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A churchkey initially referred to a simple hand-operated device for prying the cap (called a "crown cork") off a glass bottle; this kind of closure was invented in 1898, although there is no evidence that the opener was called a "church key" at that time. The shape and design of some of these openers did resemble a large simple key.
In 1935, beer cans with flat tops were marketed, and a device to puncture the lids was needed. The same term, "church key", came to be used for this new invention: made from a single piece of pressed metal, with a pointed end used for piercing cans — devised by D.F. Sampson for the American Can Company, who depicted operating instructions on the cans, and typically gave away free "quick and easy" openers with their beer cans.
It's called a churchkey for several reasons. The original openers used on bottles (before beer cans existed) looked similar to a large old-fashioned keys used by monks to open the church, as well as keep the precious beer they brewed safe. The name was then adopted to all tools used to open beer–with an ironic twist–for it is said if you used a churchkey opener (i.e. if you drank beer) you would be less likely to open the door of a church to attend service.
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