According to the history books, the first cardboard (or more specifically paperboard) box was invented in 1817 in England by the firm M.Treverton & Son. Cardboard box packaging was made the same year in Germany.
The first fold-up box
The telephone, television and tarmac were all invented by Scotsmen, so it’s no surprise to learn that they had a hand in the development of cardboard boxes too. Scottish-born Robert Gair invented the pre-cut cardboard box in 1890 – flat pieces manufactured in bulk that folded into shape.
Gair’s invention was the result of a happy accident: he was a Brooklyn printer and paper-bag maker during the 1870s, and one day, while he was printing an order of seed bags, a metal ruler normally used to crease the bags shifted in position and cut through them. Eureka! Gair discovered that by cutting and creasing at the same time he could make prefabricated paperboard boxes.
Applying this idea to corrugated boxboard was a straightforward development when the material became available at the end of the 1800s.
Cardboard boxes for breakfast
The invention of lightweight flaked breakfast cereals increased the use of cardboard boxes. The Kellogg Company was one of the first to use cardboard boxes as cereal cartons and, of course, they still do to this day.
Innovation through corrugation
Corrugated – or pleated – paper was patented in England in 1856, and originally used as a liner in the manufacture of tall hats, but corrugated boxboard was not patented and used as a shipping material until 1871. The patent was issued to Albert Jones of New York City for single-sided corrugated board. Jones used the corrugated board for wrapping bottles and glass lantern chimneys prior to transportation.
The first machine for producing large quantities of corrugated board was built by G. Smyth in 1874, and in the same year Oliver Long improved upon Jones’s design by inventing corrugated board with liner sheets on both sides. This was the forerunner of the corrugated cardboard we know today.
The first corrugated cardboard box manufactured in the US was in 1895. By the early 1900s, wooden crates and boxes were being replaced by corrugated paper shipping cartons. Cardboard boxes were much lighter and much easier to handle – it’s no wonder that the invention caught on!
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