Dorri Partain

The handiest gadget in today’s kitchen drawer was invented several decades following the invention of canned foods.

While the canning of food dates back to 1810, the first lever or claw-type can opener was patented on January 5, 1858 (No.19063) by Ezra J. Warner (1819-1889). The lever pierces the top of the can and is moved back and forth in a forward motion to open the can. The opener was widely used by soldiers during the Civil War and grocery clerks, who would open canned goods for customers.

Other styles that are easier to operate have been invented since that time, with the first butterfly-style opener patented in 1870, which held the can like a pair of pliers.

Right here in Kansas City, the Bunker Clancy Company produced an improved style of the butterfly-style opener that is still referred to as the Bunker-style, even though the company was absorbed by Rival Manufacturing in 1938. Charles A. Bunker (1881-1953) patented the rotary-wheel opener (US110422A) in 1931 and its style has been duplicated ever since by multiple manufacturers.

Even after the invention of the electric can opener in 1956 and battery-operated models in the 1980’s, the manual can opener remains popular due to its mobility and simple design.

The lever-type opener pictured above has been combined with a bottle opener and corkscrew. This all-in-one tool was manufactured in the USA by Vaughan Novelty Mfg. Company of Chicago, Ill. Harry Vaughan (1871-1945) founded the company in 1909 and produced a wide variety of bottle and can openers until the factory closed in 1984.

The price of 25 cents is imprinted on the opener’s handle.