Military Canteen: Aluminum 1 Qt

In 1909, the U.S. Army Infantry Equipment Board introduced a completely new set of field equipment. The changes included a new one quart (946cc) canteen, made of aluminum, to be issued with a nesting cup and canvas duck cover. This basic design became standard and remained, with evolving components and materials, the standard for the rest of the 20th Century.

U.S. Army 1 Qt. Canteen, Early WW II with domed metal cap
U.S. Army 1 Qt. Canteen, Early World War II with domed metal cap.

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Aluminum One Quart Military Canteen

An M-1910 unmarked A.G.M. Co. (AGM) seamless canteen as first manufactured for issue. Except for the corossionless German Silver chain, it is all aluminum
An M-1910 unmarked A.G.M. Co. (AGM) seamless canteen as first manufactured for issue. Except for the corossionless German Silver chain, it is all aluminum.

In 1909, the Infantry Board ordered prototypes of a new design canteen and nesting cup:

  • 300 sheet tinned steel canteens and cups to be manufactured by Rock Island Arsenal (RIA), and
  • 500 aluminum (also spelled aluminium) canteens and cups to be manufactured by The Aluminum Goods Manufacturing Company (AGM)

These canteens were sent out for field trial. In 1910 the board decided to adopt the aluminum canteen; the first production canteens were made by AGM in sets with the nesting cups. Although the AGM design was considered superior, AGM held a patent for the process of manufacturing one-piece aluminum products (seamless, "spun" on a lathe) which made them an expensive and inflexible source.

By 1911 the Army was actively investigating methods of manufacturing canteens that would not require paying royalties to AGM for their patented spinning process. By 1912 Rock Island Arsenal had developed a satisfactory technique of welding aluminum canteens. Production was approved and in 1913 RIA began production of canteens from two halves that were welded together around the outer edge, easily distinguished by their vertical seams. The top was a tube with screw threads for the cap, swaged onto the neck of the canteen body.

Even after RIA production began, from 1913 to 1917, aluminum canteens continued to be produced by AGM with the original design, for National Guard and other markets, including a 1916 contract using the "spun" method.

The early canteens had a flattop aluminum cap, about 3/4-inch high (photo above, left) that used a neck ring to attach the brass cap chain. In 1914 Rock Island developed an improved neck design that eliminated the neck ring and replaced it with a lug that secured the cap chain with a small pin. Several variations of the aluminum cap were produced, changing from a smooth, flat top (with knurled edge) to a domed cap with fluted vertical side ribs to make it easier to open. Other small variations in production canteens can be identified, throughout the history of the aluminum canteen.

Welded, unmarked, 1912 Rock Island Arsenal manufactured canteen. Note vertical seam
Welded, unmarked, 1912 Rock Island Arsenal manufactured canteen. Note vertical seam.

During Word War I, the Quartermaster Corps took over responsibility for individual equipment including canteens. In 1918, the Quartermaster Corps contracted for canteens to be manufactured by five domestic companies. These canteens were manufactured using the specifications that Rock Island Arsenal had developed for the welded body with the 1914 cap and neck improvements. On these "WW I" M-1910 canteens, the aluminum was treated during the manufacturing process to reduce reflection. Records indicate the World War I manufacturers of M-1910 canteens include:

  • The Aluminum Company of America (ACA)
  • Aluminum Goods Manufacturing Co. (AGM Co)
  • Buckeye Aluminum Co. (BA Co.)
  • J. W. Brown Co. (J.W.B)
  • Landers, Frary & Clark (L F & C)

Prior to 1918, the aluminum canteens had no markings for the date or manufacturer. With the 1918 contracts and thereafter, that information was stamped on the rear concave area or bottom. Between ten and eleven million canteens were produced for U.S. forces in WW I. There was little or no canteen production after World War I until the early 1940s.

Aluminum M-1910 Canteens in World War II and After

Horizontal seam aluminum canteen, produced from 1942 to 1945
Horizontal seam aluminum canteen, produced from 1942 to 1945.

The WW I contract canteens continued in use into the 1940s, the early days of WW II. Beginning in 1942, canteens were manufactured from alternate materials, particularly stainless steel canteens, to substitute for scarce aluminum needed for aircraft. In late 1942, aluminum was released by the War Production Board for the manufacture of canteens. The first aluminum canteens produced after the ban was lifted were manufactured by companies that had been involved with manufacture of the 1942 corrosive resistant steel (CRS) canteen and were therefore produced with a horizontal seam. The more traditional welded aluminum canteen with the side seam went back into production beginning in 1943.

The aluminum canteen cap was replaced with a black resin plastic (Bakelite) cap with a cork disk seal, beginning in 1942. The new cap was initially 3/4 inches high and flat on top. Beginning in 1943, the cap was redesigned as one inch high, a slightly smaller diameter, and with a recessed top to protect the chain rivet.

WW II vintage aluminum canteens will have a dull finish, and will be marked with US, the manufacturer's initials, and the year of production. According to records, the World War II manufacturers of M-1910 aluminum canteens (Stock Number 74-C-80) include:

  • Aluminum Goods Manufacturing Co. (later Mirro) (AGM Co.)
  • Aluminum Products Co. (AP Co.)
  • Buckeye Aluminum Co. (BA Co.)
  • Geuder, Paeschke, Frey Co. (GP&F Co.)
  • Landers, Frary & Clark (L F & C)
  • Massilion Aluminum Co. [MA Co.]
  • Republic Stamping and Enameling Co. (R.S.E.)
  • Southeastern Metals Co. (S.M.Co)
  • The Aluminum Cooking Utensil Co. [TACU)

1945 aluminum canteen markings.  Photo:  eBay seller nagmashdriver
1945 aluminum canteen markings.
Photo: eBay seller nagmashdriver.

Following World War II, aluminum and CRS canteens continued in use. In 1951, Mirro Corp. (formerly AGM) produced an aluminum canteen in a slightly larger size (950cc) for use in the Korean War. It was produced from 1951 to 1954, and again from 1962 to 1963, the last of the M-1910 production canteens.

In the last years of the aluminum water canteen, it was identified by FSN 8465-191-0366 (NSN 8465-00-191-0366) for the aluminum canteen without cup and cover. Although the nomenclature specified aluminum, CRS canteens were also issued under this FSN/NSN. These canteens remained in the supply system for decades after formal replacement in 1962 by the one quart olive drab polyethylene canteen.

Material on this page adapted from "Survey of U.S. Army Uniforms, Weapons and Accoutrements," by David Cole (November 2007 and updates), a classroom reference for the Army Museum System's Basic Curatorial Methods Training Courses, as well as other published sources. Thanks to Thomas Chial for making his extensive research available.

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