials reflecting the history of brewing in the mid-Atlantic region between 1870 and the beginnings of consolidation and large-scale, industrial production in the 1960s. His correspondence reveals an interest in preserving the history of brewing in America before brewmasters were “replaced by chemical engineers and highly trained chemists in modern laboratories.” Voigt’s papers are housed in the museum’s Archives Center, Collection #ACNMAH 1195, “Walter H. Voigt Brewing Industry Collection, 1935-1967.”
Currently not on view
National Museum of American History
Credit Line
Walter Voigt
overall: 4 1/2 in x 2 1/4 in x 3 3/4 in; 11.43 cm x 5.715 cm x 9.525 cm
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Work and Industry: Food Technology
Industry & Manufacturing
Object Name
can, beer, with handle
ID Number
accession number
catalog number