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Archive for the ‘Cool Stuff’ Category

A Brief History of the 55 Gallon Drum

February 20th, 2014 by Lisa Stojanovich

Filed under: Cool Stuff

Cylindrical containers have been used for centuries for the transport of solid and liquid goods.  The wooden barrel was most commonly used before the invention of the steel drum.  Born out of necessity, the steel drum has continued to improve the efficiency and safety of the storage and transport of goods for countless industries. The most notable of these, the standard 55 gallon steel drum, has a long and rich history of inventive individuals meeting the needs of thousands through creative and industry-leading decisions that have helped propel the steel drum into the 21st century.

In the year 1900 the world saw continuous growth in the supply of oil.  Drilling was taking place all over, from Texas to Persia, modern day Iran.  However,the current means of transporting the good, commonly known as the “Bayonne Barrel” for the New Jersey manufacturer producing the container, was heavy and not entirely leakproof.  The demand for a better means of transporting oil grew.  Enter Nellie Bly, the former journalists turned inventor, with the patents for a straight-sided steel drum, with rolling hoops and a side or top fitting.  Thus, the 55 gallon steel drum was born.  The drum designed by Bly is almost the exact configuration still used today.  The main difference being the straight-sided cylinder design of the early 1900’s had metal rolling hoops that were separate from the body; the modern day design features hoops that are attached to the drum itself.

Fourteen years after the invention of the drum, Charles Draper, referred to by peers as “the Daddy of the Barrel Business”, received a contract to ship drums of sulfuric acid to Europe during WWI.  Two ships were lost in the first month of shipping when the acid ate through the steel of the drums, so Draper went to work designing a machine that would solve this dangerous problem.  He ended up with an automatic seamer that was able to double seam 12-guage steel, although at the time it was thought impossible to do so.  The rest of the army’s acid was delivered safely and the seamer later went on to help produce drums at a rate of 2,000 per day.  Draper continued to make improvements upon the steel drum and is credited with the first idea for the open head drum with his patents for a “Removable Head Barrel” in 1932.

Flanges, plugs, gaskets were a hot button item, with hundred of patents taken out to try and create a more leakproof drum.  There were breakthroughs in the early 1920’s with a surge of ideas for removable closures, but the public was cautious and nervous about flanges that were not fused with the drum.  American Flange began production of the what is known now as the “Tri-Sure” closure system, and T.W. Rieke outlined his idea for a pressed-in fitting.  Maurice Schwartz’s began producing the “Multiseal” but as new concepts were tested and failed by 1957 the two remaining forces were Rieke and American Flange, who were able to increase production speed to meet the needs of their customers.

While the future of the 55 gallon steel drum may be unknown, it is clear the durable container has a past that proves its efficiency in adaptation.  Thanks to the dedicated individuals and businesses that brought the container through the turn of the century, the 55 gallon steel drum can move confidently into the next, and await the future improvements upon Bly’s 113 year old design.  This safe and reliable unit for storage and transport offers thousands of uses to so many business and individuals it is exciting to think about who will bring forth the new chapter of the 55 gallon steel drum.


Like a Holiday Story, Navy Veteran turns Passion into Business and Skolnik is at his side!

December 26th, 2013 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: Cool Stuff

Noah Glanville is the creator and owner of the Pit Barrel Cooker Company. Pit Barrel started as a niche manufacturer of barbecue smokers and seems to be on the path to national success. As a customer, and friend of Skolnik, the story of Noah and his company is one of those stories that warms our hearts as we approach this Holiday Season.

Noah served in the Navy for 6 years. His duties included serving as a Navy Corpsman. When he returned to the US, he began the difficult process of finding employment. The national average of unemployment was near its high, and Noah changed his life path direction and decided to follow his passion by starting his own company. His passion was barbeque and thus, Pit Barrel Cooker was born.

Today, Noah has a handful of employees and is manufacturing and fulfilling orders from a small warehouse near his home. Plans for expansion are underway, he is looking for additional staff, and of course, he is giving priority to other veterans that apply. In addition, Federal tax credits have also been a boost to his operational budget. Having just spoken with Noah while writing this piece, he’s shared with me that it looks like Pit Barrel may be taking off in 2014 as he’s been approached by several national retail chains. In all, it’s a great story of a well-deserved success for a dedicated American with creativity and passion. Click here to watch a recent interview with Noah on the national Vets to Work Program.

Howard Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from RIPA

November 12th, 2013 by Dean Ricker

Filed under: Associations, Cool Stuff, Industry News

In recognition for his 30+ years of dedication to improving the steel drum and packaging industry, Howard Skolnik was the recipient of the Morris Hershson Award of Merit at the annual conference of the Reusable Industrial Packaging Association (RIPA). Hosted at the LaJolla Hilton in San Diego, about 200 attendees of the RIPA ceremony listened to presentations given to explain the Hershson legacy, and to honor Howard. The presenters included Paul Rankin, President of RIPA; Peter Mackay, Publisher of Hazardous Cargo Bulletin (UK); W. Dean Ricker, VP Sales, Skolnik Industries; and Richard Rubin, President, Maxi Container, Inc. The Hershson Award is given to one who has made an outstanding long-term contribution to the Association or the industry.

Howard’s formal involvement with RIPA began soon after purchasing Skolnik Drum Corporation from his father and uncle in 1985. He moved quickly into leadership positions within RIPA and has been a member of the Board of Directors for nearly 30 years. He was Chairman of the Steel Drum Product Group for six terms, serves as Chairman of the Public Relations Committee and has been a presenter at numerous domestic and international RIPA conferences. In addition to RIPA, Howard participates in the domestic and international dangerous goods community through his membership to the Council on the Safe Transport of Hazardous Articles (COSTHA) and the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council (DGAC) where he also served on the Board of Directors for more than 25 years. Promoting not only his own company but also the steel drum industry, Howard writes often for several industry magazines including the Hazardous Cargo Bulletin.

Howard attended the ceremony with his life partner, his four children, and a host of friends and family that came to share in the celebration. To quote the ceremony program, “It has been said that Howard looks at the world and sees possibilities, not problems; friends, not competitors. This positive outlook has surely been one factor contributing to his successful business career. But another factor in his ongoing success must surely be his deep belief that success must always include good friends and family.”

To see to the presentations given at the ceremony, click here.

Nellie Bly: Woman of Steel

November 7th, 2013 by Lisa Stojanovich

Filed under: Cool Stuff

Part Two: Round she goes


This post is part two of the Nellie Bly story.  If you missed part one you can catch up and read it here.

At age 25, Bly was still working at New York World and looking for her next big adventure.  Inspired by the Jules Verne novel, Around the World in 80 Days, Bly decided she would try to best the fictional hero, Phileas Fogg, and beat his time.  She offered the idea to her editor and a year later, on November 14, 1889, she boarded the Augusta Victoria steamer and started her 24,899 mile journey with nothing but the dress she was wearing, a small duffel of toiletries, and a bag of money worn around her neck.

In order to increase publicity of their own periodical, Cosmopolitan, sent their own reporter, Elizabeth Bisland, around the world in the opposite direction with the goal of not only beating Fogg but Bly as well.  To keep interest in the story alive, New York World held the “Nellie Bly Guessing Match;” participants would estimate Bly’s arrival to the second for a chance to win a trip to Europe, and spending money for the trip.

Bly’s trip took her from New Jersey across the Atlantic to London and then Amiens, France.  It was here where Bly had the opportunity to meet Mr. Verne himself.  He picked her up from the train station with his wife, and the group spent some time together.  France led to Italy, and onward to Egypt where Bly noticed a large group of intrusive beggars that “seemed to thrust their deformities in our faces in order to compel us to give money to buy their absence from our sight”.  Singapore and Hong Kong were next and finally it was time for the long boat ride back to America.  Bly landed in San Francisco on January 2 and was brought back to Jersey to complete the journey successfully.

Submarine cable networks and the telegraph system allowed for Bly to communicate progress reports quickly during some legs of the race; at other times it could take weeks by post for word to come from the traveling reporter.  Occasional setbacks in Asia allowed Bly a chance to explore the countries where she visited a Chinese leper colony and bought a monkey in Singapore.  By her arrival in San Francisco on January 21 she was two weeks behind schedule; New York World owner, Joseph Pulitizer, hired a private train to bring her home to New York.  Bly finished her trip in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes, and 4 seconds after her departure from Hoboken.  While her time was a world record, it was quickly bested a few months later by a man completing the same journey in 67 days.  Bly’s book on her trip Around the World in 72 Days became a best seller.

Next month: our story comes to completion with part 3, and Bly finds inspiration in the steel industry.