Lunch box
The lunch box, also referred to as a lunch pail or lunch kit, is used to store food to be taken to work or school. The concept of a food container has existed for a long time, but it wasn't until people began using tobacco tins to haul meals in the early 20th century, followed by the use of lithographed images on metal, that the containers became a staple of youth, and a marketable product.

The lunch box has most often been used by schoolchildren to take packed lunch
Packed lunch
thumb|A typical American bagged lunchthumb|[[Bento]] packed lunchA packed lunch is a lunch prepared at home and carried to be eaten somewhere else, such as school, a workplace, or at an outing...

es, or a snack, from home to school. The most common modern form is a small case with a clasp and handle, often printed with a colorful image that can either be generic or based on children's television shows or films. Use of lithographed metal to produce lunch boxes in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s gave way in the 1990s to use of injection-molded plastic.

A lunch kit comprises the actual "box" and a matching vacuum bottle. However, pop culture has more often embraced the singular term lunch box, which is now most commonly used.


David Shayt, curator of the National Museum of American History, pins the evolution of the lunch box as beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. “Some of our earliest examples, from the 19th century, were woven baskets with handles. A meal would be wrapped in a handkerchief. Depending on your station, a fancy wooden box would be used by the wealthy,” he says. It wasn't possible to go home to lunch every day when more and more Americans were now working in factories and not on the farm, thus it was necessary to have something to protect and transport a meal in.

Lunch boxes have been manufactured using various materials. Typically, children's school lunch boxes are made of plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...

 or vinyl
A vinyl compound is any organic compound that contains a vinyl group ,which are derivatives of ethene, CH2=CH2, with one hydrogen atom replaced with some other group...

, while adult workers' lunch boxes are commonly made of metal, such as tin
Tin is a chemical element with the symbol Sn and atomic number 50. It is a main group metal in group 14 of the periodic table. Tin shows chemical similarity to both neighboring group 14 elements, germanium and lead and has two possible oxidation states, +2 and the slightly more stable +4...

 or aluminium
Aluminium or aluminum is a silvery white member of the boron group of chemical elements. It has the symbol Al, and its atomic number is 13. It is not soluble in water under normal circumstances....

, due to the greater need for durability. The aluminium variant was invented in 1954 by Leo May, a miner
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, from an ore body, vein or seam. The term also includes the removal of soil. Materials recovered by mining include base metals, precious metals, iron, uranium, coal, diamonds, limestone, oil shale, rock...

 in Sudbury, Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

, after he accidentally crushed his tin lunch box.

In 1935, Geuder, Paeschke and Frey produced the first licensed character lunch box, Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse is a cartoon character created in 1928 by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks at The Walt Disney Studio. Mickey is an anthropomorphic black mouse and typically wears red shorts, large yellow shoes, and white gloves...

. It was a lithographed oval tin, with a pull-out tray inside. It had no vacuum bottle, but did have a handle.

In 1950, Aladdin Industries
Aladdin Industries
Aladdin Industries is a vendor of lunchboxes, kerosene lamps, stoves and thermal food storage containers. It evolved from the Western Lighting Company, founded in 1907 by Victor S. Johnson, Sr. and incorporated in 1908 as the Mantle Lamp Company. Aladdin Industries was created as a subsidiary of...

 created the first children's lunch box based on a television show, Hopalong Cassidy
Hopalong Cassidy
Hopalong Cassidy is a fictional cowboy hero created in 1904 by the author Clarence E. Mulford, who wrote a series of popular short stories and twenty-eight novels based on the character....

. The Hopalong Cassidy lunch kit, or "Hoppy," quickly became Aladdin’s cash cow. Debuting in time for back-to-school 1950, it would go on to sell 600,000 units in its first year alone, each at a modest $2.39 USD.

While television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 was experiencing amazing growth during the 1950s, manufacturers saw a potential for sales. Manufacturers grew to include ADCO Liberty, American Thermos (later King Seeley Thermos, or KST), Kruger Manufacturing Company, Landers, Frary and Clark (Universal), Okay Industries, and a number of other producers through the 1980s.

The first use of plastics was the lunch box handle, but later spread to the entire box, with the first molded plastic boxes produced during the 1960s. Vinyl
A vinyl compound is any organic compound that contains a vinyl group ,which are derivatives of ethene, CH2=CH2, with one hydrogen atom replaced with some other group...

 lunch boxes debuted in 1959.

During the 1960s, the lunch box had few changes. The vacuum bottle included in them, however, steadily evolved during the course of the decade and into the 1970s. What was originally a steel vacuum bottle with glass liner, cork or rubber stopper, and bakelite cup became an all-plastic bottle, with insulated foam rather than vacuum
In everyday usage, vacuum is a volume of space that is essentially empty of matter, such that its gaseous pressure is much less than atmospheric pressure. The word comes from the Latin term for "empty". A perfect vacuum would be one with no particles in it at all, which is impossible to achieve in...

. Aladdin produced glass liners into the 1970s, but they were soon replaced with plastic.


Today, lunch boxes are generally made of vinyl, with foam insulation, and an aluminum/vinyl interior. As a result, they’re usually much better at retaining their temperature but are less rigid/protective.

Lunch box collecting is a popular hobby. Many lunch boxes, including those from the 1950s and 1960s sell for hundreds of dollars, some even into the thousands of dollars. In December 2003, a mint Isolina lunch box was auctioned for $11,500 at Chickens Go Moo, Inc. auctions. With the 15% buyer's premium, the total price of this lunch box was $13,225.


  • A Superman
    Superman is a fictional comic book superhero appearing in publications by DC Comics, widely considered to be an American cultural icon. Created by American writer Jerry Siegel and Canadian-born American artist Joe Shuster in 1932 while both were living in Cleveland, Ohio, and sold to Detective...

     DVD set was released in a case resembling a tin lunch box, albeit notably smaller.
  • A Nintendo DS
    Nintendo DS
    The is a portable game console produced by Nintendo, first released on November 21, 2004. A distinctive feature of the system is the presence of two separate LCD screens, the lower of which is a touchscreen, encompassed within a clamshell design, similar to the Game Boy Advance SP...

     starter kit was released in a case resembling a tin lunch box with New Super Mario Bros.
    New Super Mario Bros.
    is a side-scrolling platform video game published and developed by Nintendo for the Nintendo DS handheld game console. The game was released in North America and Japan in May 2006 and in Australia and Europe in June 2006...

  • The collector's edition of Fallout 3
    Fallout 3
    Fallout 3 is an action role-playing game released by Bethesda Game Studios, and the third major installment in the Fallout series. The game was released in North America, Europe and Australia in October 2008, and in Japan in December 2008 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360...

    was made available in a metal Vault-Tec lunch box the likes of which can be found throughout the game world itself.

Health issues

Health concerns came to light in August 2002, when the Center for Environmental Health discovered that many popular vinyl lunch boxes contained dangerously high levels of lead. Many, though not all, were pulled from the shelves.

In 2001, most major manufacturers began testing their lunch boxes for lead levels, remedied the issue, and labeled their boxes as lead free.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.