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Steven Maxim

Steven Maxim
13 April 2022

Cardboard Boxes – A Brief History

The cardboard box is such an integral part of our life today that we hardly stop and consider how it came to be!

Cardboard is a heavy type of paper, notable for its stiffness and durability. It was first invented in China some time in the 15th century, and is used for a wide variety of purposes. One of its more common uses is as a packaging material.

History of Cardboard Box
Robert Gair

The Scottish born American who Invented The Cardboard Box By Mistake

The cardboard box started its journey as an accidental invention! A chance mistake, in the late 1800’s, by an operator who cut, instead of creased, seed bags in Scottish born Gair’s factory.  While he was printing the order of seed bags a metal ruler normally used to crease bags shifted in position and cut the bag. This error at Robert Gair’s existing Brooklyn printing and paper-bag company, led to Gair’s creation and development of pleated, creased, and cut cardboard folding boxes.

Gair quickly realized this discovery could improve efficiencies and reduce costs by cutting, printing, and creasing boxes from one piece of corrugated cardboard on the same press. The strength of the resulting prefabricated product provided a more cost-effective solution to other, expensive to produce, packaging materials in use at the time, such as wooden crates.

The advantages packaging and retaining the freshness of dry goods such as tea, cereal, biscuits, crackers, and tobacco brought, were soon discovered. It also became a marketer’s dream, these cardboard boxes provided a blank canvas for branding, imagery, messaging and new ways of product promotion.

Gair’s early customers included influential companies such as the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, the Kellogg Company, the Lorillard Tobacco Company, and Nabisco (the National Biscuit Company). Thanks to a canny Scotsman, mass production of folding corrugated boxes and a new empire began.

As Gair’s enterprise expanded, he, too, moved into different materials and began incorporating corrugated fiberboard into his box range in the 1900s.

Albert S Jones

Patent 122, 023A 1871

As you unpack your latest delivery, think of Albert S. Jones, the man who patented the corrugated paper used for the cardboard box 149 years ago.

Corrugated (also called pleated) paper was patented in England in 1856, used as a liner for tall hats, but corrugated cardboard would not be patented and used as a shipping material until 20 December 1871.

Jones, from Manhattan, patented his modest innovation, which was Patent 122,023A, “Improvement in Paper for Packing.” He described a sheet of paper lined on one side with another layer of pleated paper. Corrugated paper was already in use as a liner for tall hats, but not for packing.

Jones wrote that for wrapping bottles, his paper would be “more effective to prevent breaking than many thicknesses of the same material would be if in a smooth state like ordinary packing paper.” Jones used the corrugated cardboard for wrapping bottles and glass lantern chimneys

His new invention; corrugated paper, he suggested, “may be made into packing boxes.”

Carboard Box History


Taking Cardboard Boxes To a New Level

The Kellogg brothers first used cardboard cartons to hold their flaked corn cereal, and later when they began marketing it to the general public a heat-sealed waxed bag of Waxtite was wrapped around the outside of the box and printed with their brand name. This marked the origin of the cereal box, though in modern times the sealed bag is plastic and is kept inside the box rather than outside.

Cardboard Box History Kellog's

Mass Production

Cardboard Box Production Development

The first machine for producing large quantities of corrugated cardboard was built in 1874 by G. Smyth, and in the same year Oliver Long improved upon Jones’ design by inventing corrugated cardboard with liner sheets on both sides. This was now cardboard as we know it today.

By the start of the 20th century, corrugated cardboard boxes began replacing the custom-made wooden crates and boxes previously used for trade.

Maxpack stocks a wide range of single wall and double wall cardboard boxes as well as  self-seal postal cardboard boxes, book wraps, twist wraps, foam lined boxes, cardboard sheets, and pallet boxes .

History of the Cardboard box

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