Dating evaporated milk cans
A can of Acme Beer, packaged with a “church key” pull opener, promised “non-fattening refreshment” that “adds zest to meals”—and offered Rock a peek into alcohol advertising in the 1930s.
And that seemingly unidentifiable battered can Rock uncovered at a Mc Neal Creek homestead?
Scattered through the White Bear mine, which in the 1890s occupied Callahan’s Gulch, they found more evaporated milk and vegetable cans.
In the can dump alongside the Weed Lumber Company camp, which stood near Grass Lake from 1908 to 1911, they dug up thousands more, and Rock collected many from later decades.
After Rock’s death in 2010, his wife, Mary Ellen Rock, donated his can collection to the Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology.The classic sardine can, opened with a key, became widely available in the 1860s.Sturdy, double-seamed cans were first created in the 1880s, but the “sanitary” airtight version was not introduced until 1904.As Jim Rock traveled around the country in the 1980s and 90s, he carried a shiny black suitcase and a stack of 40 notecards.Inside the suitcase were artifacts of a not-long-past era of American industry: metal cans, often dented and rusted, each wrapped carefully in a white wool sock.