Tupperware Unsealed

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Today's book, "Brownie Wise, the first woman to appear on the cover of Business Week, was the driving force behind making Tupperware a household name. Fired under mysterious circumstances, she was written out of Tupperware history and died in obscurity. A trailblazing businesswoman decades ahead of her time, Wise created the Tupperware "home party" phenomenon in the 1950s."

Tupperware was a huge part of my childhood. Not only did my Mother sell it for awhile, but she also filled every closet and cupboard in the house with it. Our cupboards were legendary among the kids in my class at school. I would invite someone over to my house to play and as soon as I would open the cupboard to get a snack they would be amazed by how everything was so organized and neatly labeled. Then I would go to school the next day and hear from several other kids, "I heard about your Mom's cupboards." I would have slumber parties and the kids who had been to my house previously would tell the newly invited kids, "You've got to see her mother's cupboards." Then I would show them the cupboards and someone would always say, "There are even labels on the cereal containers." I was always surprised that they were so fascinated by it since I had lived with the containers and labels my entire life and hadn't yet realized how weird our house was. I always felt disoriented when I would spend the night at other people's houses and have to use a kitchen where the food was still in boxes.

So naturally, when I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. Unfortunately, the book turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. It was interesting in the beginning, but it got really boring around page 90, and I never really got interested in it again after that. I think the story the author was telling was a good one, it was just told in a boring, lifeless sort of way. So I spent the rest of the day forcing myself through the book.

I did learn a few interesting things about Tupperware from the book, which I'm going to share with you so I can save you the trouble of having to read the book:

  • In the early Tupperware days the company made Tupperware cigarette cases. (I'm trying to imagine a scenario in which that wouldn't be the tackiest thing ever but, nope, I just can't do it.)

  • Tupperware did not sell very well at first. It was originally sold only in stores, and customers were confused by the products. Customers had to be told that the products were specially designed to extend the life of food, and shown how to use the lids, before they would buy. Which led to sixteen year-old Gary MacDonald speculating, "Man, that could be a great home-demonstration product." (I think from now on I will cease to use the expression "Doesn't have the sense to come in out of the rain," and replace it with, "Doesn't have the sense to figure out how to use Tupperware." I mean seriously, who can't figure out how to put a lid on a container?)

  • When Earl Tupper set out to create Tupperware he was having trouble acquiring the raw materials he needed. Plastic was in short supply since World War II had just ended and wartime shortages were a problem that carried over into the last 40's. So Tupper had to rely on using a smelly, greasy, rubbery, black substance that was a smelting waste product. (I have a few unpleasant images rattling around in my brain right about now. Can you guess what those images might be dear readers?)

  • Earl Tupper originally considered having a Tupperware theme song, but later abandoned that idea. (I'm having a hard time figuring out what song would be appropriate for that, but I can't think of any song that has the word plastic in it. Any ideas dear readers?)