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Brief History Of Cardboard Boxes And The History Of Bubble Wrap

The extraordinary versatility of modern-day corrugated cardboard boxes and the outstanding protection of bubble wrap are hard to match during a house move. And yet, their respective invention and development stories are full of exciting highs and disappointing lows.

The complicated process of moving house is packed up with so many relocation tasks that home movers' brains often get overloaded as a result, and consequently refuse to process any further bits of information until they get an adequate downtime to relax and cool off a little bit.

During the chaotic period of moving from one house to another, it shouldn't come as a surprise that most people take things for granted and pay little attention to some intriguing and yet cleverly disguised details about, let's say, their packing materials we use so often.

Moving boxes and bubble wrap! These are two integral components that are present at every single house move and yet you have probably never felt the urge to obtain more information about them. Seriously, when was the last time you wanted to learn about the fascinating history of the cardboard box and the captivating history of bubble wrap?

Their histories are nothing short of fascinating and captivating!

Fasten your seatbelts, for we are about to take a quick trip back in time and trace the highs and lows in the development of corrugated cardboard boxes and bubble wrap. Plus, you will be treated with some hand-picked fun facts about each of the two most versatile packing supplies ever made.

The History Of Corrugated Cardboard Boxes

History of corrugated cardboard boxes

Nobody in the 1800s must have suspected the fundamental role corrugated cardboard boxes would play in the future.

105 AD, China. The fascinating history of corrugated cardboard boxes starts in Ancient China where paper – one of the greatest inventions of all time – was invented around 100 BC during the Han dynasty. However, it wasn't until 105 AD that the likes of a paper-making industry was established by a government official named Ts'ai Lun. The resourceful businessman started producing paper with the help of a ground-breaking concoction of chopped mulberry bark, hemp rags and water. Ts'ai Lun's paper production method of flattening the unusual mixture, removing the excess water and letting it dry in the sun proved to be a great success and quickly spread throughout China. It was primarily used to assist in storing food products to make them last longer.

1817. In 1817, the British industrialist Sir Malcolm Thornhill was the first person to produce commercial boxes from single cardboard sheets. However, the look and feel of Thornhill's boxes had little in common with the unmistakable and extremely familiar design of the corrugated cardboard boxes of today.

1856. Corrugated paper was patented in England in 1856, and the patent was awarded to the British inventors Edward Allen and Edward Healey. Interestingly, the corrugated paper of that time was only used as a lining material for tall hats, and its practical usage as packing and shipping materials was not recognized until years later, 15 years to be exact.

1871. In 1871, the entrepreneur Albert Jones of New York was granted the patent for single-sided corrugated board as a shipping material. He used the corrugated board to wrap glass bottles for safe shipping.

1874. The history of cardboard boxes continues with the actual invention of corrugated cardboard as we know it today. In 1874, a man by the name of Oliver Long took the next logical step and improved the corrugated board design by adding liner sheets on both sides of the cardboard. His brilliant idea took the crush resistance and stacking strength of the cardboard boxes of that time to another level; the newly-designed packing boxes could hold heavier loads without breaking and allowed to be safely stacked much higher. The very first machine for mass production of double-sided corrugated board was built the same year.

1890. It was left to a printer and a paper bag maker from Brooklyn to put the finishing touches to the modern corrugated cardboard box. In 1890, Robert Gair invented the pre-cut cardboard by sheer accident. One day, a metal ruler that was used to crease the bags in his factory malfunctioned and consequently cut the bags instead of crease them. The “unfortunate” accident that seemingly destroyed more than 20,000 seed bags made him realize that by cutting and creasing the cardboard material, he could make prefabricated cartons with flat pieces that folded into convenient packing boxes.

Fun Facts About Cardboard Boxes

Here are some fun facts about cardboard boxes without whose convenience, practicality and affordability any residential move would be simply unthinkable.

A corrugated cardboard box can have a very interesting and diversified post-primary life. In other words, the cardboard battle may be lost but the corrugated fibreboard war has just begun.

1895 was the year in which the very first corrugated cardboard box was manufactured in the USA. Today, around 90% of all products in the USA are shipped in cardboard containers.

The Regular Slotted Container (RSC) is, without a doubt, the most common cardboard box whose major flaps meet in the center while its minor ones do not.

Nowadays the design of corrugated boxes is widely varied with the purpose of meeting the particular needs of the products for packing and shipping, the environmental hazards and the requirements of retailers and consumers alike.

Needless to say, corrugated fibreboard has a higher resistance to bending than flat fibreboard of equal mass.

Cardboard boxes are completely safe to be disposed of because the raw material is 100% biodegradable and does not contain any harmful substances.

Around 70% of the world's cardboard is recycled and as a result, most of the cardboard boxes of today are manufactured from re-used materials.

Silk manufacturers have used cardboard boxes to transport the Bombyx mori moth and its eggs from Japan to Europe since 1840.

Thanks to the affordability of the material, a cardboard box can serve as the foundation of a wide range of exciting projects – from insulation linings through one-of-a-kind costumes to children's toys.

Speaking of toys, it's not an uncommon sight to see children toss the brand new toy they have been given and play with the cardboard package instead. In fact, the reputation of corrugated cardboard boxes as playthings is so strong that the cardboard box was included in the National Toy Hall of Fame (now part of The Strong – an interactive educational institution in Rochester, NY) as a rare toy that is not affiliated with any specific brand.

London was the site of the so-called Cardboard City; an area close to Waterloo station where more than 200 homeless people used to sleep in cardboard boxes from 1983 until 1998. Later, all of the Cardboard City residents were offered free housing and now the area is the site of the London IMAX cinema.

In 2004, the Australian architect Peter Ryan designed and built up an entire house only with cardboard boxes.

Brief History Of Bubble Wrap

And now that you are familiar with the captivating history of corrugated boxes and have learned some interesting facts about the omnipresent moving containers, let's take a quick look at the development of the second most common packing material when moving house – bubble wrap.

the history of bubble wrap

Brilliant visionaries as they were, Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes could hardly foresee the creation of electronic bubble wrap as an effective way to relieve stress.

1957, Hawthorne, N.J. Two engineers named Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes set out to create three-dimensional plastic wallpaper in their garage. They sealed two shower curtains together in a way that would ensure enough air was captured in the middle to create the textured effect they were after. Luckily for future home movers, their wallpaper idea was not successful.

1960, New Jersey. Although their original intention was a failure, the two inventors saw the great protective potential of their new creation as a packing material of fragile items. Sealed Air Corporation was co-founded in 1960 by Alfred Fielding.

Today. Now headquartered in Elmwood Park, New Jersey, Sealed Air Corporation is a worldwide manufacturer of packaging materials. The amount of bubble wrap the packaging company produces annually is sufficient to wrap the equator of our planet approximately ten times.

Fun Facts About Bubble Wrap

Here are a few curios facts about bubble wrap – the well-known cost effective method of ensuring that fragile items and sensitive electronic equipment will remain completely intact during the move from one home to another. Just bubble wrap your breakables and the air-filled bubbly material will absorb any undesirable shocks during transit and thus keep your prized possessions safe until you reach your new residence.

Bubble wrap is made from polyethylene film. Contrary to popular belief, the air bubbles are not inflated by any specialized equipment but are simply formed when air gets trapped between two plastic sheets /the shaped side of the film gets heated and bonded to the other flat side while passing between rollers/.

Originally, bubble wrap was used to protect sensitive electronic parts and components, usually with anti-static plastic that dissipates static charge and keeps the electronic equipment from being damaged. Nowadays, most of the produced bubble wrap is used for packing food and fragile/breakable items.

The most common bubble size is 0.4'' (10 mm), but the air-filled pockets can be as tiny as 1/4'' (6 mm) in diameter and as big as 1'' (26 mm).

Interestingly enough, the air bubbles can be shaped differently from the widely recognized and trusted tiny hemispheres. What about a romantic sheet of pink heart-shaped bubble wrap as a memorable gift for your partner?

Sealed Air Corporation is also known for their unusual yet effective demonstrations of just how good bubble wrap is for protecting fragile items. One time, they dropped a pumpkin from 35 feet onto pre-arranged layers of bubble wrap and, of course, the pumpkin survived the fall unscathed.

bubble wrap painting

5. Bubble wrap painting can be a fun activity for the entire family. Paint the air bubbles in your favorite colors and press them against a blank sheet of paper for unique colorful patterns.

Bubble wrap can be an excellent stress reliever, especially when the moving stress reaches harmful levels. Bursting its air bubbles is not only a lot of fun, but the popping sound is believed to be therapeutic as well, with a proven calming effect on the nerves.

The practical and sometimes not-so-practical applications of air trapped between plastic sheets can be just too many to count. Thus said, only the limits of our own imagination can prevent us from inventing a great bubble wrap contraption or from enjoying some fun moments with the world-famous packing material.

Here are just a handful of the many uses and disguises of bubble wrap:

Place a large sheet of bubble wrap on the floor in front of your house door and you get the most inexpensive burglar alarm ever.

You want an eco-friendly ball gown to catch your friends' attention? You can't go wrong with a formal bubble wrap dress.

Do you actually want to hear as one day ends and another begins? Make yourself a bubble wrap calendar!

To prevent heat loss in your new home, you can use bubble wrap to insulate the windows if they happen to lack good glazing units. The air-filled bubbles will create a vacuum-like environment while still offering an adequate level of visibility.