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Tupperware! | Timeline

Women, Work, and Plastics

Tupperware-timeline_1953_siriani.jpg
The Sirianis. Courtesy: Mary and Frank Siriani.

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.

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.

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 purposses 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.

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.

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 polythylene 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.

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.

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.

1952
Jean and Jack Conlogue, who had been selling Stanley Home Products, open a Tupperware distributorship in St. Louis, Missour

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 Eisemhower 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.

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

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.

May 17, 1954
In a landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rules that segregation in schools is unconstitutional.

July 1954
Lavon Weber, who grew up during the great drought of the early 30s on an Oklahoma Dust Bowl farm, starts selling Tupperware.

1955
Anna and Howard Tate leave Stanley Home Products. Howard is appointed to the Tupperware staff.

September 1955
Lavon and Bob Weber are promoted to a distributorship in Wichita, Kansas.

1956
Sylvia Boyd starts selling Tupperware.

July 1956
Tupperware holds the Wish Fairy Jubilee.

August 22, 1956
The Tupperware Wish Fairy appears on "The Steve Allen Show."

1957
The Soviets launch a space satellite called Sputnik.

1958
Brownie Wise is fired from Tupperware Home Parties, Inc. She launches Cinderella, a direct sales cosmetics company.

Tupperware holds its Full Sales Jubilee, with a pirate theme.

FBI director J. Edgar Hoover publishes Masters of Deceit: The Story of Communism in America and How to Fight It.

July 1958
Earl Tupper sells Tupperware to the Rexall Drug and Chemical Company for $16 million and buys himself an island in Central America.

1959
Soviet premier Nikita Krushchev and American vice president Richard Nixon hold their "Kitchen Debate" about the relative merits of capitalism and communism.

1960
Jon and Sylvia Boyd are promoted to a distributorship in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy is elected president.

May 1960
The U.S. Food and Drug Administation approves the birth control pill.

1961
President Kennedy establishes a Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, and names former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt its chair.

May 25, 1961
President Kennedy announces he plans to put a man on the moon and return him to Earth before the end of the decade, and before the Soviets do.

October 1962
The Cuban Missile Crisis erupts after the discovery of Soviet ballistic missiles in Cuba. public and private diplomacy defuses the crisis and pulls the world back from the brink of nuclear war. 

1963
Elsie Mortland helps bring Tupperware sales to Mexico and Guatemala.

Congress passes the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women in the same establishment who are performing under similar working conditions.

Betty Friedan publishes The Feminine Mystique.

The Mary Kay home party cosmetics company is started, modeled on the direct sales success of Tupperware.

November 22, 1963
President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

1964
President Lyndon Johnson pushes the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress. He also issues an executive order laying out his policy of equal employment opportunity for all Americans.

1965
Elsie Mortland helps bring Tupperware sales to Hong Kong.

1966
Li Walker brings Tupperware to the Phillipines.

The National Organization for Women is established.

1971
The first issue of Ms. Magazine hits the newsstands.

1972
Earl Tupper moves to Costa Rica.

Congress passes the Equal Rights Amendment and sends it to the states for ratification.

1974
Congress passes the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

1978
Congress amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination because of pregnancy.

The World Federation of Direct Selling Associations is formed.

1983
Earl Tupper dies.

Sylvia Boyd is appointed to the Tupperware staff, becoming only the third female regional vice president in company history.

1986
The U.S. Supreme Court rules that sexual harassment is a form of illegal job discrimination.

1992
Brownie Wise dies.

2003
The Direct Selling Women's Association is formed.

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