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Inventor of Pull-Tab Can Dies

October 28, 1989

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) _ Industrialist Ermal Cleon Fraze, who during a night of insomnia invented the removable pull-tab opener used on beer and soft drink cans, has died at the age of 76.

Fraze died Thursday of a brain tumor at Kettering Memorial Hospital in Dayton, the hospital said.

Fraze, who obtained his first patent for the pull tab-can in 1963, was born on a farm near Muncie, Ind., and sold newspapers as a child.

He later moved to Dayton, where his first job was assembling novelties for boxes of Cracker Jack candy. In 1950, he started Dayton Reliable Tool and Manufacturing Co., which has five plants and 360 workers in Dayton.

In 1959, while on a family picnic with some friends, Fraze became frustrated when, lacking a can opener, he had to use a car bumper to open a can of beer, said Fraze’s son, Mark.

″And he said, ’There must be a better way,‴ Mark Fraze said.

The inspiration came one night when Fraze couldn’t sleep. He got up at 1:30 a.m. to work on a way to attach an opening lever to a can.

″I was only going to work on this thing for an hour,″ he said later. ″But I was up all night and it came to me - just like that. It was all there. I knew how to do it so it would be commercially feasible.″

Fraze’s removable top was replaced in the 1970s by a non-removable tab.

A patent for the later model was transferred to him by its inventor in 1978, but a patent for a similar item was issued the next year to Continental Can Co. Inc. of Delaware.

Fraze sued Continental for patent infringement and lost.

Besides his son, Mark, Fraze is survived by his wife, Martha, and another son.

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