Definition of the Term "Church Key" ???
From the January 1980 JFO Newsletter (by Don Bull):
In the Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins by William and Mary Morris,
they explain the term "Church Key" as follows:
"When I passed on through my newspaper column a question from a Maryland reader
about why "the tool that punches a triangular hole in a beer can is called a church key,"
I received lots of explanations. Included was one amusing script -
virtually a one-act play - purporting to prove that the name was coined
by a pair of hung-over acolytes.
But then I had an explanation from - where else? - Milwaukee, the beer capital of the world.
It seems so authentic that all other theories may now be put aside.
For one thing, Mr. J. R. Oberhofer, an old-time brewery worker, pointed out
that the expression church key is much older than the device that leaves a triangular hole
in beer cans. Indeed, it goes back to early days of the brewing business,
when beer was first dispensed in bottles.
'The expression church key is old in the brewing business,' he wrote.
'I worked in a brewery for about 35 years and everybody carried a bottle opener
or church key, perhaps so called because it looked like the top end
of the kind of heavy ornate key used to unlock church doors.
I am enclosing an old relic that is about 50 years old.
It's made of cast iron and from its weight and appearance,
you can see its resemblance to a church door key.
With the coming of cans in the brewing business,
the bottle opener gave way to the can opener that makes
the triangular marks - but the name church key was simply transferred to the new device.'
Mr. Oberhofer actually did send the cast iron bottle opener, and the evidence seems to me entirely persuasive. Thanks to him for settling a question that has puzzled me for many a year."
(Editor's note from Don Bull) Thank you William and Mary Morris...
I assume the reference is to a D Cast Iron Cap Lifter.
Does anyone have any other theories on the origin of the term "Church Key"?
From the October 1984 JFO Newsletter, Research by Joe Young
our "Tin Can Opener Man"
about Mr. J. R. Oberhofer is shared with us:
Mr. Oberhofer, Sr. started at the A. Gettelman Brewing Company and
returned there after Prohibition.
He retired from Miller Brewing Company about 20 years ago.
(Gettelman was purchased by Miller in 1961)
Mr. Oberhofer was a truck driver, and in later years, worked in the garage.
Circa 1900s Cast Iron Openers
Styles cited in the above article
D-1-21 Valley Brew / Stockton
D-3-23 Vals Favorite (Val Blatz Brewing Co)
Circa 1930s-1960s Can Piercers/Bottle Openers
that many claim are "Church Keys"
I-7 Vaughan's Quick & Easy (1st Patented Can Opener 1935)
I-17-297 Hamms Beer (Painted made from the Ro-Loc Process early 1960s)
I-11-380 Lone Star Beer (Painted made from the Ro-Loc Process early 1960s)