microhistory of the Chinese food takeout container

From the January 13, 2012 published New York Times’ ‘Who Made That’ Column; written by HILARY GREENBAUM and DANA RUBINSTEIN:

On Nov. 13, 1894, in Chicago, the inventor Frederick Weeks Wilcox patented a version of what he called a “paper pail,” which was a single piece of paper, creased into segments and folded into a (more or less) leakproof container secured with a dainty wire handle on top. The supportive folds on the outside, fastened with that same wire, created a flat interior surface over which food could slide smoothly onto a plate.

Wilcox’s paper box seems to have been an advance in existing “oyster pail” technology. (The oyster pail, as described by Ernest Ingersoll in his 1880 book, “The Oyster Industry,” was “a wooden receptacle with a locked cover used in transporting raw oysters.”) At any rate, the paper oyster pail and the incipient Chinese-food industry — which was beginning its meteoric rise in the early 20th century — seemed made for each other.

History unfolding, right before our eyes. See what I did there? Groan.
Read the rest of the article here.


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