History of the soda can
Most agree that the blue Clicquot Club Ginger Ale can was the first soda can produced for retail distribution in late 1938. While the green version is from the same era no one is certain that it was actually sold through retail stores. Throw in the fact that there are numerous examples of the blue can known to exist, and to date only one green can has surfaced, it seems certain that the green can was a can company sample.
Another candidate for first can is the brand named Dairy Seltz. It is unknown whether actual retail distribution occurred for Dairy Seltz, as the only known example is thought to have been a salesman's sample can.
Another intriguing possibility is Coca-Cola's 16 and 32 ounce cans, which are known to exist. Could there have been a limited trial market? Doubtful as the only known examples are stashed away in Coca-Cola's archives in Atlanta.
Could Pepsi have experimented with a low profile cone? A story was told to me by a long time beer can collector (who would know a low profile cone if he saw one!). That he saw one in a Pepsi Cola display booth at a trade show of some sort. Anyone have more info?
It doesn't really matter which can came first in 1938, the fact is that the citric acid in the drinks proved to be to much for the lining of the cans to handle so soft drinks in cans would have to wait.
Shortly after the war a new lining was developed and the canning of soda resumed.
In 1948, Pepsi Cola was one of the first to jump into the game, hoping that they would gain a larger share of the soda market which was dominated by Coca-Cola. The introduction of Pepsi in cans was a huge gamble as the cans retailed 3 for 25 cents, nearly double the price of bottles at the time. The idea of Pepsi in cans ended in 1950 as a dismal failure, the cans leaked and sometimes exploded on store shelves.
The big canning companies would not give up on the idea, of course the potential sale of 25 billion soda cans a year didn't hurt the cause. By the end of 1951 a much better can was developed one which could withstand the higher pressures of carbonated pop.
In early 1953 Cantrell & Cochrane (C & C) a well established soft drink manufacturer introduced Super Root Beer and Super Coola in cone top cans, in the New York metro area, then a few weeks later in the Los Angeles area. At about the same time Shasta located in California and Can-a-Pop, of Sheridan Wyoming started putting soft drinks in flat top cans. By 1955 most of the other soft drink manufacturers were canning there drinks. Canada Dry, Dad's, White Rock, Franks and Hires were all putting their product in cans. A lot of the early cans were cone tops but flat top cans soon won the war, as they were easier to stack and store on the retailers shelves. Cone top soda cans were phased out by the end of 1957 (a few may have hung on longer as some brewers were still using them into the 60's).
Although most of the larger soda companies were canning their product by 1956, the 2 largest, Pepsi and Coca-Cola still resisted cans. Pepsi was still smarting from their earlier failure, and Coca-Cola did not want to lose their reputation, if the can did not work out. Royal Crown believed in the potential of cans and started to can in 1954. By 1960 Royal Crown was the largest canner of soft drinks.
Pepsi, 7 Up and Coca-Cola, the three remaining giants realized cans were the future, finally gave in and began canning by the end of the 50's.
*The dates used in this history are approximate and may be inaccurate, if you spot an error please email me.