National Bohemian Cone: circa 1954
This is the last 12 oz. conetop can used by Baltimore's National Brewing in 1954. It's a somewhat under-rated conetop as it seems to be much harder to find than the earlier version with the non-smiling Mr. Boh. I've dumped them in one spot, although not the one pictured above, alas. Near the town of Mineral, Virginia was an enormous dump with lots of different brands, including Esslinger Quizzie cans. In the woods nearby there were many small piles of cans. I found one small pile of conetops that were mystery cans. I brought them home to clean to see what they were and found several were this version of the National Bohemian conetop.
Here are two Naty Boh flats. On the left is the label with the old Mr. Boh. The one on the right has the newer version. Sometimes they're referred to as the "solemn" Mr Boh and the "happy" one. I've also seen them called the "left-eyed" and the "right-eyed" Mr. Bohs but I can never remember if that's my left or his left, so I prefer "solemn" and "happy."
The older label was used on cans from 1950-1954.
How can we tell when the label changed? There are several ways. The easiest is advertisements featuring a change in label. There is a good example (also for National Bohemian) as my March 2007 COM where the brewery specifically highlighted their new look in advertisements.
Another easy way is if one of the trade press magazines, such as Brewers Journal, runs an article about the new design. My October 2006 COM, a Gunther Beer, is a good example of this. Local newspapers also ran a short story about the label change.
Another way is to check the advertisements that don't highlight the new label, but that do show it. That's how I dated this label change. In early 1954 National Bohemian's newspaper ads began showing the new label.
This method is not foolproof. The renditions of cans in advertisements are sometimes crude and may be simplified versions of the real design. After all, it only needs to be close enough to the real design so the customer can recognize the product in the store. Moreover, it's possible the breweries didn't always want to spend the money to change the advertisement, especially if the new label was not that different from the old label. In this case the major change was the newer Mr. Boh. It wasn't a big enough change to warrant rushing out to change all the advertising immediately to avoid misleading customers.
On the other hand, National Brewing did a lot of advertising and was constantly producing new ad material; updating the label would not have added much, if anything. So I am fairly confident that the ads from early 1954 do reflect the actual change in label.
Another way to date cans is by the canning code that American Can placed on its cans from 1935 to 1953. The company used tiny symbols along the edge or bottom of the label near a number that indicated the canning plant that produced the can. This is a great way to determine a can's date. Alas, it has some drawbacks.
1. Other can companies didn't use this method.
2. The symbol is easily obscured by rust on dumpers.
3. It doesn't help after 1953.
4. A can may have been produced by the canning company one year, but filled by the brewery later.
In the case of this COM, I could not use the date code to confirm the can's date. I have two example of this month's can in my collection. The area where the code would appear is obscured on one can, and the other can was made by Continental Can, so it wouldn't have the code.
FYI, I have a page on dating beer cans with more ways to date when a can was made.
National Bohemian Cans on Rustycans.com
I have several National Bohemian cans featured as Cans of the Month.
Brewery research on Rustycans.com has been aided by Carlson's Brewery Research.