Like all of the best inventions, Peter Durand managed to create a device which not only helped to assist with shipment, but which was also of benefit to humanity as a whole. Durand’s creation? The humble tin can.
Little is known of Durand’s early life, but by 1810 he had become a successful merchant, working from Hoxton Square near London. As a food trader, Durand knew only too well that his goods had a limited life span and would perish quickly. Using a technique he learned from the French inventor Phillipe de Girard, Peter Durand approached the then king, George III and was granted a patent for preserving food using sealable containers. Most importantly the patent covered the use of tin cans for preserving food.
Durand successfully tested his new method of preservation using tin cans by deploying a number of items for use by the Royal Navy. Six months after the food was shipped, scientists from the Royal Society opened the tins and found that the food was perfectly safe to eat.
The Royal Navy found that preserved food was only one of the benefits of the new tin cans. Firstly, tin cans were robust and easy to store; previously food had had to be stored in large wooden barrels which were bulky and space inefficient. Secondly, food which could be stored for at least six months meant that voyages could be extended, reducing the need to make landfall to secure supplies.
Despite the success of the tin can, Peter Durand chose not to take the invention any further himself and sold the patent just two years after it was granted. The new owners of the patent turned the idea into a commercial success and the storage of food was changed for ever.
Durand’s story did not end there though. In 1818 Peter Durand managed to secure the US patent for his tinned food invention and so began the globalisation of the humble tin can.