Thursday, September 2, 2010

What's on your lunchbox still just as important as what's in it

Posted By on Thu, Sep 2, 2010 at 10:30 AM

click to enlarge A cool lunch box means you are a cool kid.
  • A cool lunch box means you are a cool kid.

In fourth grade, I didn't have much going for me. I had toirtoiseshell glasses. I favored sweatshirts with puppies. And I was quite concerned about what happened to the members of The Baby-sitter's Club.

But what I did have was a red plastic lunchbox that got AM/FM reception. And the week before I lost my hybrid boom-lunchbox, I had some serious status in the lunchroom. What I didn't know then and still didn't know until today is the long tradition of lunchboxes. 


The Smithsonian Blog traces the history of the lunchbox from the 19th century to today in a post that shows how the carrier has gone from functional object to childhood totem.

Working men protected their lunches from the perils of the job site (just imagine what a coal mine or a quarry could do to a guy's sandwich) with heavy-duty metal pails. Around the 1880s, school children who wanted to emulate their daddies fashioned similar caddies out of empty cookie or tobacco tins.
According to the Smithsonian, the first commercial lunchboxes appeared in 1902. The metal tins featured children playing rather than the Wright brothers or the Boston Red Sox. It took only 50 years -- and the invention of television -- for manufacturers to figure out that TV characters could sell a lot of lunch pails.

And while the outside has come to matter, it was always the moment of lifting the lid that was the most exciting. The good days when there was a cookie or a proper peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. The bad days when egg salad or carrot sticks was the first thing you saw. So here's to lunchboxes for helping to bring the possibility of greatness to the lunch room.

[Image via Flickr: Paul Lowry]

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