I love antique wooden boxes and crates. I’m not sure why they have such a fascination for me. Once, I had a lovely old box that we used as a prop in a Christmas play at church. I loaded everything on my husband’s truck to take back home after the play, and he headed toward my mother-in-law’s house to deliver borrowed props to her first. I was watching from the church parking lot when my crate fell off the truck and shattered in the middle of the highway. It was a total accident, but I was sad to lose the old box.
|Vintage Armour Canned meat crate found in my husband's grandfather's old barn.|
It's now on display in my den.
But even through my fascination, I can see why manufacturers, shippers, and merchants would prefer the lighter, more easily handled and recyclable cardboard boxes we have today. And, after you watch the video at the end of this post, you’ll realize that we’ve come a long way from gourds, leaves, and hollowed out logs!
The cardboard box was invented in 1817 in England. The box was a flimsy paperboard similar in design to today’s cereal boxes. Kellogg Cereals started using this type of box in the mid-1800s and popularized its use. This type of box would never do for shipping heavy cans or jars.
Enter the corrugated box. Corrugated (or pleated) paper was patented in England in 1856 and used as a liner for tall hats, but entrepreneurs soon realized the benefits of the stronger material for other uses. Single-sided corrugated boxboard was patented by Albert Jones of New York City and saw use as a shipping material as early as 1871.
Corrugated means “(of a material, surface, or structure) shaped into alternate ridges and grooves.” The ridges and grooves strengthen the box. There are three basic types of corrugated cardboard boxes/crates. Single, double, triple walled.
As a former purchasing manager, I can tell you that all corrugated boxes aren’t the same. More than once, my shipping department rejected boxes because they were inferior quality that wouldn’t hold up to the rigors of shipping. Or we received product in flimsy boxes. Both scenarios cause a major headaches. Most shipments up to 20 lbs or so can get by with a single walled corrugated box. Triple walled corrugated boxes can handle up to 300 lbs and are quite sturdy.
I realize that it costs less to produce and ship corrugated cardboard boxes all over the world, and that cardboard is easier to recycle, but that still doesn’t stop me from longing for the days when some little mercantile in the middle of nowhere received a shipment of wooden crates with all kinds of goodies inside. Although I seriously doubt those merchants were as enamored of all those adorable wooden crates as I am.
Here’s a fun little video regarding the history of packaging.
CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of. www.pamhillman.com
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Pam, I love your article and also love old boxes. I inherited several wooden boxes that once held seeds for sale in my grandfather's hardware store. These days, I use the boxes to hold thread and buttons, but their main purpose is to link my heart to a grandfather I never knew. Thanks for your terrific research.ReplyDelete
How special to have those boxes, Louise. What a treasure! When my husband was cleaning out an old ramshackle shed of his grandfather's, he found a box of rusted out nails, screws, bolts, etc. He saved the box and I cleaned it up and it's on my display shelf in the den. It's a really old Armour Packaged meat box. I love the box because.... well, I just like boxes! ... but also because it has family ties.Delete
Oh, how I'd love to have an Arbuckles' box! I do have one side of an old Cream of Wheat box that hangs on my kitchen wall.ReplyDelete
Wouldn't that be cool? Arbuckles is a true American icon. :)Delete
Thanks for the post! I too am charmed by old wooden shipping crates. I have one that we use for shoes and I have an orange crate that my nana and mom used for a nightstand. In the 50's they must have sold vinyl covers that slid over the crate to "pretty it up", and that's what I remember covering the crate in my growing-up years.ReplyDelete
Those that you inherit from your grandparents are even more special, aren't they? Love it!ReplyDelete