He Put the “Tupper” in Tupperware
Home parties are everywhere now – Longaberger, Avon, Mary Kay, Silpada, Pampered Chef – and those are just the ones my mom has had in the past year .(I kid. She’ll kill me when she reads this.) But none of those companies would exist today if Earl Tupper hadn’t patterned some polyethylene after a paint can lid.
Tupper was working for the plastics division of DuPont during WWII, but became interested in finding a peacetime use for the company’s polyethylene once the war was over. Tupper tried the material in various molds (he had amassed an interesting personal collection of molding machines) and tinkered with the formula until he found a perfect consistency for dishes and dinnerware. He developed Tupperware’s signature airtight lid by observing how well a paint can lid kept its contents fresh and duplicating it in plastic. Keen observations like these made Tupper’s “Wonderbowls” the winner of numerous design contests; the dishes were even sold at a standalone store on Fifth Avenue in New York. Still, Tupper just wasn’t making any real money on his product… and then there was Brownie.
An extroverted single mom, Brownie Wise’s sales of Tupperware single-handedly outdid the sales at the actual Tupperware store. When Tupper found out about her “home party” method of sales – essential for demonstrating that patented Tupperware “burp” seal – he promoted her to vice president of the company. The duo were extremely successful until they had a falling out and Tupper abruptly booted her from the company in the late ’50s. She left with just a year’s advance salary and no stock holdings; Tupper sold Tupperware Home Parties — Brownie’s division — for $16 million about a year later. He also divorced his wife and bought an island (and you thought a mid-life crisis Porsche was bad).
Just because he was done with the ‘ware, Tupper didn’t exactly retire. He had so many inventions in his brain he had to carry a notebook at all times to keep them straight. Among his ideas: a “Bite and Wound Sucker,” assorted combs and a no-drip ice cream cone. As you can probably guess, none of them quite reached the same success as Tupperware.
The Carrot Test
Ding dong! Carrot calling! Long before Avon patented their “Avon calling” catchphrase, Tupperware saleswomen were practicing “Carrot calling,” a technique that challenged women to put carrots in Tupperware instead of where they usually stored veggies to see which method kept them fresh longer. Parties were often booked after it became evident how much better the carrots fared in Tupperware.
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