Number 10 can

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Sat Oct 1 18:35:43 UTC 2011

A common word in the food/restaurant industry, I don't see "number 10 can" in the OED or even on Wikipedia or Wiktionary.

A number 10 can, often written as #10 can, is defined as 12 cups (96 ounces) and as 128 ounces on the Internet. What those two definitions share is in being a large can for commercial use. I have heard people joke about food coming from a number 10 can, indicating this is not merely a can of size 10, but a recognizable object (perhaps regardless of whether it is 96 or 128 ounces).

Googling for the pound sign does not work, so here are some citations from Google Books from searching on "number 10 can," "no. 10 can" and "number ten can." The third citation is not for food, but for oil.

1. 1898

"Biennial report of the Board of Control and officers of the Michigan State Prison," Michigan State Prison, State Printers, p. 240,

Plums.  No. 10 can...3 50

No. 3 can…$ 0 70
No. 10 can…2 00

2. 1904

"Biennial report of the Board of Control and officers of the Michigan State Prison for the two years ending...," Michigan State Prison, The Prison, p 144,

Wax Beans.
No. 2 cans…$ 0 85 | $2,721 70
No. 10 can…3 25 | 3,155 75
Many more uses of number 2, 3 and 10 cans

3. 1914

"Automotive industries," Volume 31, Chilton company, inc., p. 784

To overcome this difficulty, Mr. Doble uses a special lubricating compound composed of 10 gallons of kerosene as a base, into which is mixed a number 10 can of Oildag and 3 gallons of steam cylinder oil.

4. 1920

"The American sugar family," Volumes 1-2, (page unknown)

Article: "Putting Hill Wise," by George T. Bland,

(Voice on other end) "Twenty-four pounds of flour and a Number 10 can of Domino Syrup."

5. 1926

"Everygirl's magazine," The Camp Fire Girls, page 20,

Appears to be in a recipe. No citation available.

Benjamin Barrett
Seattle, WA

The American Dialect Society -

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