Cardboard boxes are practical and useful in many ways. Companies and individuals alike depend on the availibility of these boxes and appreciate their versatility for packaging, storage and transportation purposes, as well as their affordability.

There are some products that would be unthinkable to live without today and yet many of these products were only invented a few hundred years ago; cardboard boxes, for example. While we live in a wealthy and materialistic world today, storing earthly goods is no new concept to mankind. History shows that many people’s lives have depended on their ability to anticipate future events and to be prepared for periods of scarcity. For thousands of years mankind has had to store goods in their struggle for survival.

Legend has it that cardboard like material dates back thousands of years and the Chinese are accredited with the invention of it. However, the origin of the pre-cut cardboard box as it is known today can be dated more exactly.

From Hat Liners to Shipping Material

Simple paperboard boxes were first invented and used in England at the beginning of the nineteenth century. There was a growing need for an affordable sturdy and lightweight product that would meet the packing demands of industrious households and businesses alike. In 1817 one of the very first documented cardboard boxes was being used to store a German board game. These lightweight boxes were an improvement from the heavy wooden boxes that had been used until then, but were still quite complicated to assemble. The cuts that were necessary in order to fold a box were made by hand, which made the assembly process very time consuming and expensive.

The pre-cut and flat-packed cardboard carton was accidentally invented by Scotsman Robert Gair in Brooklyn, England in 1879. He was working in a paper bag factory at the time when one day a metal ruler that was used to crease the paper was set incorrectly. Before the mistake was noticed and production stopped it had cut the paper. Robert Gair then discovered that by using sharp cutting blades in combination with creasing blades, paper could be creased and cut simultaneously on the press.

Corrugated paper had been patented a few years earlier in 1856, but was only being used as a hat liner in the tall hats of its day. It was not until 1871 that people started to use it as a packing and shipping material. By combining the pre-cut paper bag with nothing less than a hat liner, the pre-cut cardboard carton was born.

Do They Have to be Brown?

Cardboard boxes are essentially made out of wood pulp, which is where the brown colour comes from. While dyeing them could improve their appearance, it becomes too expensive to manufacture. Many factories today, however, will incorporate prints and designs into their production of boxes and there is an innumerable variety of cardboard boxes worldwide.

What Are They Made Of?

Most standard cardboard boxes are made of three different layers of cardboard. The two outer layers have a smooth surface and the inner layer is corrugated. Corrugated means the cardboard has been folded into many parallel folds. This gives the cardboard the durability, strength and cushioning it is famous for.

Cardboard boxes; a simple product and a worldwide success.