History of The Drum

The History of 45 Gallon Drums


For centuries 45 gallon drums were used to transport liquids and goods.  It was a product born out of necessity, nothing More. Today, it is an entirely different story. While we have not forgotten it’s primary utilitarian value, now is the time for creativity.


The people of yesterday saw a plain old barrel. Today we see a bottomless pot of innovation. Whether you want a funky chair to serve as part of the eclectic décor of your flat, a clock for your wall, or even a barbeque for your backyard, the humble steel drum is the perfect starting point.


To truly appreciate the transformative powers of the steel drum, let us take a step back in time……


Before the steel drum we had the wooden barrel.  In the early days, any type of container, be it a whiskey barrel or wash container, was used to collect and ship oil.   While the sizes differed, they were all referred to as barrels.  40 gallons became the standard size of barrel as this was used to ship spirits, salt, food and produce.


During the Civil War, the federal government needed money to press the war effort. They levied taxes on oil to barrels. The tax was tied to the measurement – a $1 tax on each barrel of petroleum of 45 gallons or less, and additional $1 tax on any container larger than that.


In 1900, the world saw continuous growth in the supply of oil.  Drilling was taking place everywhere from Texas to Iran, hence the demand for a better method of transferring the oil.  Nellie Bly,  journalist turned inventor, created the original drum to serve this fundamental purpose.


Fourteen years later, Charles Draper, dubbed “Daddy of the Drum” by close friends, redesigned it. During World War 2, Draper received a commission to produce Barrels for transporting sulfuric acid.  Previously, the acid ate through the Barrels and two ships had been lost.  Draper resolved this issue by inventing a machine that could double seam 12-gauage steel.  Hence the rest of the army’s acid was delivered safely, and the machine went on to produce drums at the rate of 2,000 a day.


In 1920, flanges, plugs and gaskets were essential items, with hundreds of patents taken out to create a more leakproof drum.  The 1920s saw a design breakthrough, as there was a need for removable closures.  The public were increasingly nervous about flanges that were not fused with the drum.  American flange produced the tri-closure system, and Reike outlined his idea for a pressed-in fitting.


Maurice Schwartz began producing the “multiseal”  but as new concepts were tested and failed by 1957 the two remaining forces were Reike and Amercian Flange, who were able to increase production speed to meet the needs of their customers.  At last, after many years of patient modification, we have the sturdy, reliable steel drum that we know today.