The History of Cardboard Boxes

student storage boxes

We all use cardboard boxes, but how often do you stop and ask yourself how much you really know about them? Never? It’s sad, but you’re probably not alone. Thankfully, at Flexistore we’re on hand to act as relationship counsellors between you and your boxes. We’ve spent many years working with cardboard boxes and learning about what makes them tick (usually it’s having a clock inside them). We’re basically box whisperers. So that you can enjoy the same relationship of mutual respect and understanding with your cardboard boxes as we enjoy with ours, let us tell you some more about your cubic companions.

The use of paper for packaging

Paper has been around since the 2nd Century AD when it was first created in Ancient China by the inventor Ts’ai Lun. It wasn’t until around the early 1600s though that the advantages of thick paper – cardboard (over 0.006 inches thick is classed as cardboard) – as a packaging material began to be appreciated in China.

The first cardboard boxes

The first industrially produced cardboard boxes were not quite like the ones we know and love (come on, you do love them) today. The British industrialist Sir Malcolm Thornhill began producing boxes made from single sheets of cardboard in 1817. The classic corrugated cardboard box design wouldn’t emerge for a while yet though…

The first corrugated cardboard boxes

The first use of corrugated paperboard was not in boxes but instead as a liner for tall hats – a patent for this use was granted to the British inventors Edward Allen and Edward Healey in 1856. It would be another 15 years before somebody thought to apply their technique to boxes, when the New York industrialist Albert Jones was granted a patent for the use of corrugated cardboard as a packaging material. Even then, there was another innovation still to come. Allen & Healey, and then Jones had only applied for patents on single-faced corrugated cardboard.

It was left to a man called Oliver Long to take the next obvious step and apply the corrugated style to both sides of the cardboard. This allowed boxes made in this way to bear a heavier weight when stacked than single-side corrugated cardboard boxes would. By 1890, Long’s finished design was in general use. Initially, rather than the mainstream packaging method that it has become now, cardboard boxes were seen as a more expensive method of packaging and were used for higher-end breakable goods such as glass and pottery. Over time though, the use of cardboard boxes became more common, turning into the preferred mode of packaging for fruit and fresh produce among other things.

Where can you find out more about the history of cardboard boxes?

“If only there was a museum of cardboard boxes!”, we hear you cry. Ok…we didn’t actually hear you cry that – so try to cry it a bit louder the next time. Oh, and by cry we mean shout, not cry. Don’t get upset over cardboard boxes, they’re wonderful things.

Anyway, thankfully there IS a museum of cardboard boxes! Just when you thought you’d never find something to leave the kids spellbound with excitement during your holiday! Actually, you should possibly try to find a swimming pool or something too, just in case somehow, unimaginably, they aren’t left spellbound with excitement by the cardboard box museum. To be exact, it’s not just a museum of cardboard boxes also a museum of printing and it’s to be found in the French town of Valréas. The town likes to refer to itself as the world’s cardboard capital (a proud boast) as in the early 1900s around 1000 workers were producing cardboard boxes for the local factory. These were smaller boxes though, for items such as pharmaceuticals, confectionery and cosmetics.

Where can you find friendly and efficient box suppliers, transporters, and storers?

We don’t like to boast, but let’s just say that if we were footballers we’d be box-to-box midfielders. Wait, why are you rolling your eyes?

Seriously, we can supply cardboard boxes in a variety of sizes and quantities so that you can find the right combination for your storage needs. Not only that, our handy service means that we can bring a vault to you for to fill with those boxes, we’ll take it away and store it for you and then at a later point we can re-deliver it to where you need it so that you can get your boxes back. Easy.

Related post: Packing for storage – What do I actually need?

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