This Place in History: Edlund Company

Vermont Historical Society

BURLINGTON, Vt.

At ‘This Place in History‘ we’re in Burlington at the Edlund Company with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“The industry leader in commercial can opening is right here in Burlington and has been since 1925. We’re going to go inside and talk to Peter Nordell, CEO, and President of Edlund, and he’s going to tell us all about it,” said Perkins.

“Edlund was started by Swedish inventor H.J. Edlund in 1925. He had formerly worked for the A.J. Whiting Company as its superintendent. He invented the first commercial can opener and decided to start out in business on his own. So, Edlund has been in-town, in Burlington since that time. We’ve been on King Street and we’ve been on Kilburn Street. We actually shared a building with Lane Press back in the day. This building was built in 1960 when changes in management and ownership took place,” explained Nordell.

“It was always difficult to figure out a way to open commercial cans that have to be used in foodservice. There was never an adequate way to open them. People used to use knives and then they created the little hand can openers. But, then, you’re starting to do it at volume in a school or a prison. Mr. Edlund invented the number 2 and the number 1 can opener.”

“This is a version of a number 1 can opener. It’s a very interesting concept, how it works because the gear drives the teeth around the outside edge of the can forcing it to turn. Then, the knife, which is not sharp – it’s actually a dull knife so it doesn’t leave food particles in the can – folds the edge inside the lid and it falls into the food,” said Nordell.

“We have several articles there in our history book that show how the servicemen used our products in Vietnam and in the different altercations we’ve had around the world. Back in the ’90s in Desert Storm, we sold the government 100,000 can openers to use, to open Meals, Ready-to-Eat, or commercial products. At the end of that conflict, they probably all got buried in the sand,” added Nordell.

“You’re looking at some of the housewares products that we made back in all those early years. Willett Foster sold the housewares company in 1973 to concentrate more on the commercial products where we saw opportunities for greater profits and less competition from whatever superstores were available or housewares stores selling products from China or Korea at that time and focused more on building more commercial products for our line.”

“That’s how we got into the weighing scale business and expanded that line to where we make now a plethora of digital weighing scales, as well as still mechanical weighing scales, receiving scales, even gram scales. With the emergence of the cannabis industry today, that’s even becoming more of an interest item to be able to weigh that on a legal basis,” said Nordell.

“So, we look at all the market dynamics and we try to adapt our products and expand our line into the products that the market is asking us for. We’re also very big with the chains. Chains depend on Edlund to create solutions for them because we are a U.S. manufacturer and we make about 93% of our products right in the back in the factory here.”

“Right here in Vermont?” asked Perkins.

“Right here in Vermont,” concluded Nordell.

At ‘This Place in History’!

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historic markers, click here.

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