1850s

States begin passing married women's property laws, allowing married women to control their own earnings and inheritances for the first time.


1862

At the Great International Exhibition in London, Alexander Parkes presents the first plastic, an organic material derived from cellulose that can be heated and molded, and holds its shape when cooled.


1866

A $10,000 contest is announced for a material to replace the ivory in billiard balls. Formulating his entry, Albany printer John Wesley Hyatt processes cellulose in a new way and invents celluloid, a substance "tough as whalebone; elastic and dense as ivory."


1886

Twenty-eight-year-old door-to-door book salesman David McConnell starts the California Perfume Company when he discovers that the free perfume samples he gives out are the real reason people buy from him. In 1939 his company will be renamed Avon.


1891

A French count named Louis Marie Hilaire Bernigaut, looking for a way to produce synthetic silk, invents rayon.


1900

After witnessing a wine-stained tablecloth being discarded, Swiss textile engineer Jacques Edwin Brandenberger seeks a way for fabric to be wiped clean. He invents a clear, flexible film covering: cellophane.


1906

Alfred C. Fuller, a 21-year-old entrepreneur, establishes the Fuller Brush Company, selling brushes and household cleaners door-to-door.


1907

A Belgian chemist living in New York, Leo Baekeland, invents Bakelite, the first completely synthetic man-made substance. Radios, telephones, tableware and jewelry are all made from Bakelite.


July 28, 1907

Earl Tupper is born in New Hampshire to Ernest and Lulu Tupper.


1913

An improved form of cellophane, now the first fully flexible, water-proof wrap, starts a plastics craze.

The Ford Motor Company sets up the first moving assembly line to build its Model T automobiles.


May 25, 1913

Brownie Mae Humphrey is born in Georgia. Her parents will divorce soon afterward.


1917

The U.S. enters World War I.


Brownie Wise
Jerry Wise Collection

Brownie Wise
1918

Brownie Humphrey's mother, a union organizer, leaves five-year-old Brownie to live with her aunt and cousins while she travels for her work.


1919

The first mass-produced refrigerators appear in American stores.


Women at the voting booth
Library of Congress

Women at the voting booth
1920

The 19th Amendment grants U.S. women the right to vote.

Congress creates a Women's Bureau in the Department of Labor to represent the interests of the wage-earning women.


November 1924

Teenager Earl Tupper writes an essay on becoming a millionaire: "What a time we would have if we had plenty of money... All our hopes and dreams of the future depend upon 'if I can get the price.'"


1925

Earl Tupper graduates from Fitchburg High School in central Massachusetts.


1926

Waldo Semon, a B. F. Goodrich chemist trying to bind rubber to metal, develops the first practical form of vinyl.


1929

The stock market crashes; the Great Depression begins.


1930

Dale Carnegie publishes his best-selling manual, How to Win Friends and Influence People.


1931

Frank Stanley Beveridge, a successful Fuller Brush salesman, founds Stanley Home Products in western Massachusetts.


1933

E. W. Fawcett and R. O. Gibson, working in an Imperial Chemical Industries research laboratory, invent polyethylene. Their new plastic will play an important role in wartime production as insulation on cables and radar equipment -- but will not be used for domestic purposes until after World War II.

A student lab assistant at Dow Chemical, Ralph Wiley, accidentally discovers polyvinylidene chloride, a film barrier to air and water. Dow gives it the trade name Saran.


December 15, 1936

Brownie Humphrey marries Robert Wise, a Ford Motor Company employee. They move to Detroit.


1938

Earl Tupper founds the Tupper Plastics Company.

Salesman Norman W. Squires writes a script for a "Hostess Group Demonstration Plan" and sends it to the president of Stanley Home Products. His method of direct sales through home parties is so successful that within two years a Stanley executive will call Squires the "Father of the Hostess Plan."


April 6, 1938

DuPont chemist Roy Plunkett accidentally creates polytetrafluoroethylene, a white, waxy polymer. The highly slippery substance is dubbed Teflon.


Young Jerry Wise
Jerry Wise Collection

Young Jerry Wise
May 25, 1938

Jerry Wise, Brownie Wise's only child, is born.


October 27, 1938

DuPont unveils nylon, the first totally synthetic fiber, developed under the guidance of chemist Wallace Hume Carothers. Within a year, nylon will be introduced as a silk substitute in the manufacture of women's stockings.


1939

Brownie Wise writes in to a Detroit newspaper readers' column under the pen name "Hibiscus." She will contribute to the column for several years.


September 1, 1939

Germany declares war on Poland, starting World War II.


December 7, 1941

Pearl Harbor is attacked, and the U.S. declares war on Japan and Germany.


February 10, 1942

Brownie and Robert Wise divorce.


The Wonder Bowl
Artice and Larry Moore Collection

The Wonder Bowl
1945

"Queen for a Day," a radio game show, first airs. The female contestant whose life story is the saddest, as judged by audience applause, wins a household appliance of her choice.

Earl Tupper obtains some polyethylene from DuPont and begins to develop his wonder bowl with its soon-to-be-famous "burping" seal.


May 7, 1945

Germany surrenders to Allied forces.


August 1945

The U.S. drops atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


September 2, 1945

Japan formally surrenders; World War II ends.


1946

British prime minister Winston Churchill introduces the phrase "Iron Curtain" to define the line of separation between Western powers and the areas under Soviet control. It marks the start of the Cold War.

Eight thousand U.S. homes have television sets.


October 7, 1947

Air Force captain Charles "Chuck" Yeager breaks the sound barrier, piloting the X-1-1 rocket-powered plane in the first supersonic flight.


The Damigella family
Artice and Larry Moore Collection

The Damigella family
1948

Tom and Anne Damigella, who had been selling Stanley Home Products, start selling Tupperware in Massachusetts.


1949

Brownie Wise, who had been selling Stanley Home Products, starts selling Tupperware in Detroit.

Arthur Miller publishes his classic play, Death of a Salesman. The main character, Willy Loman, examines his failure to achieve his American dream of success in sales.

There are one million television sets in the U.S. In the economic boom of the next decade, the number of sets will increase to nearly 160 million.


November 8, 1949

Earl Tupper patents the "Tupper Seal" for closing plastic containers.


1950

Brownie Wise moves to Florida with her son, Jerry.


1951

Tupperware holds its first sales conference with a handful of early Tupperware distributors in Worcester, Massachusetts.


Brownie Wise
Jerry Wise Collection

Brownie Wise
May 1951

Brownie Wise is appointed general sales manager of a new company, Tupperware Home Parties, which will oversee all Tupperware sales operations.


October 15, 1951

"I Love Lucy," a television show starring comedian Lucille Ball, first airs.


President Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower Library

President Eisenhower
1952

Jean and Jack Conlogue, who had been selling Stanley Home Products, open a Tupperware distributorship in St. Louis, Missouri.

Elsie Mortland starts selling Tupperware. Within a year, she will become the Tupperware Home Parties headquarters hostess, using new products in the company's test kitchen. She is the only woman other than Brownie Wise on staff at Tupperware.

The television shows "This is Your Life," "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," and "The Abbott and Costello Show" first air.

Dwight Eisenhower is elected president.


January, 1952

Tupperware Home Parties moves to Florida, and temporarily sets up shop in an aircraft hangar.


1953

Tupperware Home Parties holds its first manager seminar in Kissimmee, Florida.

"The Loretta Young Show," the first drama series with a female host, airs.


The Sirianis
Courtesy of Mary and Frank Siriani

The Sirianis
January 1953

Mary and Frank Siriani leave their jobs at a General Motors factory and a luncheonette to start selling Tupperware.


July 1953

Li Walker, a Filipino war bride who is unable to get a teaching job because of her accent, starts selling Tupperware.


Tupperware Home Parties Headquarters
Archive Center, NMAH

Tupperware Home Parties Headquarters
1954

Tupperware Home Parties Headquarters is completed and dedicated. Big Dig Jubilee, the first of Tupperware's annual jubilees, is held there.

The long-running television situation comedy, Father Knows Best, first airs.



My American Experience

My American Experience photos

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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?



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