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Ermal C. Fraze, Dayton Reliable Tool Company Records

Identifier: MS-447

Scope and Content

The Ermal C. Fraze, Dayton Reliable Tool Records includes important information from Ermal C. Fraze, the invention of the Pull-Tab and Pop-Tops, Dayton Reliable Tool company information, and details about the Fraze Pavilion. This collection is arranged into seven series and two subseries:

Series I, Dayton Reliable Tool (DRT) Company, contains many important papers which pertain to the company, including the history of DRT, Union Labor paperwork, machinery blueprints, and a few newspaper articles.

Series II, Personal Papers, contains papers of the Fraze Family. Within this series there are correspondences, handwritten and typed notes, awards, DRT personal faxes and letters, organization details and banquets, along with newspaper and magazine articles. A few of the folders contain information on the death of Ermal C. Fraze in 1989. These folders hold his death certificate, funeral information, and there are also articles in Newsweek, the New York Times and other major newspapers and magazines reporting on Ermal C. Fraze's death.

Series III, Pull-Tabs and Pop-Tops, pertains to the invention and creation of Pull-Tabs and Pop-Tops. Most of this series contains newspaper and magazine clippings advertising the importance and growth of the inventions. In box 3 folder 15, there are examples of the Pop-Tops and lids created for cans by the Dayton Reliable Tool Company. Also included is a bench schematic pertaining to the Pop-Top.

Series IV, Fraze Pavilion, pertains to the building of the Pavilion, the Pavilion concert seasons from 1991 to 2001, and newspaper clippings detailing the construction and the impact the Pavilion had on the city of Kettering, Ohio. The first part of the series contains information about the ground breaking and grand opening which the Fraze family attended. Included are examples of Fraze Pavilion logos, which were previewed and approved by Terry Fraze. One folder contains the biographies of performers who performed at the Fraze Pavilion. Series V, Publications, contains the many publications dealing with either the companies using the Pull-Tabs and Pop-Tops or machine information Ermal C. Fraze used to manage the Dayton Reliable Tool Company. The Can Maker gives information from 1991 to 2000 to publicize the accomplishments of the company and the Pop-Top.

Series VI, Memorabilia, contains personal items from the Fraze Family and the Dayton Reliable Tool Company. The first part of the series has two flat Rolodex address books and a check paper weight from Ermal C. Fraze and his son Terry Fraze. There is also a Fraze Pavilion apron and two ticket key chains. In the two oversized sections there are Dayton Reliable Tool metal signs and a poster pertaining to Ohio Inventors.

Series VII, Photographs and Scrapbooks, is separated into two subseries. The first subseries contains photographs of Dayton Reliable Tool machinery, early factory photographs, Pull-Tabs and Pop-Tops, an Open House of the factory from 1985 and a few personal photographs from Ermal C. Fraze. There are also a few negatives and slides included. The second subseries is a Fraze Family Scrapbook, separated into two sections.


  • Creation: 1949-2006


Restrictions on Access

There are no restrictions on accessing materials in this collection.

Restrictions on Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Biography of Ermal C. Fraze

Ermal "Ernie" C. Fraze was born in Indiana in 1913 and later moved to Ohio. During the 1940s, Fraze embarked on a career as a machine tool operator. In 1949, with a small loan from his wife Martha, Fraze formed the Dayton Reliable Tool Company (DRT), his own machine tool business in Dayton. The company manufactured tools and machinery for various industries, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, General Electric, Ford, and Chrysler.

During a picnic in 1959, Fraze had forgotten his "Church-Key" to open beverage cans, which forced him to use his car bumper to open drinks for himself and his family. Fraze thought there had to be a better way to open cans, so he developed a can top known as the "Pull-Top". This mechanism could be opened by pulling the removable tab to access the drink. Surprisingly, Fraze did not receive a patent for his pull-top until 1967 and, eventually more than seventy-five percent of beer brewers in the United States had adopted Fraze's design.

In 1977, Fraze modified his original invention by patenting the first push-in and fold-back tab, known as the "Pop-Top", in part because of the increase of litter and potential for injury. This particular tab remained on to the can, and it is still the principle design used on canned beverages today. In the 1980s, the new design and machinery manufacture the can brought great success to the Dayton Reliable Tool and Manufacturing Company, Inc.

In 1989, Ermal C. Fraze passed away at the age of 79 from a brain tumor. The company was sold to the business managers of the company. Dayton Reliable Tool and Manufacturing Company, Inc. is still in operation today, known as DRT Mfg. Co. and, while famous for developing and perfecting the technology that revolutionized beverage packaging, the company has expanded into a precision component manufacturer and systems integrator.


6 linear feet

Language of Materials



Ermal C. Fraze was the owner of Dayton Reliable Tool Company and the inventor of the early versions of Pull-Tabs and Pop-Tops. This collection includes newspaper clippings, magazine articles, scrapbooks, correspondences, photographs and personal items. Most of the collection pertains to the Dayton Reliable Tool Company. A few items deal with the Fraze Pavilion, a 4300-seat outdoor amphitheater in Kettering, Ohio, named after Ermal C. Fraze.

Statement of Arrangement

The collection is arranged into seven series and two subseries.

  1. Series I: Dayton Reliable tool (DRT) Company
  2. Series II: Personal Papers
  3. Series III: Pull-Tabs and Pop-Tops
  4. Series IV: Fraze Pavilion
  5. Series V: Publications
  6. Series VI: Memorabilia
  7. Series VII: Photographs and Scrapbooks
  8. Subseries VIIA: Photographs
  9. Subseries VIIB: Scrapbooks

Acquisition Information

The Ermal C. Fraze, Dayton Reliable Tool Company Records were donated to Wright State University's Special Collections and Archives by Terry M. Fraze, Ermal Fraze's son, in October 2010.

Related Material

MS-314, Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra Records (finding aid at )

MS-420, Engineer's Club of Dayton Records AT (finding aid at (;

DRT Manufacturing website

Processing Information

A binder type scrapbook of information about the opening of the Fraze Pavilion was disassembled and put into folders.

Guide to the Ermal C. Fraze, Dayton Reliable Tool Company Records (MS-447)
Finding aid prepared by Elizabeth Morgan
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Wright State University Libraries
Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA