It was the Norwegian chemical engineer Erik Rotheim that invented the spray can in the late 1920’s. He received his engineering degree in Switzerland and was known as a physics and mathematical genius.
In the beginning, he called it an ‘aerosol spray can’ and submitted the patent application in 1926. It was granted in 1929. He filed the United States patent application in 1927, which was finally approved in 1931.
The invention was working, but the nozzle had a tendency to clog. The commercial success was initially limited. Erik Rotheim therefore sold his patent to an American company for 17.000 dollars (equivalent to 520.000 dollars today). Commercial exploitation of the patent was not significant until the 1940’s, when it was introduced in the United States.
In 1948, three companies were granted licenses by the United States government to manufacture aerosols. Two of the three companies, Chase Products Company and Claire Manufacturing, still manufacture aerosols to this day. The ‘crimp-on valve’, used to control the spray was developed in 1949 by Bronx machine shop proprietor Robert H. Abplanalp.
Today, spray cans are used all over the world. From graffiti designers and hair dressers to cheese-in-a-can (Easy-Cheese), perfume bottles and sound horns.
Text and photo by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews