Crown Cork & Seal Company, Inc. (Specimen)

Crown Cork & Seal Company, Inc. (Specimen)
Item# 4286ccs1or

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Stock Certificate, specimen
Late 1900's
American Bank Note Company
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The Crown Cork & Seal Company traces its origins to 1892 when William Painter invented the 'crown cork,' a metal crown used to package soft drinks and beer in bottles. Painter soon started the Crown Cork & Seal Company of Baltimore. He quickly expanded the company overseas and by the time of his death in 1906 the company had manufacturing operations in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Brazil. After recovering from the disruptions of World War I, Crown Cork survived the Prohibition era by shifting its production from beer to soft drinks.

In 1927 the company was incorporated in New York City as Crown Cork & Seal Company, Inc. following its merger with New Process Cork Company Inc. and New York Improved Patents Corporation. The following year the company formed the Crown Cork International Corporation as a holding company for subsidiaries engaged in bottle crown and other cork business outside the United States. Crown Cork's early entry into the foreign market gave Crown Cork an advantage over its competitors in the container and closure fields.

Crown Cork did not even venture into the can making business until 1936 when it purchased the Acme Can Company and began building its first large can plant in Philadelphia under the name Crown Can. While the middle of the Great Depression would seem to be the worst possible time to enter a capital-intensive industry, Crown's can operation was successful right from the start. Processed canning was quickly taking the place of home canning as the preferred way to preserve and store perishable goods. For this reason the container industry--for most of the 20th century--remained immune to the economic cycles that plagued most other types of businesses, industrial or otherwise.

Crown Cork & Seal pioneered the aerosol can in 1946 and then-President John F. Connelly was shrewd enough to recognize its potential. Hair spray, bathroom cleaning supplies, insecticides, and many other household products would come to be staples for the American consumer and would be marketed in aerosol dispensers. In 1963, for example, Crown installed two aerosol can product lines in its Toronto factory, thinking that it would take the market five years to absorb the output. Within a year, however, another plant was required to handle the orders. A decade later, the same situation was repeated in Mexico. Only in the late 1970s and 1980s, when the negative environmental impact of aerosol cans became widely known (it was discovered that aerosol containers expel fluorocarbons which destroy the earth's fragile ozone layer), did Crown begin to reexamine this sector of its business. The company was among the first to develop an aerosol can that did not propel fluorocarbons into the atmosphere.

In the early 1960s, the can industry was losing more and more ground to the nonreturnable bottle. It appeared that cans would never be able to capture the lion's share of the beverage container market. For this reason American Can and Continental began experimenting with large-scale diversification into noncontainer fields. Crown Cork, however, did not follow the example; in fact, Connelly went against the prevailing wisdom and entrenched Crown Cork still further into the consumer product can business, spending $121 million on a capital improvement program initiated in 1962.

In 1963, just as the can making industry was experiencing its first recession in decades, the pulltab poptop was introduced. In the words of one can maker at the time, the new and seemingly simple innovation made opening a can 'as easy as pulling the ring off a grenade, and a lot safer.' The new pulltab opener revolutionized the industry while helping to dramatically increase canned beverage consumption. At the same time, Americans began drinking more beer and soft drinks than ever before, and the can industry experienced a seven-year period of unprecedented growth. Crown Cork, an early entrant in the pulltab can market, performed even better than American Can and Continental, and its year-to-year profits increased by double digit percentages.

The first widespread production of two-piece aluminum cans began in the mid-1970s. Aluminum was relatively expensive, but simpler to manufacture, lighter for the consumer, and recyclable. Connelly, however, once again went against industry trends. Just as he had refused to participate in the diversification trend years before, he steered Crown Cork clear of the aluminum two-piece can. He decided instead to concentrate on the old-style three-piece steel can that had been the mainstay of the industry for years. Many industry analysts regarded this strategy as particularly risky since the Food and Drug Administration had indicated that it might outlaw the three-piece can because the lead used to solder the three seams of the can was considered a health hazard. To circumvent this problem Crown began welding rather than soldering its cans.

Connelly was against switching from steel to aluminum for two reasons. First, by relying on the steel can the company was relieved of the high research and development costs necessary for changing to aluminum can manufacturing. Second, Connelly realized that there were only a handful of corporations selling aluminum in bulk. This meant that the can makers would be paying a premium price for their raw materials. Crown, by using steel, could play the various steel producers off one another and drive the price of its materials down. The strategy worked, and Crown's company was making profits while his larger and more progressive competitors spent hundreds of millions of dollars on retooling for aluminum cans.PA-Pennsylvania Manufacturing and Production Consumer Products Specimen Pieces Allegorical Featured Hemispheres Featured



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