The history of the lunch pail reflected American art heritage through iconic images from TV. The earliest lunch boxes were created around 1900. They were usually metal pails or they re-used biscuit, tobacco, or candy tins with graphic illustrations of the products originally sold inside of these tins.
From the earliest 20th Century metal tea or cookie, tin boxes were saved to become containers for the immigrant factory workers’ lunches. Eventually they evolved to the post-war lunch boxes used mainly by suburban children to carry their lunches to newly opened elementary schools during the 1950s.
Launched, five years after World War II, there was a brand new media invention called the television. It altered just about everything in the current baby boomers life to include their brand new type of school lunch boxes with a vacuum thermos inside.
The “Metal Lunch Box” manufacturers paid for the copyright use of characters from TV and Movie shows in order to increase the lunch box sales. The studios likewise used lunch boxes to gain market exposure.
The first most popular lunchboxes featured popular cartoons from TV, and movie characters. Hopalong Cassidy was the first image used on a lunchbox. The Nashville’s Aladdin Company attached a Hopalong decal to the earliest metal lunch box during the1950s.
However, in 1953, Roy Rogers became the first lithographic image on literally all sides and including the top of the lunchbox.The images on the lunch box offered children a new form of self-expression.
David Shayt, curator of the National Museum of American History, pinpoints the evolution of the lunch box starting in the mid-nineteenth century. “Some of our earliest examples, from the 19th century, were woven baskets with handles. A meal could be wrapped in a large handkerchief.”
The first use of plastics was the lunch box handle, but later spread to the entire box, the first molded plastic boxes were produced during the 1960s.
The Vinyl lunch boxes debuted in 1959, and in1971-72, a concerned group of parents protested against metal lunch boxes and feared they could be used as weapons during a schoolyard brawl.
Today, school lunch boxes are created with vinyl, and foam insulation and has an aluminum or vinyl interior. As a result, they are usually much better at retaining their temperature; nevertheless, they do possess a much safer design than the older metal boxes.