Tupperware has been called one of the most enduring symbols of our era.
"Fine Art for 39 Cents."
-- House Beautiful, 1947
Like other Americans, Kansans embraced many of the new technologies introduced after World War II. Plastics, greatly experimented with during the war, were much improved by the late 1940s. One inventor, Earl Tupper, of New Hampshire, quit his job with Dupont in 1938 to strike out on his own. In 1942 he created a bowl made from polyethylene which had a seal similar to those found on paint cans. Polyethylene captured Tupper's interest due to its toughness and durability, unlike previous plastics which were hard and rigid. Polyethylene could also be molded into any shape and be any color.
Tupper's products lingered on the shelves until 1948 when he met a divorced, single mother from Detroit, named Brownie Wise, who had been selling his bowls on her own alongside items made by Stanley Home Products. Due to her ability to sell his product, Tupper hired Wise and turned over to her the sales end of the business. Subsequently, Wise developed the "Tupperware" party and perfected the hostess' role in selling Tupper's wares to friends and neighbors. Sales boomed. Wise's theory was simple: "If we build the people, they'll build the business."
In addition to making the homemaker's life easier by keeping leftovers from drying out or losing flavor, some have claimed that Tupperware gave women of the 1940s and '50s an outlet for making a living that was acceptable to conservative American society. Tupperware's impact on society compelled the Guinness Book of World Records to write, "Tupperware is one of the enduring symbols of our era."
The Tupperware pictured on this page is on display in the main gallery of the Kansas Museum of History.
To learn more, check out the PBS American Experience web site, Tupperware!.
Entry: Tupperware Bowl
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: March 2001
Date Modified: December 2014
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.