Aerosols through history: from the Regency Portable Fountain to the modern day

Aerosols through history: from the Regency Portable Fountain to the modern day


As the “crimp-on” valve, the precursor of the modern aerosol industry, celebrates its 70th anniversary, we review the history of the aerosol from its first origins in the late 18th and early 19th centuries to the modern day. 

The first steps of the aerosol

According to “The History of Aerosols”, the term “aerosol” refers to a colloid of fine solid particles or liquid droplets suspended in air or another gas. Frederick G. Donnan is said to have been the first to use the term “aerosol” during the First World War to describe an aerosol solution of microscopic particles in the air. But most probably, the history of aerosols begins much earlier, at the end of the 18th century.


Indeed, the creation of the aerosol concept can be traced back to the introduction, around 1790 in France, of a pressurized carbonated drink. In 1825, Charlie Plinth developed the “Regency Portable Fountain”, a sparkling water fountain that already used pressure and a shut-off valve. Then in 1837, M. Perpigna invented a siphon bottle (pictured) that incorporated a spring activated valve. The same year, M. Savarese presented another bottle based on the same concept.

It was around 1862 that the first metal aerosols began to be tested, but they were made of a thick metal and were far too massive to be successfully marketed. Then in 1899, the inventors Helbling and Pertsch filed a patent for pressurized aerosols using methyl nitrite and ethyl chloride as propellant gas.

The invention of the aerosol

But it was in 1927 that the first patent for an aerosol box was granted to Erik Rotheim, a Norwegian chemical engineer. And it was also in Norway that the first commercial applications were developed, for paint sprays at ALF BERKE in Oslo and MORTENSEN SYSTEMS AB.  In 1931 the United States granted a US patent to Erik Rotheim for his invention, the rights to which were sold to an American company for 100,000 Norwegian Krone. Erik Rotheim’s name will forever be associated with the creation of the aerosol industry; the Norwegian post office created a stamp in his honour in 1998 and the Honorary Award of the FEA, the European Aerosol Association, bears his name.

A few years later, in 1939, the American Julian S. Kahn was also granted a patent for a kind of disposable whipped cream aerosol can, but using two sources for the product and propellant gas. The concept, however, never found commercial success.

aerosolOn the other hand, the development by Lyle Goodhue and William Sullivan in 1943 of a rechargeable aerosol can, called a “Bug Bomb” (pictured), was a real success. It was an easily gripped can loaded with liquefied gas and a spray product in the form of fog or foam. A public service patent was granted with a free use license for the American state. This “Bug Bomb” was used massively by US soldiers during the WWII to protect themselves, in tents or planes, from malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Lyle Goodhue and William Sullivan won the FEA Gold Medal in 1970 for their invention. They are credited with the birth of the modern aerosol can.

In 1948, three companies, including CHASE PRODUCTS CO. and CLAIRE MANUFACTURING, still active today, marketed aerosols under license from the United States government.

The birth of the Modern Aerosol Industry

Back from the war, Robert H. Abplanalp (pictured below) took over the work of his predecessors and worked on the miniaturization and simplification of the valve of the “Bug Bomb”. In September 1949 he filed an application with the US patent authority for the design of the first “crimp-on” valve, a lightweight aluminum-based valve, easy to produce in mass and economically, for use on low-pressure housings. The same year he created PRECISION VALVE CORPORATION. The Aerosol Industry then began its worldwide expansion. In 1950, during its first full year, PRECISION produced 15 million valves. It was also at the beginning of the 1950s that aerosols began to develop in Europe for insecticides, air fresheners, hairsprays, etc.

With the discovery in 1974 of the negative effects on the ozone layer of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), previously used as propellant gases by the Aerosol Industry, the US Congress authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the use of CFCs. This order was monitored internationally and led to the abandonment of CFCs in aerosols in 1995. In response to these guidelines, different solutions were found by valve producers, such as the use of hydrocarbons instead of CFCs. Finding the solution to this ecological challenge contributed to a further acceleration of the development of aerosols.

Since the 1970s, the various players in the aerosol Industry have competed in ingenuity to increase filling speeds, the original lightweight aluminum housing has also been offered in steel, the valves have been lightened and diffusers adapted to new aerosol applications have been developed.

And it was in 1982 that the first patent applications for a Bag-On-Valve (BOV) were filed. This new evolution of the aerosol case, which offers many advantages and completes the currently very wide range of aerosol component producers, adds yet another new solution to the brands who use aerosols.

An industry ready to meet the challenge of sustainable development

Since the 1990s, environmental protection has become a major issue that is increasingly important for consumers. Thus, the lightweighting and recycling of packaging has become a strategic challenge for manufacturers and brands. Aerosols, whose use has increased from a few tens of millions in the 1950s to more than 15 billion today, is a type of packaging that boasts an excellent recyclability rate and a high use of recycled materials.

A prestigious Spanish media has classified the aerosol as one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. For the years to come, it is certain that the aerosol Industry will be able to build a future that is equal to its prestigious past.

To conclude, let’s celebrate together, at the end of 2019, the 70th anniversary of the modern aerosol industry.

Sources: wikipedia,,,,,, (


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