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Monday, November 08, 2010

Shoe boxes : where did they come from?

The first commercial cardboard box was produced in England in 1817 by Sir Malcolm Thornhil. The French were the first to use them for the silk month and its eggs from Japan in 1840. Valr√©as in France became a major cardboard manufacturing area for almost a century. Corrugated (pleated) paper was patented in England in 1856, and initially used as a liner for tall hats. Much later in 1871 corrugated boxboard was not patented and used as a shipping material. Robert Gair invented the pre-cut cardboard or paperboard box in 1890 and the first cardboard box manufactured in the United States was made in 1895. By the turn of the 20th century boxes were made from corrugated boxboard. One of the first industries to use cardboard boxes was Kellogg’s who sold their cereal in a carton. By the early 1900s, wooden crates and boxes were being replaced by corrugated paper shipping cartons. First came the shoe, and to be more precise the mass produced shoes, then came the shoe box. After 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 easily 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. Shoe boxes were not just used to store shoes. 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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