FOOD HISTORY: Food Canning

In 1795, Napoleon Boneparte's troops were moving rapidly into Russia, where the Russians had stripped the countryside of most crops and food animals. Napoleon's troops moved the fighting front forward so rapidly that the the wagons supplying the soldiers fresh food could not keep up and the food would spoil in the time it took to finally reach the troops. Thus, the soldiers had to make do with the meager food items that were left in the counrtyside that they could manage to scavenge. Because of this, his troops were malnourished, always hungry and  not in the best fighting condition. Therefore, Napoleon who believed that, "An army marches on its stomach" and wanted to keep his army fed, had his government offer a cash prize of 12,000 francs to anybody who developed a reliable method of food preservation. In 1806, the Frenchman Nichaolas Appert conceived the idea of putting food in air tight glass bottles, corking them and found, after exposing them to sufficient heat, that the food prepared in this manner would keep from spoiling. Appert won the 12,000 franc prize that the French government offerred. While the Appert system worked, the fact that glass containers were used caused a large breakage problem, lessening the value of Appert's preservation system. However, in 1810, Peter Durand, an Englishman, took the food preservation  process further when he patented a method of sealing food in unbreakable heavy tin containers and heating them. Bryan Dorkin and John hall perfected the Durand method and opened the first commercial food canning company in England in 1813. This was them first introduction of canned food to the public. The men who developed these early canning methods must have intuititively used airtight containers and sufficient heating to preserve the canned food because it wasn't until decades later, in the 1860's, that Pasteur, the great French bacteriologist, explained cannings effectiveness in preserving food. Pasteur demonstrated that the growth of microorganisms caused food spoilage and that applying heat, sufficeint to kill these organisms allowed food to be kept without spoilage if the food was securely sealed from the air. In any case, with  the introduction of canned food, greater expansion of world-wide exploration could occur  (no scurvy and other nutritional defeciency diseases due to Mariners eating only dried, heavily salted, and not too nutritious food on their long journies) and with the increased provisioning of large armies with canned goods, the importance of canned foods became universally known. Thus, the demand for food in cans greatly increased. In 1812, Thomas Kennet emigrated from England to the U.S.  and established the first U.S. canning company in New York. Because early cans were so thick they had to be hammered open, can makers started to produce thinner cans. When cans became thinner, people looked to invent easy ways to open these thinner cans. In 1858, Ezra Warner, of Westbury Conneticut patented the first can opener, which was used by the U.S. military in the Civil War. From these beginnings, canned goods have made their way to every area of the globe to provide people with safe, nutritious food that can be stored for extended periods of time without spoilage.