Plastic container: an invention that turned the kitchen

Earl Silas Tupper, who was born in 1907 in New Hampshire, in the family of a poor farmer, has shown a tendency to invent since childhood: he came up with mechanisms to make life easier for the farmer, for example, a device for eviscerating hens. At the age of 17, he graduated from high school and went to work in Massachusetts, where after a couple of years he took up landscaping and founded Tupper Tree Doctors. In 1936, the Great Depression ravaged Tupper's company. All this time, however, he did not abandon invention - introducing himself as modern Leonardo da Vinci, he came up with various improvements and recorded them in his album. Silas’s interests were extremely broad: he invented new garter stockings, designs of women's corsets, non-leaking ice cream cups, a dagger comb with a mirror handle and a clip for attaching to the belt, new designs of steelyards, a device for sucking poison from snake bites, a hand washing a car in the form of an expander, a fishing boat and hundreds of other things - simple and complex, crazy and brilliant. However, he did not succeed in selling his inventions, and in order to feed his family, he got a job at Viscoloid, the plastic division of the DuPont chemical concern in Leominster.

For a year with a little, Tupper learned as much about plastic production as other specialists did not master in a decade. In 1938, he bought several machines for thermoforming polymers and founded his own company Tupper Plastics, which first engaged in contracting for DuPont, and when World War II began, it began supplying the military with plastic gas mask parts. After the war, Tupper drew attention to the polyethylene, a technology which was developed by DuPont chemists (in the war years it was used to insulate wires, and in peacetime it was considered a waste of petrochemical production. People are used to heavy and hard bakelite, and too soft, colorless and lightweight polyethylene He didn’t inspire confidence. To make it harder, fillers were added to DuPont in the material, but in this form polyethylene was almost impossible to shape. Therefore, the chemists of the company were quite surprised when Tupper asked them for I experimented with pure polyethylene. For several months of experiments, he managed to develop a process for molding this plastic. Thinking about what could be made of this material, Silas turned his attention to food packaging, which at that time was made from waxed cardboard or tin foil. Taking the cans for paint as a sample, Tupper in 1946 made a container with a sealed lid from transparent and flexible polyethylene, which he called Wonderbowl ("Wonderful Cup"). The first two years, Tapper's containers were not successful, but after the inventor decided in 1948 to use the word of mouth method for advertising and organized "shopping parties", sales skyrocketed. And the name Tupperware has since become a household name.

The article “The Grail” was published in the journal Popular Mechanics (No. 2, February 2011).


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