Photo Gallery: Tupper's Invention NotebooksOther Photo Galleries
Earl Tupper grew up dirt poor and never got beyond high school. Still, he dreamed of becoming a millionaire by the time he was 30, deciding his route to success would be inventing.
Earl fancied himself to be the next Thomas Edison or Henry Ford. He carried little pads of paper in his shirt pocket for scribbling down ideas. He elaborated on them in his invention notebooks, where he also jotted aphorisms and advice to himself. His crudely drawn ideas were, for the most part, improvements on everyday devices and gadgets.
Earl sent letters and prototypes to companies all over the country, hoping to sell his inventions. But they all said no. In spite of this, Earl continued to plug away. His knack for tinkering finally paid off when he invented the first Wonderbowl, with its famous burping seal.
Take a tour of Earl's invention notebooks.
"Fish propelled boat, conceived April or May 1926. Connection with 'subterrania.'"|Archive Center, NMAH;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_02.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_02_t.jpg|
"No-Drip cone for ice cream, Sunday September 6, 1936. 1. Melting cream running down side of cone into gutter 2. Gutter to catch melted cream running down side of cone. B. Cream runs back into cone thru drain holes from gutter"|Archive Center, NMAH;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_03.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_03_t.jpg|
"Water motor cycle, powered by outboard motor. The keel weight may be adjustable (up and down) and the body of the boat may be built high so as to give thrills on leans and curves, or afford absolute sea worthiness under worst sea conditions."|Archive Center, NMAH;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_04.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_04_t.jpg|
Rumble Seat Top, Patent application August 8, 1932. This was Earl's first serious invention. Unfortunately, rumble seats were on their way out of fashion, and a removable top for them was never manufactured.|Archive Center, NMAH;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_05.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_05_t.jpg|
Assorted Combs. Earl invented dozens of novelty combs. One had a built in mirror and another was dagger-shaped. He suggested men could make themselves more attractive at the beach by wearing dagger combs.|Archive Center, NMAH;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_06.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_06_t.jpg|
Fish-pole weighing scale, March 12, 1937. This invention would allow people to weigh a fish with the rod, as soon as it was caught.|Archive Center, NMAH;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_07.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_07_t.jpg|
Bite and wound sucker, May 11, 1937|Archive Center, NMAH;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_08.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_08_t.jpg|
Corsets with cross muscles, August 14, 1935. "The strips of material are hinged to bend as the powerful front muscles of the body do. This is more comfortable than the vertical stays which jab the abdomen and up under the ribs when bending or stooping."|Archive Center, NMAH;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_09.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_09_t.jpg|
Bracelet Number One. This molded watch bracelet has a removable clock piece that can be made in varying designs. The cover would protect the watch and make it waterproof and more accurate.|Archive Center, NMAH;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_10.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_10_t.jpg|
Photo paste-in buckle to clamp onto belt, February 13, 1937. "These buckles and frames have raised edges to frame snapshot of sweethearts, family, dogs, houses, etc."|Archive Center, NMAH;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_11.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_11_t.jpg|
The Swing Time Necktie Knot Shaper. Earl wrote slogans for his tie shapers: "Get the Swing with jewelled knots."|Archive Center, NMAH;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_12.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/tupperware_gallery_12_t.jpg|
Patented in 1980, this was a clothes washer for the traveling man. He would put underclothes, soap and water in, and hold the device while exercising in his hotel room.|U.S. Patent Trademark Office
My American Experience
What do you think of the Tupperware story? What's your opinion of the postwar consumer boom, the rise of plastics, and other events of the 1950s? Has Tupperware affected you?