Tuesday, July 8, 2008


A Miners Can and Bottle from my collection.

Found this little article in an 1896 Pottsville Journal newspaper. It is about the famous Miners “CAN”

The Dinner Pail

The dinner pail of song and story is known throughout the anthracite coal regions as the “Can”. Foolish workmen in the giddy metropolises may shape the style of their lords and corporations masters an call it the “Dinner Pail” or “Dinner kettle” but until the last Italian, and the Hunkey have driven out the last Irishman, Welshman, or Englishman. It will continue to be called the “Can”,
The meaning of the phrase “pick up your can and go home” is much clearer to a breaker boy who has broken three panes of glass with a piece of “boney” coal than the more exact one of “you are this day discharged.”
The can and bottle are not to be messed with anywhere but in the Anthracite mining region and even there new fangled notions are slowly changing their shapes. The new can was made something like this:
All cans were invariably the same size. Few men felt safe from the laughter of the fellows if they carried a “butter kettle” to the mines. They were looked upon as either dudes or gluttons and the man around the mines is sensitive in the extreme, fearing to break a fashion.
The “Butter Kettle” was made like this, the lid being a compartment which held the drinkables.
Brakemen were excusable for carrying butter kettles, but since the plain unfrilled “can” came out 25 years ago, it has held popular favor. Fifteen years ago a can sold for 5o cents, now you can get it for 15 cents. Men like McKinley make such things possible.
The miner’s bottle came into life about 1843. It was born of necessity, the parent of so many things, and is a modification of the water bottle of the Arab in the desert. It is made like this cut. The “stopper” is made of wood or cork or paper. Many men on their way to work have been unjustly accused of “bouncing snipe” (I.e. cigar stumps) when in fact they were just stooping in the gutter in front of a saloon to pick up a cork. The quart bottle of 1872 cost 50 cents. Now you can get for 12 cents, which is all on account of McKinley.
The woeful want that often prevailed in the coal regions made the can play its part of deceit. The bottle has been filled with water instead of coffee. Lard masqueraded as butter, an often is the can taken into the mines empty, and filled on the return from the shift at the local watering hole.

Pottsville Journal 1896

A later model "CAN"

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