The widespread practice of packing food in tin cans and containers was a direct result of the public's acceptance of the Germ Theory of Disease. In the 19th century, many Americans were still willfully oblivious to the breakthrough research of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch. People were more interested in the pitches of snake-oil salesman and their medicine shows, where cure-all elixirs and exotic balms in medicine bottles were sold. It never occurred to many of these good folk that the best way to be healthy might simply to be clean.

In the early 1800s, cleanliness was one way for the upper classes to distinguish themselves from the working and lower classes, as only the wealthy had access to water and soap. However, as germ theory became more prevalent during the Victorian Era, it became unacceptable for the working poor to be dirty. Most food was displayed and accessed at the local five-and-dimes in communal food barrels—grimy, germ-infested hands would not do.

These days, people of means tend to dismiss canned or “processed” food as something people without access to fresh food eat. But in the late 1800s, food in tins was highly desirable. It was considered much more sanitary, and therefore healthier, than food offered in bins or barrels. That’s when branding became particularly important; customers learned they could expect a certain level of quality from, say, Kellogg’s.

At first, tinplate containers were covered with paper labels, which had a product’s pertinent information and advertising stenciled or printed on them. Machines that could trim and stamp sheets of tin were introduced around 1875, and between 1869 and 1895, manufacturers developed a process that allowed them to use lithography to transfer images directly onto the tin boxes.

Today, lithographed advertising tins are a hugely popular collecting category. Examples of products that were sold in tins range from coffee and tobacco to beverages and snack foods. Companies even sold typewriter ribbons and condoms in specially designed tins.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Advertising Antiques

Advertising Antiques

This classy looking British site features hundreds of high resolution photos of antique porcelain pre-war (enamel) … [read review or visit site]

Ad Access

Ad Access

Duke University's library has pulled together an impressive collection of over 7,000 ads printed in U.S. and Canadi… [read review or visit site]

Historical Marker Database

Historical Marker Database

If you're the type who pulls over when you see a 'historic marker ahead' sign, you'll love this site. Orchestrated … [read review or visit site]

Plan 59

Plan 59

From the Nostlagia Factory in Virginia comes this celebration of 'mid-century automotive advertising illustrations'… [read review or visit site]

American Package Museum

American Package Museum

Ian House's gallery of early 20th Century American package designs. Browse the exhibits in slide show mode or view … [read review or visit site]

Falvo Collectables Gallery

Falvo Collectables Gallery

Ralph and Carol Falvo's excellent collection of automobiles, petroliana, jukeboxes, soda, and general store items. … [read review or visit site]

Found in Moms Basement

Found in Moms Basement

Paula Zargaj-Reynolds’ blog, an extensive collection of 20th century vintage advertising, is a visual feast. Scro… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1920s Henry Clive Art Deco Canco Beautebox Rare Mae Murray Santa Claus Tin LargeAmerican Cap Mfg Scottdale Pa Blasting Cap Tin Indian Chief Bust Mining BlasterRare Beautebox Canco Tin Christmas Antique 1920's-1930's Henry Clive Santa WomanOgdens - 'redbreast' Tobacco Tin (small Size)Rare Antique Illinois Blasting Cap Tin White Round St Louis Dynamite Mining BoxPremium Brand Oyster Tin Baltimore Md.Minty Stoeger Gun Cleaning Oil Tin Buzzards W Box Kit Advertising Decoy ShellVintage Hi-plane Pipe Tobacco Tin Twin Motor Plane Pocket Vintage Old AdvertiseRare Minty Unopened Winchester Heavy Machine Gun Oil Advertising Tin Shell BoxHoney Moon Vertical Pocket Tobacco TinVintage Cracker Jack Horse Drawn Cart Tin Advertising Premium Toy PrizeDe Laval Cream Separator Cow & Calf Tin Litho Advertising Pieces From 1910's. Vintage Snow Ball Litho On Tin Cloves 2 Oz Spice TinVintage Iris Litho On Tin Poultry Seasoning 1 Oz Spice TinVintage U.s. Marine Flake Cut Pocket Tobacco Tin Has Match StrikerVintage Cracker Jack Railroad Train Engine Tin Advertising Premium Toy PrizeNm Rare Antique Vtg Frescodor Borated Talcum Deluxe Powder Tin Art Deco NouveauDl Vtg Monarch 25 Lb Peanut Butter Tin With Lid Paper Label 10" Diameter Can2 Vtg Mccormick Bee Brand Spice Tins Ground Cloves & Paprika C1930s-50sOld 1910's Sportsmen Tobacco Tin Sign Canada W/fly Fishing/hunting SceneKing Koal Stripped Tobacco Lunchbox (lunch Box) Tin, Coal Mining Interest Early!Very Early Patterson Lucky Strike Tobacco Tin, Square Corner Box - Unusual!Antique Christmas Candy Tin Made By Tindeco Outstanding Graphics Tin AThree Ramses Vintage Prophylactics Condoms Tin With Contents - 1929Vertical Pocket Buckingham Tobacco Tin EmptyRare Vintage Sweet Mist Chewing Tobacco TinNice Old Lot Of 34 Different Tobacco Tins Advertising Tobacco Tin Cans Great Montauk Gallon Oyster Tin Can Advertising Fulton Market Ny Native AmericanQueen Nestor Gianaclis Egyptian Revival Art Deco Enamel Cigarette Tin BoxNice Old Litho Square Corner Diamond Mixture Advertising Tobacco Tin CanVintage Old Peachey Double Cut Tobacco Tin Advertising Scotten Dillon Company Capt Fisher Oyster Gallon Tin Can Advertising Sanford Virginia RecipesMcvitie & Price Biscuit Tin - 1895 - ( Sunflower Pattern ) 1920's~yankee Brand~e.k. Pond Co. Peanut Butter Advertising 12 Oz. Tin Pail~vgc~Rare Antique Unusual Litho Printed Squeeze Box Jacobs Crackers Advertising TinRare Checkers Knob Top Tobacco TinStag Tobacco Pocket Tin 1910 StampVintage Gargoyle Pegasus Socony Wadhams Lead Top CanPillsbury Flour,maxwell House,domino Sugar,& Lipton Tea Vintage CanistersWw1 Tin - Battle Ships - Hms Dreadnought Hms Indomitable - Colmans Mustard Tin Vintage Cracker Jack Us Army Tank Corps No. 57 Tin Advertising Premium Toy Prize1900s John Buchanan& Bros Biscuit Tin Pre-raphaelite Jeweled Beauty 4 Art PanelsVintage Helsby Oyster Can/tin One Gallon Raw Oysters Md 189Vintage Old Gold Cigarette Tin Sign Mfg By P Lorillard Co 1940'sNice Old Litho Square Corner Carolina Gem Advertising Tobacco Tin CanVintage Cracker Jack Line Refrigerator Box Car Tin Advertising Premium Toy PrizeRare Antique Vintage Gray Dunn Picnic Lunch Basket Biscuit Tin Lithograph PrintAntique Christmas Bon-bon Tin Woolco Santa & Airplane F.w. WoolworthFrench Ad Rolling Paper Cigarettes Tin Zed 1900's Werbe Blechdose Zigaretten Nice Old Litho Square Corner B.f. Gravely Henry Co Advertising Tobacco Tin CanVintage Tune In With Cracker Jack Radio Tin Advertising Premium Toy PrizeVintage Lee Brand Coffee I Pound Tin Can H D Lee Mercantile Salina Kansas KsVtg Grandma's Favorite Mustard Spice Box Tin Top Horacek & Sons Omaha NebChesapeake Brand Oyster Tin Antique Huntley & Palmers Biscuit Tin King Wenceslas Christmas Book Rare 1913Vintage Sweet Cuba Dark Chewing Tobacco Lithograph Store Bin Tin ..lookVintage 1919 Planters Peanuts 1lb Tin Wilkes Barre PaVintage Union Leader Redi Cut Pocket Tobacco Tin White VersionLot Of 15 Vintage Spice Tins Ben Hur, Ann Page, Astor, Colman's, Juno, & MoreAntique Christmas Candy Tin Made By Tindeco Outstanding Graphics Tin B