Many people still think of food as coming in tin cans. In fact, in the U.K., canned foods are often referred to as “tinned foods.”
These days, the term “tin cans” is a misnomer. It dates almost all the way back to the invention of canning. Frenchman Nicolas Appert, who used heat to seal and preserve food for Napoleon’s army around the turn of the 16th century, was the first person to successfully can food. He was granted a 12,000-franc reward for his efforts. Englishman Peter Durand was the first person to put food in cans made of tin in 1810. His cans, which were rolled by hand, were so thick they had to be opened with a hammer or other tool.
Over time, cans transitioned to being made by machines instead of individuals. They grew thinner and, with the invention of the can opener in 1850s, easier to open. For a long time, cans were sealed with lead solder, which meant the dangerous heavy metal could leach into foods. But, that practice was abandoned long ago.