By Mary Bellis
Tupperware (plastic container with airtight lid) was invented by Earl Silas Tupper (1908-1983). Tupper was a New Hampshire tree surgeon and plastics innovator, who began experimenting with polyethylene, a new material used primarily for insulation, radar, and radio equipment. He patented the Tupperware seal in 1947. Tupper used "Tupperware Parties" to market the product, a unique way of marketing directly to homemakers.
Earl Silas Tupper was born in 1907 in Berlin, New Hampshire. Tuppers first contact with plastic grew from his job at the DuPont Chemical Company which had been developing plastic before World War II. Eager to work with the new material, yet too poor to buy refined plastic, Tupper asked if he could purchase any left-over substance. His supervisor at DuPont gave him a black, inflexible piece of polyethylene slag, a waste product of the oil refining process. Tupper purified the slag and molded it to create light-weight, non-breakable containers, cups, bowls, and plates. He later designed liquid-proof, air-tight lids by duplicating the lid of a paint can, except in reverse. Tupper founded the Tupperware Plastics Company in 1938, and in 1946, he introduced Tupper Plastics to hardware and department stores.
Tupperware; was not welcome at first. Consumers were confused as to how to operate the lids. Store sales lagged. In the late forties, home demonstrations of the products proved enormously successful, indicating to Tupper the potential power of direct demonstrations. By 1951, he had pulled all merchandise off store shelves and channeled it solely through direct home sales. Tupper hired Brownie Wise, a charismatic single mother and one of his first direct sellers, to design the Tupperware; direct selling system. The concept grew to be a household phenomenon, the Tupperware Party.
Today, a Tupperware demonstration begins approximately every two seconds some place in the world with yearly net sales exceeding $1.2 billion.
Silas Tupper Papers
Ca. 1914-1982, documenting the inventor Tupper and his invention Tupperware.
The official website of the company.
Tupper - Tupperware
By a two-step process of invention, Earl S. Tupper created one of the most practical items of Americana to date: the airtight plastic food container that still bears his name.