A Concise History Of Cardboard Boxes

If you’re like me, you have probably never given a second thought to where cardboard boxes began and just assumed that they magically appear in your attic, storing photo albums you look at once a decade.

Man Buried Under Fallen Boxes

But, oh no, cardboard and its box brethren have a long history stretching back to the 1800’s, ranging from hats to a balanced breakfast. Piqued your interest? Thought so, well read on and see how deep the rabbit hole goes…

You can trace the origin of cardboard all the way back to 15th century China, but it was not produced commercially in box form (although this was more of a paperboard) until 1817 by M Treverton & Son. Unfortunately, this was not patented and used as a shipping material by Albert Jones until 1871, when it was mainly utilised to wrap glass bottles and chimneys before they were transported abroad.

Even in the Victorian era they understood the need for a place to throw all their eight children’s belongings when moving into the city for their new job at the local workhouse. You may have thought I’d forgotten the initial hook of hats and breakfast…oh ye of little faith – stay tuned!

Kelloggs Corn Flakes Box

The increasing popularity of lightweight flaked cereals boosted the use of cardboard boxes. Some of the first to adopt cardboard were the Kellogg brothers who used boxes to package their hugely popular ‘Toasted Corn Flakes’, a dull cereal by modern standards but it was all they had back in the day.

So, as you can see, since their inception, cardboard boxes have been as popular and as useful as they are in the modern day… and as I promised I didn’t forget the hook, and for that I think you should take a look at our wide range of 100% recycled boxes, which you can check out here

Scotland has an impressive resume when it comes to ground-breaking inventions, such as the telephone, television and tarmac. So, it’s not a huge surprise to know they had a role in the creation of foldable boxes. Robert Gair invented the pre-cut cardboard box in 1890. Gair's invention, just like some children, was the result of a happy accident: he was a Brooklyn printer and paper-bag maker, 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 Lunch Box

Folding cardboard lunch box, titled Brock House be Robert Gair

From the 1900s onwards there was a major change taking place in long distance transportation; a move from wooden crates to corrugated cardboard cartons due to them being much lighter and easier to handle. It’s not hard to see why they became so popular!

So, there you have it… an exhilarating deep dive into the life and times of the humble cardboard box. If you are a cardboard aficionado, or if you are moving house, then may I once again recommend our range of boxes.

Charlie Raw