Origins of ordinary things: The cardboard box

Every home has, at one time or another, made use of the cardboard box. It is a simple and yet handy item that comes in different sizes. It’s very useful for packing and keeping a variety of things such as food, clothing and even building material.

The first semblance of a cardboard box was invented in China in the 15th century. It was made of papyrus and as such, it was light, durable and safe for storing household items. This is according to Pack Size, a packaging company.

This type of box was in use up to the 19th century when Sir Malcom Thornhill, an English industrialist started making single-sheeted boxes out of thick, heavy and durable paper called cardboard. According to Ten Random Facts, an information website, Thornhill started commercial production of the cardboard box in 1817.

According to Packaging Innovation, a packaging company, cardboard boxes didn’t become a commercial success until the 1850s when Kellogg a cereal manufacturing company started using them to package their product. A decade earlier, the boxes had been used for transporting moths and eggs from Japan to Europe.

All this while, the type of paper used in cardboard boxes was smooth. In 1856, English businessmen Edward Allen and Edward Healey invented corrugated paper as a liner for the tall hats that they were selling. This is according to Today I Found Out, an information website.

According to Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, the use of corrugated cardboard boards started in 1871. American businessman Albert Jones, the first person to receive a patent for that type of board, used it to wrap bottles and glass lamps.

It was only a board at this point because it was one-sided. Three years later, American inventor Oliver Long made a box with liner sheets on two sides, which is basically the design of the cardboard box that everyone uses today.

In 1879, in a New York-based paper bag factory owned by Scottish born Robert Gair, an accident happened. A press rule that had been placed too high cut through thousands of seed bags instead of creasing them. According to Ten Random Facts an information website, it was this happy accident that led to the existence of foldable cardboard boxes.

The most innovative use of cardboard boxes yet is by Australian architect Peter Ryan who used them to design and build a home.