Saturday, February 19, 2011

19 February 1957 “The Lunchbox: White Collar or Blue? And Pic-Nic Anyone?”

workingmanlunchbox Though many may have the image of the vintage metal lunch box as a ‘blue-collar’ tradition. Many a white collared middle class fellow subscribed to the ‘take it with you’ approach to lunch.

50smanlunchboxEven a President enjoyed a good lunchbox.

Thanwlunchbox Here is hubby off to work with lunchbox.

 lunchbox1Here is his lunchbox closed up and read to go. And what lurks inside?

 lunchbox2 A sandwich wrapped in waxed paper, tupperware full of homemade cookies and a thermos of fresh coffee. Often I pack another version of the previous nights dinner for him. It is actually rare for him to have a sandwich. Some of his co-workers can’t wait to see what he has packed. Once a co-worker was surprised by my having packed him cheese and crackers as a starter.

The amount we save on his taking lunch as opposed to his buying it is really immense. I would say it cost more that double, more like triple the amount to buy rather than take his packed lunch. And what style, I think!

alladinlunchbox This is another version of a lunch bag, though this would be more for picnics. I actually had this same set up, but later found a picnic basket I liked better so I sold it.

homemadelunchbox This lunchbox was fabricated by a working man. Read about it HERE on this flickr page. The loving father who made this also made a miniature version for his little daughter.

kidslunchboxOf course, we often think of school children when we think of lunchboxes.

barnlunchbox This barn lunch box from the 1950’s would have been my choice had I been a child then. I loved and adored all things  farm or agricultural as a child. And, in fact, I still do to this day.

Once the Industrial Revolution was well under way, taking lunch with you often became a necessity. In the mid to late 19th century, hampers or pails were used. Certainly, at that stage, a take along lunch was a sign of  the ‘working class’. picnic1898 Unless one had a lovely hamper attended by footman or other servants  for the upper classes, or the afternoon picnic of the middle classesmiddleclasspicnic , the need to ‘take it with you’ then was a matter of necessity.

Before actual lunch tins/boxes/pails were thought of as a manufactured product, young children often made over tobacco or cookie/biscuit tins.

01E01JS10426_CompositeColor_AllZones In 1935, Geuder, Paeschke and Frey produced the first licensed character lunch box with Mickey Mouse. Though it had no sealed coffee/milk thermos, just a pull out tray.

hoppalong It wasn’t until 1950 that the first official mass produced character  kid’s lunch box was made. “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.” That would make it roughly about $20 dollars in today’s money.

So Alladin, an American company, that still exists but is very much downsized today, was the major creater of metal character themed lunch boxes for children. That is until

“In 1971-72, a concerned group of parents decided that metal lunch boxes could actually be used as weapons in school-yard brawls. With petitions signed, they marched to the Florida State Legislature, and demanded safety legislation be passed. It eventually was passed, and other counties in Florida adopted this legislation, which eventually was accepted in other states.”

Though plastic was set to replace steel lunchboxes at some point, it was this legislation that helped bring the plastic forward. Despite this, however, metal lunchboxes were still made into the 1980s.

Recently (in the 21st century) most lunchboxes are more bags made out of vinyl with foam insulation. These, as are many things, are mass produced in China and in 2002 the Center for Environmental Health discovered that many popular vinyl lunch boxes contained dangerously high levels of lead.

The metal lunch pail also blossomed to replaced the usual wicker or wood picnic basket in the 1950’s. Many had the lovely plaids popular then.metalpicnic1 metalpicnic2 S0me even were printed to appear to be wicker like or wood grain.

metalpicnic4 metalpicnic5 metalpicnic3

picnicchecklist Here is the checklist and picnic ideas from my General Foods Cookbook from the 1950’s.

Any way you slice it, or dice it for that matter, food on the go, made by you, just makes sense: both fiscal and flavor. If you are intimidated by bring you own, try just replacing one of your or a loved one’s eat out lunch a week with a packed one. And with so many fun vintage containers out there, some rather affordable, go in style.

Though there may be much to be said for the ease and speed of the modern world, I think style and flavor has a lot to be recommended. Give it a try, you might get hooked.

Happy Homemaking.

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