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The Evolution of the Lunch Box

September 12, 2010

Flatout Family Logo With today’s green efforts, we’re all well aware of the environmental benefits of using a lunch box or reusable lunch bag. And because of this awareness, lunch boxes and bags aren’t just limited to students. Workers take their lunch boxes and bags to the office as well as anyone else eating on-the-go.


Image courtesey of Dee Adams via Flickr

Using a lunch box (or bag) is not just a green attempt. For many, it is a hobby as well. Lunch box collecting is a popular hobby and vintage lunch boxes from the 1950s and 1960s are often sold for hundreds and thousands of dollars.

Today’s lunch boxes are generally made of vinyl, with foam insulation and an aluminum/vinyl interior. However, lunch boxes were not always so great at retaining temperature and carrying around food. Check out the timeline of the lunch box’s history below.

Early 1900s (pre-lunch box): People carried their lunch in woven baskets, wrapped in handkerchiefs or even a fancy wooden box if you could afford it.

1935: Geuder, Paeschke and Frey created the first lunch box that had licensed character. It featured Mickey Mouse on a lithographed oval tin, with a pull-out tray inside.

1950: The first children’s lunch box that was based on a TV show was created. This show was Hopalong Cassidy. These lunch boxes were debuted during back-to-school season and were tremendously popular. In fact, there were 600,000 of these lunch boxes sold in the first year. TV was growing rapidly in the 1950s, and TV shows’ names and characters started to steadfastly appear on lunch boxes and even thermoses.

1959: Vinyl lunch boxes were debuted.

1960s: The lunch box handle started to become available in plastic, and later in the 1960s, all lunch boxes were made in plastic. The vacuum bottle was included.

1970s: The vacuum bottle was changed to an all-plastic bottle with insulated foam opposed to vacuum.

1971-1972: A group of parents in Florida petitioned the use of metal lunch boxes, claiming they could be used as weapons. Eventually, Florida legislation as well as other states passed a safely legislation against metal lunch boxes.

1980s to present: There are still vintage lunch boxes available from 1950-1987, but now, lunch boxes are generally plastic or vinyl.


We’d love to hear your fresh perspective!

  • How do you take your lunch to work or school?
  • What’s your favorite childhood lunch box?
  • What do your kids’ lunch boxes look like?

Bon appetit!

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