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(Illustration of the Can-o-Draft's "Functional Description.") 

Although I doubt the displaced air/retained carbon dioxide concept worked, the theory is a simple one.  I based it on Bowser and Miltenberger's 1935 patent, and adjusted a couple variables to match what can be seen in photos of the can itself.

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Other brewers were interested in Heekin's 248 ounce monster, but the best evidence to date indicates no other brewer canned, or at least marketed, the Can-o-Draft.

In its brief life span the Can-o-Draft was plagued by an intermittent feed/spigot system, unreliable structure (the thing liked to spring leaks), and an insufficient inner lining.  Not to mention most people in those days didn't have a whole lot of refrigerator space to play with.
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The Heekin Hercules
View the patent - PDF format.
JANUARY 1935 was more historic than many "experts" used to think.  Twenty-two days before Krueger and American Can Co introduced the beer can to the world, two Ohio men filed a patent application for a "Liquid Dispensing Container."  It was a giant beer can.

Raymond R. Bowser and Jacob Elmer Miltenberger, Jr., both of Dayton, OH, designed a metal keg to hold and serve 248 ounces (disagree?) of beer.  And just two days into the year they submitted an intricate blueprint and functional description of the behemoth can to the US Patent Office.  Obviously the men designed the thing in 1934, or perhaps earlier.

The submission date proves how competitive the race was to can beer.  Repeal was still fresh; no doubt the parties were legendary.  But the inventors simply couldn't wait for everyone to recover from their New Years hangovers to take their invention to its next step.

The further we get into the Can-o-Draft's life, the sketchier the details become.  We do know Burger Brewing of Cincinnati paid Bowser and Miltenberger for their design, and that at least two cans were made and filled.  A short blurb about the gigantic beer can appeared in a 1936 magazine, but we don't know if the Can-o-Draft ever made it past the test can phase - i.e., if it was actually sold.
The can's existence would remain unknown to the collecting community for 40 years, when -- in the mid 70s -- a collector discovered one gathering dust in a New Jersey bar.  For years he and friends tried unsuccessfully to buy it, but managed to get photos of it for the Beer Can Collectors of America.  In a 1985 periodical honoring the beer can's 50th anniversary, the BCCA informed its members of the Can-o-Draft's existence.

In 2003 the bar's owners agreed to sell the rarity to two persistent collectors, who soon sold it on eBay for over $15,000.  That transaction caught the eye of the grandson of J.E. Miltenberger himself.  Having possessed his own Burger Can-o-Draft for years, he'd walked past it in his basement countless times without giving it much thought.

Soon, the second known specimen, a slightly more weathered version than the New Jersey can, sold on eBay for $11,000.
© 2001 - 2011 Phil Thompson