"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
Attributed to Benjamin Franklin
When William Painter (1838-1906) left his home in Ireland in search of better opportunities in the United States, he could not have imagined that it would be a small, simple, and seemingly insignificant invention that would make him a very wealthy man and revolutionize the bottling industry.
With hundreds upon hundreds of patents received for bottle-sealing devices, the trade press wrote that it would be difficult to come up with a novel idea. Painter took up the challenge, believing that "the only way to do a thing is to do it," and do it he did, filing a patent for the "Crown Cork" in 1891.
The cap was metal with twenty-four teeth that gripped a flange around the neck of the bottle. It had a cork stopper on the inside to prevent the drink from leaking, going flat, and coming into contact with the toxic metal. The cap could be removed with a conventional corkscrew or prized open by any flat object, such as a pocket knife. Painter shrewdly mentioned in his patent application and marketing material that an opening device would be the most efficient method, and accordingly, in 1894, he received a patent for the tool he had designed.
To convince brewers and bottlers to change to his system, which required new bottles and machinery, Painter shipped some beer sealed with the Crown Cork from North America to South America. The results spoke for themselves. By 1906 the Crown Cork and Seal Company was opening factories around the world, and by the 1930s it was supplying almost half of the world's bottle caps.