The History of the Lunch Box and How PackIt Changed the Game

The History of the Lunch Box and How PackIt Changed the Game

Whether you call it a pail or a tin, the lunch box has been with us for decades. The earliest models simply kept your lunch ingredients together. But today's options, like PackIt's freezable lunch bags on the go, do so much more. PackIt is the only foldable, freezable bag that keeps food and drinks cool for hours with no ice packs needed. Its secret sauce? Patented cooling technology that's built into the walls of the bag.

But first, let's take a brief look at the history of lunch boxes, before our patented built-in EcoFreeze® Technology was invented, to see just how much things have changed over the years.

History of Lunch Boxes

1800s Lunch Boxes

Manufactured lunch boxes weren't really a thing back in the early days. But as work moved from the farm to the factory, people found they needed something to hold their lunches. Using their ingenuity, workers repurposed old containers they had around the house. 1800s lunch boxes primarily consisted of recycled cookie, cigar and tobacco tins. Imagine eating a lunch that tasted like Grandpa's old cigars!

Because they had to make do with what they could find, people had few choices about the size of their lunch boxes. But today is a different story. PackIt gives you great options like our small lunch box and large lunch box. With PackIt, you get the power to choose.

1920s Lunch Boxes

A few lunch box inventions started appearing in the late 1800s, but people generally stuck to their tins and an old-fashioned lunch pail or two. The first significant innovation occurred with the 1920s lunch box. The Thermos Bottle Co. introduced the first official lunch box in 1920 with its iconic thermos to keep liquids hot or cold. Featuring a domed lid to contain the thermos and a latch on the front, it's easily recognizable as the classic industrial lunch box.

The Ohio Art Company upped things a couple of notches by introducing metal lunch boxes for kids that were shaped like baskets and featured lithographed artwork. The lunch box industry never looked back!

The old thermos lunch box for adults remained undecorated. Men and women both used the same boring box. But today's options are practically never-ending. PackIt has men's lunch bags and women's lunch bags, providing all the alternatives you could want. Plus, our innovative freezable bags keep lunches cold for hours. They're the perfect combination of form and function.

History of Lunch Boxes

1930s Lunch Boxes

Mass merchandising came into its own with the 1930s lunch box. Disney introduced its original version, with Mickey Mouse on the front, in 1935. It was the first time a cartoon character graced a lunch box. PackIt keeps that spirit alive with lunch boxes featuring a wide array of fun designs with mermaids, unicorns and so much more!

1950s Lunch Boxes

The 1950s marked the explosion of television. And with it came an unending lineup of lunch boxes. Hopalong Cassidy was the first lunch box introduced by Aladdin, and it quickly boosted the popularity of the after-school show. Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger and Howdy Doody were other popular options, as was Gunsmoke. If a character was on TV, chances were it was on a lunch box, too!

1960s Lunch Boxes

Pop culture truly took over in the next decade. Barbie and The Beatles both made multiple appearances on 1960s lunch boxes. TV shows like "Lost in Space," "Star Trek," "The Munsters," "The Jetsons" and "Julie" also found their way onto lunch boxes, as did Rocky and Bullwinkle. One lunch box even featured the 1969 moon landing. Whether it was real-life space travel or sci-fi space shows, 1960s lunch boxes were really out of this world!

History of Lunch Boxes

Lunch Boxes in the 1970s

Some lunch boxes in the 1970s and earlier were made of vinyl, but that trend didn't last long, as vinyl wasn't durable enough to stand up to the rigors that lunch boxes faced. Popular lunch box themes during this decade ranged from "The Partridge Family" to the Harlem Globetrotters and from Woody Woodpecker to the "Kung Fu" TV show.

1980s and 1990s Lunch Boxes

The 1980s lunch box saw the end of metal models. Many school districts banned metal lunch boxes after parents complained they could be used as weapons. 1990s lunch boxes were made of hardshell plastic, which was more durable than vinyl and safer than metal. Themes as wide-ranging as Bart Simpson, "Star Wars," the Spice Girls and the Care Bears could all be found on a 1990s lunch box.

The 1990s also saw the introduction of the soft-sided lunch box, which PackIt has taken to the next level. Made of durable poly canvas with a food-safe lining, PackIt lunch boxes fold flat for easy storage in the freezer.

2000s Lunch Boxes

When it comes to the 2000s lunch box, PackIt is where it's at. Neoprene emerged as a new lunch box material, but it required messy, melty ice packs. PackIt, on the other hand, features gel-lined walls that freeze quickly overnight. Just load your lunch into a PackIt in the morning, and off you go without the fuss and muss of ice packs.

And PackIt's innovations don't end there. We've also developed lunch boxes that work with customizable Bento boxes. The Bento boxes let you arrange your lunch just so, while our PackIt lunch boxes give you ice-free flexibility.

History of Lunch Boxes

Frequently Asked Questions About the History of Lunch Boxes

PackIt is the acknowledged leader in today's freezable, foldable lunch bags. But we also know a bit about the lunch boxes of yore. Read the following questions to learn more about the history of lunch boxes.

Who Invented the Lunch Pail?

John Robinson invented a lunch pail in 1887 that included separate compartments for food and liquids.

Who Invented the Lunch Box?

The Thermos Bottle Co. invented the iconic domed lunch box in 1920.

What is the Most Expensive Lunch Box?

The most expensive lunch box is the 1954 Superman lunch box, which can sell for as much as $16,000.

Order Your PackIt Today

Now that you know the history of the lunch box, what are you waiting for? Purchase a PackIt lunch box today and enjoy all the convenience it delivers. Looking for something different? We also have freezable snack bags and the 15-can Zuma cooler with an easy-access zipper closure for on-the-go fun. Whether you're packing snacks, lunches or your favorite beverage, PackIt has you covered.

History of Lunch Boxes

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