WWI Bacon Can

By request, this forum has been created to support those with an interest in Militaria.

WWI Bacon Can

Cold Steel Man
active member
Joined: 06 Jul 2006, 06:04

22 Jan 2011, 22:45 #1

I have several WWI bacon cans and have seen 3 variations on these:

 * Model of 1916,  no manufacturer or date,
 * Model of 1916, S&B 1917,
 * Model of 1916, S&B 1918.

Now for the questions:

1) If they are marked only "Model of 1916" on the lid (and no other information), can one correctly conclude that it was manufactured in 1916?

 2) What other manufacturers besides S&B (if any) were there in 1916?

 3) What manufacturers of Model of 1916 bacon cans produced after 1916 ?

S&B 1918:

Marked "Model of 1916" only, no mfgr or date:

S&B dated 1917:
Last edited by Cold Steel Man on 23 Jan 2011, 00:48, edited 1 time in total.
It's all fun & games until the flying monkeys show up...

I like cats: they taste like chicken.

NRA Life Member
NRA SATF Charter Founder

Veteran member
Joined: 30 Jul 2003, 07:51

23 Jan 2011, 09:11 #2

The story of the bacon can begins with the meat can (that is universally referred to as "mess kit") that was recommended for adoption by the Infantry Equipment Board in 1875. The meat can was intended to carry three days ration of meat, and to double as a frying pan and plate. The meat can went through incremental changes in construction and material, but not in function, until 1910 when the Infantry Equipment Board determined that the meat can was unsatisfactory for carrying rations. The meat can was invariably placed into the haversack or saddle bags edge ways and grease would seep out of the meat can and soil the duck material of the haversack and the uniform of the soldiers.

The Infantry Equipment Board decided to recommend that the utensils be shortened and carried inside the meat can, and that a separate container be provided for the field rations. The container recommended for adoption was a sheet steel tin plated box with hinged lid, that it was expected would always be carried upright in the Model of 1910 Haversack in such a way that the grease and etc. could not seep out. The Model of 1910 bacon can was manufactured in two configurations, one hinged on the end and one hinged on the side, both were lightweight sheet steel tin plated, folded and assembled with solder.

Apparently the M1910 bacon can was unsatisfactory and the Model of 1913 Bacon Can was adopted. The M1913 was manufactured from thicker sheet steel, two piece construction - bottom or can and separate lid, that was pressed to shape and fit together quite closely and held together by friction. It appears that the M1913 bacon cans were heavily tin plated after being formed to shape. The Model of 1916 bacon can followed and was very similar to the M1913 bacon can except the lid was deeper and therefore closed further down onto the bottom, presumably to make the assembly more secure (samples of M1913 bacon cans examined the top rather easily popped off) and prevent the seepage of the grease and juices.

Until 1917 all manufacture of bacon cans was at Rock Island Arsenal, and all of the examples of the M1910 and M1913 bacon cans I have examined were not marked by the Arsenal. I think it is probable that most of the existing samples of unmarked M1916 bacon cans were manufactured at Rock Island Arsenal.

In 1917 Rock Island Arsenal contracted with industrial companies to manufacture M1916 bacon cans as well as other equipment. Later in 1917 the Equipment Division at the Ordnance Office assumed responsibility for contracting for this equipment, because of the requirement to coordinate with other divisions in the Ordnance Office and the War Production Board for the materials.

In mid-1918 Headquarters, American Expeditionary Forces requested that the issue of bacon cans to soldiers being shipped to the AEF be discontinued and that there be no further bulk shipment of bacon cans. The bacon can was determined to be unnecessary as the front line troops carried canned emergency rations when in an assault and were fed prepared rations otherwise. Apparently by August 1918 all existing contracts for M1916 bacon cans were cancelled and there was no further production. Total production from all sources was reported in America's Munitions 1917-1918 at 4,077,560. All models of the bacon can were reclassified obsolete in 1919 and the item was no longer manufactured, stocked or issued.

During the War the U.S. Marine Corps acquired bacon cans from the army and contracted for bacon cans with unknown contractor(s) and quantity. The contractor(s) were probably making the bacon can on Army contracts and marked them in the same way as those manufactured for the Army. I have not examined any bacon can that was marked in any way that indicated it was manufactured for the Marine Corps. The Marines continued to issue the bacon can in the 1920s and by 1940 it had been dropped from equipment lists.

Follows is a list of Rock Island Arsenal production and the known contractors that manufactured M1916 bacon cans and how they were marked where known:

America's Munitions 1917-1918 lists all of the individual equipment as Quartermaster Department material, however all production of the bacon can was the responsibility of the Ordnance Department.  Other resources were the Correspondence Files of the Office of The Chief of Ordnance at the National Archives and Rocord Administration, which included a list of 1,234 WWI Ordnance Department contractors prepared in 1919.  All representations of markings shown here were taken from sample equipment.


marked on all production by R.I.A. and contractors.

unmarked? (Rock Island Arsenal) 1916-19 production from Arsenal records 2,219,785 (reflects production prior to 1917 and combines totals from two different sources so there may be redundancy, total production at Rock Island Arsenal is estimated at 1,399,570, America's Munitions 1917-1918 listed 1,358,570, but does not include pre WWI production.

(The Acklin Stamping Co.) contract EA-39 August 28, 1917 500,000 (not listed in America's Munitions 1917-1918). I cannot account for why these bacon cans were marked "1918" except that perhaps Acklin did not get into production until 1918. It may be that it was because it was a Fiscal Year 1918 contract?

(Cleveland Metal Products) no contract listed in Ordnance Department documents, listed in America’s Munitions 1917-1918 total production 21,700.

(Landers, Frary & Clark) 2 contracts: EA-20 August 1, 1917 200,000 covers only and EA-129 January 1, 1918 250,000 complete, America's Munitions 1917-1918 listed production at 534,000.

S&B-1917 or 1918
(Sturgis & Burns) three contracts and two purchase orders in 1917-18: two for complete cans, two were for bodies and one for covers, America's Munitions 1917-1918 listed production at 1,731,000.

unknown (Penn Metal Co., New York) mentioned in Chief of Ordnance correspondence, unknown if any manufactured.

unknown-may be unmarked (20th Century Stamping Co.) contract by R.I.A. April 27, 1917 334,160 (not listed in America's Munitions 1917-1918)

(William B. Durgin Co.) no contract information located, contractor identified from Ordnance Department list of contractors and products produced.

W.G. CO.-1918
(Whittacker, Glessner Co.) contract EA-140 February 21, 1918 500,000 (not listed in America's Munitions 1917-1918)

unknown-may be unmarked (Wisconsin Metal Products Co.) America's Munitions 1917-1918 listed production at 131,880.

Ordnance Department documents that cancelled procurement in August 1918 indicated that production was authorized for 9,700,722 bacon cans, most of which were never contracted for manufacture. No information has been located in Ordnance Department files regarding cancellation of contracts.

Last edited by Alibi on 02 Sep 2011, 07:09, edited 2 times in total.

Veteran member
Joined: 01 Jan 2002, 12:19

24 Jan 2011, 01:07 #3

Alibi, thank you for the interesting read. I didn't even know there was such a thing as a bacon can. I have or had WWI mess kits, canteens, etc., but never the bacon can. Are they hard to find?

Kevin in Or.

Veteran member
Joined: 30 Jul 2003, 07:51

24 Jan 2011, 03:50 #4

Model of 1916 Bacon Cans are quite common and they are frequently listed on eBay online auction. Years ago before the internet I purchased a few through catalog sales and I occasionally see them offered at gun shows. So they are still a fairly common item in used condition.  Search "mess kit" on eBay usually turns these up in the World War I section.

Recently Advance Guard Militaria acquired a crate of unissued M1916 bacon cans they offer at $30 for one or $50 for two, plus shipping?  I acquired two and except for slight wear, from so many years of movement against other bacon cans in the crate, are new. These bacon cans are from a crate packed by Whittacker Glessner Co (W.G. CO.) in 1918. <http://advanceguardmilitaria.com/>

The M1910 and M1913 bacon cans are extremely rare.

Of the former I have only examined and photographed one of each type and both of those were in collections. The problem with the M1910 bacon can is they are unmarked and unless you know what you’re looking at you wouldn’t know what it was. One of the examples I examined had a label pasted on it that indicated it was a Civil War fuse box. The owner graciously allowed me to remove the label for photography. He was using it to store odds and ends of hardware like nuts bolts and screws. I occasionally search eBay using “tin box” to see if I can luck onto one.

I acquired an unissued example of an M1913 bacon can, the only one I have ever seen offered, through an eBay auction. Another bidder that I had communicated with previously said he would be glad to let me photograph it after he acquired it, but I prevailed at auction on the item.  You don't want to know what I paid, really you don't want to know!

The M1916 bacon can and M1910 condiment can are items that anyone interested in assembling a WWI M1910 Haversack is familiar with as they were essentional components of the field mess kit during the War and are quite commonly seen in photographs and illustrations of equipment from the period. These are usually intended to illustrate the components of the field equipment sets and how they are to be packed.

This image marked to illustrate components of the field equipment shows the M1910 condiment can and M1916 bacon can (both opened for inspection) centered in front of the “Two towels.”  The soldier in this image is apparently "out of uniform" in order to display his identification disks for inspection.

This image was one of a set taken in 1919 that was intended to illustrate to troops getting ready to transport back to the states and those on occupation duty, how to assemble the pack for uniform appearance. Gen. Pershing didn’t want his soldiers going home looking like they had fought a war.  The bacon can has been omitted and the long boxes under the condiment can were the emergency field rations carried that were substituted for the bacon can (center of this display).


new member
Joined: 16 Feb 2016, 03:15

16 Feb 2016, 03:18 #5

Thank you for the information, Alibi.  I only have one Model of 1916 Bacon Tin, and it was made by C.M.P.  Since only 21,700 were produced by Cleveland Metal Products, it would account for .005% of total production.  Would this particular bacon tin be rare or valuable?  I got this one at an estate sale last year.  Thanks again for the info.



Veteran member
Joined: 30 Jul 2003, 07:51

26 Mar 2016, 23:25 #6

In the last 30 years or so collectors and online auction sellers have developed a new meaning to several words that to me are irrelevant, but apparently people use these in the special meaning applied to them to appear to be knowledgeable and "in the scene" so-to-speak.  Here are a few that have become overused and misapplied:

RARE:  First used by online sellers to indicate an item that has to be rare because they only have one, and never saw one before.  Rare apparently means small numbers available, as a come-on to bid often and more than the bidder can afford.  The term very rarely is applied to material culture items that are truly unusual and in fact is often misapplied to items that were manufactured in the millions.

PROTOTYPE:  An item that was manufactured as a sample, usually one-of-a-kind for demonstration purposes and for approval to proceed with testing the materials or field testing the function of the item.  Generally the term experimental also applies to prototype items, which may or may not be in the final construction or materials specified for production.  Militaria collectors often mistake an item they've never seen before as a prototype, as least they hope it's a prototype so they can boast they 'found' a 'rare' material culture item.

REPRODUCTION:  I concede that the dictionary defines this term as meaning any copy of an original item. My opinion is that only the original manufacturer can re-produce.  I prefer the term replica as a more accurate description of most of the "reproduction" material cultural items manufactured.

FAKE:  I believe this term comes to us from the art business in which valuable paintings are reproduced for the potential value, and the term forgery is also applied.  Both terms imply something intentionally manufactured to deceive a buyer into paying a premium price for something.  The key word here is intentional.  The term fake has become way overused by militaria collectors and it is clear that the overuse of the word has some collectors, that need to do some research instead of going hysterical worrying about being sold a replica by an uninformed or unscrupulous dealer. 

FOUND:  Obviously a term that goes to the "adventure" of collecting, but it can hardly be said a buyer "found" something on a dealer table at a gun show or listed in an online auction.

I'VE NEVER SEEN THAT BEFORE:  Statement used by collectors to indicate that they haven't done any research and haven't been collecting long.  In other words, "If I had 'found' this item I wouldn't have known what it was either." 

LID:  And other affectionate terms used by helmet collectors to be in some way knowledgeable about military helmets.  If they had ever a worn a helmet during a three-day FTX in the Mojave Desert, or had to wear a helmet for any period of time longer than admiring how they look in the mirror, they would have a lot of other than silly endearing names for helmets. 

TUNIC: Term for a uniform coat or blouse that by definition is not a coat, but a loose fitting over garment.  My opinion is the American uniform collectors have been infected with the term tunic by the European collectors and writers, where the term is more frequently used, and traditional from the 18th Century.  I guess tunic is supposed to imply a military garment and just sounds more interesting than coat.

MINT: Term that generally has to do with the manufacture of coins, and specifically coins that are uncirculated.  More appropriate military terms are unissued, or perhaps the army condition classification system would be more useful.  I have seen far too many material culture items described as 'mint' that were marked in accordance with regulations or common practice.  Even if marked by a Boy Scout it is no longer 'mint.'

As to the question posed regarding the rarity of the bacon can M1916 manufactured by Cleveland Metal Products the number produced certainly lends to the concept that this particular manufacturer product is relatively unusual in the collector market.  Some other unknown factors would be meaningful to the issue of rarity, such as survival rate, which goes to the matter of were the bacon cans issued or kept in storage? but we have no way of knowing that.  I've never heard of anyone collecting every variation of the bacon cans M1910, !913, and M1916, and I suspect the collectors of U.S. WWI militaria are satisfied with one example of the type.  My opinion is that this manufacturer is not particularly desirable, and that no special value has been placed on the item.
Last edited by Alibi on 26 Mar 2016, 23:29, edited 1 time in total.