History/Cone Tops, Crowntainers & J-Spouts

Developed in the 1930s by Continental Can Company, the Cone Top emerged as a successful design that didn't look so different from bottled beer. Opening like a beer bottle, the Cone Top could be filled from an existing bottle line. In developing this, manufacturers had to keep in mind other factors relating to strength and taste. Each lined can needed to go through the process of pasteurization, refirgeration and contact with metal and alcohol. After this issue was resolved with companies using either double enamel, Vinylite or wax, the issue of opening cans ensued.

Developed by D F Sampson for the American Can Company, the "church key" was a 5 inch strip of stamped metal. Given to consumers with the purchase of each case, the instructions for using the church key were printed right on the can.

During this time there were no breweries that wanted to market the beer in cans. In 1933, G. Krueger Brewing Company decided to take the plunge with American Can Company's offer of a temporary canning line and free cans. For the test market they used Krueger's Special Beer. Surprisingly, many consumers preferred this to bottled beer. Still concerned for releasing flagship beer and ale to the primary market, more testing was set in Richmond, VA, primarily for the reason that this area had the least beer consumption nationwide.

Following a 500% growth over the previous year, Pabst, Schlitz and Anheuser-Busch followed suit. Pabst was filling cans supplied by the American Can Company until the United States entered World War II. At this time can production was hit by restrictions on steel. In May, 1942, production was halted due to the restrictions of tin-plated steel. However, almost 3 dozen breweries supported the troops with vintage cans. Olive drab printed cans were produced for one and a half years and matched military supplies. Boston Light Ale and Old Topper Lager Beer were two of the six Olive Drab Crowntainers shipped.


Cone Top cans came in four basic styles: J-Spout, Low Profile, High Profile and Crowntainers. Automating the process of filling and capping bottles, William Painter founded Crown Cork and Seal in 1892. Producing one half the world's bottle cap supply, Crown Cork and Seal opted for a new two piece Cone Top in 1939 due to issues with the J-Spout. With it's elongated spout, the J-Spout was tallest of the Cone Tops. The best known example is the Chester J-Spout. Unpopularity came about due to the shorter body, concave bottom and longer neck. The J-Spout was in use from 1937-1942.

First used by C. Schmidt, the new Crowntainer was popular for the next 15 years.Inventors of the Crowntainer applied for a patent while working for Crown Cork and Seal. Their innovative creation was strong and very capable of cheap production. In 1945 the Crowntainer became a registered trademark of the Crown Cork and Seal Company. Containing no seams, this new design could withstand the high heat and pressure of sterilization and pasteurization without can disfigurement. No seams meant that the cans could now be more decorative. Coated in aluminum, the shiny appearance helped sell the product. By the mid 1950s, flat top beer cans replaced Crowntainers. As industry moved forward pull tops replaced tab tops.

Breweries using Cone Tops were primarily situated along the east coast and the upper midwest. Surprisingly, the last production date for 3 United States breweries was in 1999. Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, C. Schmidt & Son and Anheuser-Busch ceased production many years later than all other U.S. breweries.

During the Golden Age of Advertising, beer ads were prone to using romance and social gatherings as a way to sell the product. Prior to the 1950s ads were shown to promote health benefits. Schlitz ran it's first Sunshine Vitamin D Beer ad in 1936 at the same time Blatz sponsored an ad featuring Amos and Andy. Also popular by the character Mabel, holding a tray of Carling Black Label Beer, the line, "Hey Mabel, Black Label," became a trademark among the television watching public. Schlitz was also head of ad campaigns that quoted their beer as being "Mellow as Moonlight," "Just the Kiss of the Hops," and "The Refreshing Part of Every Party."

Of all beer produced when Crowntainers were at peak production, only a few labels would be recognizable to most consumers today aside from Schlitz. For beer connoisseurs, Old Dutch Beer and Jolly Scot Ale may be recognized as popular brands.

Also popular outside the country, Crowntainers were used in Cuba for Hatuey Clara Cerveza and in Caracas for Zulia Cerveza.

Today, nostalgia replaces industry in some aspects by collectors.