When “American Horror Story,” the Museum of Modern Art and “Napoleon Dynamite” pay homage to an invention, you know it’s made a cultural impact in a big way.
Tupperware has a staying power that most plastic products don’t. So far, it has evaded the anti-plastics movement, and it seems to survive most kitchen clean-outs. Its annual sales exceed US$2 billion.
Earl Tupper, inventor of Tupperware products, saw such promise in polyethylene – the plastic he used to craft his inventions – that he called it “Poly-T: Material of the Future,” as Alison J. Clarke notes in her book “Tupperware: The Promise of Plastic in 1950s America.”
After failing at his first business as a tree surgeon, Tupper decided to try his hand at plastics production. In 1937, he got a gig as a sample maker at a Dupont-affiliated plastics factory.
Inspired by paint cans, Tupper fashioned a flexible polyethylene lid that, when snapped onto the container, created an airtight seal. As Kealing points out, this worked much better than tin foil or a shower cap – materials many American women had relied on to cover their leftovers.