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COM: April 2011

Iron City Zip: September 1962

Iron City zip side 1. Iron City zip front. Iron City zip side 2. Iron City zip top.

This is the very first zip top, sold in 1962. It was in a collection I picked up this year and there are only a few known, so I am very happy to have added it to my collection!

Iron City and the Zip Top

 

1936 Iron City ad.

I have a separate page with a history of the development of the zip top can, so I'll just focus a bit here on Pittsburgh Brewing Company's role. Pittsburgh Brewing had experimented with new types of cans before 1962. In October 1936 they were one of a handful of breweries to sign with National Can to package their Iron City Beer in National's new cans. The result was a fiasco. The lining in the cans failed, ruining the beer, and Pittsburgh Brewing abandoned the flat top cans, later using conetops instead. (see advertisement to left)

In 1950 they were one of a small number of breweries to start using 8 oz cans. They used them for their Tech Beer, rather than the flagship Iron City, but they were one of the pioneers to use that size.

In they began selling a novelty brand, Olde Frothingslosh, in bottles for Christmas 1954 as a novelty present for shareholders and others. (The beer was really Tech Beer and not a new formula.) It was so popular that in 1955 they sold "Sir Lady Frothingslosh in an 8 oz can. The brand, based on the comedy routines of Pittsburgh DJ Rege Cordic on KDKA-AM, was a popular success every holiday season for several decades. (See my Old Frothingslosh page for more)

 

Iron City last flat 1. Iron City last flat top.
In about 1960 Pittsburgh was one of many breweries to use the new "Easy-Open" soft top can. This is the last flat top can issued by Iron City. It's the same can, just a different top. Note, the top in this example is a "soft top," an aluminum top which was easier to puncture with a churchkey than the standard steel tops. Soft Tops were used form 1960 until they were replaced beginning in 1962-63. I have a separate page that discusses soft top cans.

In 1962 Pittsburgh decided to experiment with the new "self-opening" pulltab top. They test-marketed the can in the Staunton, Virginia area starting in September 1962. The test was an immediate success as sales more than doubled in a two month period. By early 1963 Pittsburgh Brewing had shifted all of their production of canned beer to the new can and reported that their canned beer sales had tripled in the first quarter of 1963. That Spring they introduced a 16 oz version, the first brewery to sell their beer with a tab top on a pint can.

The first test zip top is so rare because the brewery apparently decided to promote the new top by changing the label, capitalizing on its popularity. For awhile the can's label read "New Easy Open Snap Top." As other breweries adopted the new top, Iron City cans read "No. 1 With The Snap Top." Both of these cans are common.

Iron City 16 oz. 2d Iron City zip. 3d Iron City Zip.
The 16 oz zip.
The 2d Iron City Zip.
The 3d label.

Pittsburgh Brewing was protective of the term "Snap Top." In May 1963 they sued local rival Duquesne Brewing for using the term to describe their new pulltab can and asked for $150,000 damages. Duquesne argued that the term had been in use before Pittsburgh used it in their advertising campaign. A judge ruled in favor of Pittsburgh Brewing, but refused to award damages. Other breweries used the "snap top" term as well, but the problem with Duquesne was that they were within Pittsburgh Brewing's main marketing area.

Sources Used

"Brewery Promotional Activities" Brewers Digest (February 1963)

"Brewery Promotional Activities" Brewers Digest (June 1963)

"Court halts Use of Phrase" Delaware County Daily Times (June 6, 1963)

"Pittsburgh Breweries in Can Suit" Indiana Evening Gazette (May 4, 1963)

"Pittsburgh Brewing's New 8 Oz. Can." Brewers Digest (August 1950)

"'Snap Top' Slogan Only for Iron City" Titusville Herald (May 4, 1963)

"The Sound Heard Round the World" (Alcola advertisement) Brewers Digest (June 1964)

     

 

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