Paileontology: A history of the lunchbox



Before the Age of Steel

Before the lunch box was the lunch pail (and before the lunch pail there were oiled goatskins, but let's not go THAT far back). The lunch pail wasn't really a pail; it was a latching, heavy-duty metal thing made from a toolbox-grade metal that would protect the working man's noontime meal from anything less powerful than a small bomb.

At the time, a lunch pail wasn't chic on the contrary, it was a sign you were far enough down the pay scale that you didn't have time or money for a decent hot noontime meal. Still, children in the 1880s created their own school "lunch pails" out of the colorful tin boxes that once housed biscuits, cookies and tobacco.

From there, it was a small step to a box specifically made for that purpose, and in 1902 the first true kids' lunch box came out. No, it didn't feature turn-of-the-century pop culture idols like P. T. Barnum, Buffalo Bill or Sousa's Band it was shaped like a picnic basket with pictures of playing children lithographed on its side.