A Brief History Of The Folding Box

by | Jul 27, 2016 | Packaging

In today’s world of consumer goods, packaging is the norm rather than the exception. Everything comes in some form of packaging. Marketing mavens have come up with a thousand different ways to present their goods; However, they would never have made it out of the gate if it hadn’t been for the invention of the folding box. This innocuous object changed the way people packaged items, including those they were planning to take with them on a move.

The Beginnings

The roots of this particular invention are ties to the discovery of cardboard. As in the case of paper, the genius behind cardboard was the Chinese. They created it from mulberry tree bark sometime during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE). When trade opened up to the Western countries, this, together with silk, spices and other objects made its way to Europe.

Probably in use by various European countries by the 15th century, cardboard was not employed in a box format. It acted as packaging material. It fact, it did not become a carton or box until the early 19th century. Its first known appearance as such was as a container for a popular German war strategy board game – “The Game of Besieging” in 1817.

The Box Takes Off

The 19th century was one of technological advancements and creations. Folding box legends state that Malcolm Thornhill, an English industrialist, was the first individual to produce a “single-sheet cardboard box.” He is said to have used it for commercial enterprises, but no documentary evidence of any such incident or product exists to support this claim. Instead, the actual inventors, Edward Allen and Edward Healey of England were the first to patent their version of a fluted, corrugated paper linerboard in 1856. They recognized the value of cardboard for protecting tall hats in their boxes.

This idea was later borrowed by an American industrialist in 1871. Albert Jones of New York patented his version. However, it was not until 1874, when Oliver Long, another American industrialist, took the idea one-step further and introduced double-side corrugated boxes. When Robert Gair, a Brooklyn, New York printer, developed a machine that could mass-produce and pre-cut, pre-creased corrugated cardboard boxes, he provided the final link that would make cardboard containers readily accessible for the commercial market. Although his product initially was suited for smaller items such as toothpaste, tea and cosmetics, customers soon became aware of the potential for them to contain larger items. The first to do so was the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco). After that, the cardboard box never was to look back.

The Folding Box Today

Today, boxes are everywhere we look. They hold items we eat, drink, wear and sit on. They contain a diverse array of products for shipping and moving purposes. They are also an integral component of many advertising and trade show displays. The folding box has truly come a long way from writing and packing material to a multi-purpose almost indispensable item of modern marketing and life.

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