Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Shoe boxes : where did they come from?

The first commercial cardboard box was produced in England in 1817 and credited to Sir Malcolm Thornhil. His boxes were made from a simple, single layer of cardboard. The French used similar cardboard containers to transport Bombyx mori moths and their eggs from Japan in 1840. Valréas soon became the French cardboard manufacturing area for almost a century.

Healey and Allen invented pleated paper in 1856. Pleated paper was made on a hand-cranked adaptation of a collar press and used to line tall hats. In 1871, Albert L. Jones of New York City patented single sided (faced) corrugated board which was used for wrapping bottles and glass lanterns. Four years later the first machine for producing large quantities of single sided (faced) corrugated board was built. Allen & Healey, and then Jones only applied for patents on single-faced corrugated cardboard.

In the same year, Oliver Long invented single wall board or corrugated cardboard with paper liner sheets on both sides of the fluting. Reinforced cardboard boxes made from his patented cardboard could be stacked and although considered a more expensive method of packaging these were initially used for higher-end breakable goods such as glass and pottery. Henri Norris began producing double wall sheet comprising of 2 flute layers sandwiched between 3 sheets of paper in 1875, and by 1890, cardboard boxes had became the preferred mode of packaging for fruit and fresh produce.

Scotsman Robert Gair was a plumber’s apprentice before he immigrated to America in 1839, aged 14. After serving in the Civil War (1861 - 1865) and reaching the rank of Captain, he opened a paper factory in Manhattan in 1864 and made paper bags. Almost by accident, Gair discovered by cutting and creasing paperboard in one operation, he could make prefabricated cartons. By 1879, he developed a technique for the mass production of cardboard boxes. The Robert Gair Co manufactured corrugated fiberboard shipping containers in the United States in 1895, and this made him a very wealthy man.

The Gair Company also produced packaging for Bloomingdale’s, Colgate, and Pond’s. Nabisco also used his cardboard boxes to package Uneeda Biscuits which helped keep the product fresh. Soon Kellogs were using cardboard boxes for their corn flakes. Initially they used the boxes to help keep their cereal products safe during transit by 1896. A decade later before their products were sold to the public in cardboard boxes. Gairpredicted the aesthetic design of packaging could influence consumers’ buying decisions and his cardboard packaging changed the way goods were displayed and often resulted in higher product sales.

By the early 1900s, wooden crates and boxes were being replaced by corrugated paper shipping cartons. Mass produced shoes came in shoe boxes and after the mechanisation of shoe manufacturing in the mid 19th century shoe shops for the first time supplied their footwear from stored stock. The simplest way to do this was to put a pair of shoes into a box.

Manufacturers were quick to realise the potential to further promote their products by using advertising copy on the actual shoes boxes. Many of which are now collector’s items. Storing shoes in shoe boxes had many benefits. Not only did they protect footwear from dust and bugs they were also ideal to optimise limited storage space available to shops.

Shoe boxes allowed convenient stackable storage units that were easily accessible. At first boxes with a top-open design were used which allowed simple storage with one disadvantage the vendor had to unstack several boxes if they were trying to get to something on the bottom. Boxes were made in different materials but eventually heavy-duty cardboard became the preferred medium.

The small rectangular boxes came in handy at home to store letters and notes, photos and piecemeal items like purses, gloves and hats. In an age bereft of manufactured toys for children the humble shoe box was popular plaything for children.

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