As mentioned earlier, in 1930 Vacuum Oil published a pamphlet entitled “The Story of Hiram B. Everest”, who was the company’s founder. It basically details Everest’s life before, during, and after his involvement with Vacuum Oil Company, and includes lots of interesting facts about the company’s early years. Included are interviews with several men who worked for Vacuum in the very beginning. Since Vacuum was started in 1867, that would mean they were at least 75+ years old when interviewed in 1929-30. One part I found especially interesting was from an interview with a Mr. John Schaffer. He lived near the site of the original Vacuum Oil refinery in Rochester, New York, and John’s father was employed there during the original construction in 1867. John and his brother Frank were also employed shortly thereafter to fill cans with harness oil. According to Mr. Schaffer “the first cans used for putting up harness oil were oyster cans obtained from several local restaurants in town. They were square cans with a small hole in the top through which the oysters were inserted one at a time. They were excellent containers for oil as they were well made with soldered seams.” The pamphlet states that “so far as is known not one of these oyster cans which became oil cans is now in existence.” Based on other information in this document, my best guess is these cans were used from late 1867 to about 1869, when demand for the oil made it necessary for Vacuum to construct their own cans.
Shown below is a drawing of the first company-made cans dating from about 1870, which were described as “the new style screw top cans. Artistically painted and varnished. Labeled with the finest steel blue paper. Printed in rich gold color. The gayest looking, the fastest selling, the finest shelf good on the market. Every can is sold with a money back guarantee.”
I found the following image online……it was described as “a square oyster can dating from the Civil War era (1860’s)”.
Looks a lot like the cans John Schaffer described, don’t you think? Based on the above, it seems to me that Vacuum Oil Company itself has challenged the present-day collecting community. They stated back in 1930 that “not one of these oyster cans which became oil cans is now in existence.” But cans very similar are still out there and available……the one pictured above was on eBay! So come on guys, lets accept that 75 year old challenge and find one of those very first, really rare Vacuum Oil cans……..then be sure to offer it to me!!!
[This message has been edited by pegasus (edited 03-22-2005).]