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History

From barrel to can

The barrel was for many decades the standard container for petroleum and its derivatives; only at the beginning of this century was it joined and then replaced with the lighter and sturdier steel drum.

They were both (forty-two and fifty-five American gallons respectively) ideal for transport and bulk marketing, less so for small quantity sales.

But in the middle of the 19th century the public had precious little experience of packaged goods, and found it more than natural to go to a store with a container into which the storekeeper would dispense the kerosene.

With the passage of decades the situation changed, and in the more advanced countries pre-packaged goods began to appear, on the wrapping of which was conspicuously printed the trademark of the producer.

Kerosene also came to be packaged, but the first cans, introduced in the last decades of the 19th century, were still too capacious for domestic use, better suited to the vendors for their sales activity.

Finally there arrived, toward the end of the century, the pre-filled can small enough to be carried home: a sturdy container with a handle and a threaded cap.

One paid a deposit upon purchase which was reimbursed upon the return of the can: the era of the disposable container was still a long way off.