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By Jacquie Foote Canning waxed and waned during the 20th…
October 24, 2013 | No Comments

By Jacquie Foote Canning waxed and waned during the 20th century. In the early 1900s, as industrialization attracted more and more people to the cities…

By Jacquie Foote

Canning waxed and waned during the 20th century. In the early 1900s, as industrialization attracted more and more people to the cities and as grocery stores selling foods in cans grew in popularity, home canning became something only country people did.

World War I, the Great Depression and World War II brought canning back into popularity. And, as more and more was understood about how to make home canned foods safe, an invention named the Pressure Canner became popular.

The principle behind a pressure canner is to raise the temperature higher than the normal boiling point. When the pressure in the enclosed environment of the canner is increased, it raises waters boiling point; 240 degrees Fahrenheit is the desired temperature to reach. This higher temperature kills more bacteria and makes the food much less likely to spoil.

In 1679, the French mathematician and physicist Denis Papin invented the first pressure cooker or steam digester as he called it. The story is that while he was presenting his new steam digester to the Royal Society, it exploded, leading him to invent the safety valve. Three years later, he represented it to the Royal Society and gained positive reviews.

In 1902 in the United States, the very first pressure canner patents were given. Earlier industrial pressure cookers had been massive sized pressure vessels (referred to as canner retorts) and mainly used by commercial canneries. Then, smaller sized 50-gallon capacity pressure cookers were developed for hotel and institutional use, followed by the 30-gallon canners for hotel use. They mainly used pressure cookers for making meals rather than canning products.

As the technology improved, the 10-gallon models appropriate for household canning were manufactured. By the beginning of World War II, smaller sized cast aluminum pressure cookers had gained widespread use in many homes. The manufacturing of these pressure cookers by 11 main suppliers was firmly regulated during World War II because aluminum was wanted for the war effort and it came to be that the manufacturing of aluminum pressure cookers stopped, replaced by pressure cookers made of carbon steel, enameled steel and cast iron.

After the war ended in 1945, the demand for pressure cookers was huge, exceeding the supply and leading to long waiting lists. In the following years, there were 85 U.S. manufacturers trying to convert from war products to producing pressure cookers and canners. Unfortunately, quite a few of these people did not know much about pressure cookery. Thus, the surge in demand for pressure cookers caused many manufacturers flooding the market with poorer and cheaper products. These low quality canners appeared between late 1940s and the early 1950s, causing havoc, as they were unsafe, with some actually exploding and causing injury.

Many manufacturers went bankrupt and the few otherwise reliable ones remaining in business were overstocked with the poor quality canners. When consumers asked for better quality ones, companies were slow to comply because of their backlog and brought in the new ones very slowly.

For information on the events at the Geauga County Historical Society’s Burton Century Village Museum, call 440-834-1492 or visit www.geauga

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