Industry & Manufacturing
The Museum's collections document centuries of remarkable changes in products, manufacturing processes, and the role of industry in American life. In the bargain, they preserve artifacts of great ingenuity, intricacy, and sometimes beauty.
The carding and spinning machinery built by Samuel Slater about 1790 helped establish the New England textile industry. Nylon-manufacturing machinery in the collections helped remake the same industry more than a century later. Machine tools from the 1850s are joined by a machine that produces computer chips. Thousands of patent models document the creativity of American innovators over more than 200 years.
The collections reach far beyond tools and machines. Some 460 episodes of the television series Industry on Parade celebrate American industry in the 1950s. Numerous photographic collections are a reminder of the scale and even the glamour of American industry.
"Industry & Manufacturing - Overview" showing 1 items.
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- Few products are more symbolic of household life in post-World War II America than Tupperware. Made of plastic, intended for service in the suburban kitchen, and with clean and modern design, Tupperware represented "tomorrow's designs with tomorrow's substances." The Museum's collections include over 100 pieces of Tupperware, dating from 1946 through 1999. This bowl and cover were made by Tupperware Corporation, Woonsocket, R.I. (bowl), and Farnumsville, Mass. (lid), 1946–1958 and donated by Glenn O. Tupper.
- Beginning in the 1930s, chemist Earl S. Tupper (1907–1983) experimented with polyethylene slag, a smelly, black waste product of oil refining processes, to develop uses for it. He devised translucent and opaque colored containers that he first marketed in 1942 as "Welcome Ware," then added lids with a patented seal later in the decade.
- Modeled after the lid of a paint can, the lid to a Tupperware container was to be closed with a "burp," to create a partial vacuum and make the seal tight. The product was designed to appeal to the growing number of housewives who worked in suburban kitchens with modern appliances, including large refrigerators that allowed once-a-week trips for grocery shopping at the supermarket. These women formed a market for new and effective methods of food storage. Tupperware's water-tight, airtight seal promised preservation of freshness and limited spills or spoilage.
- Yet the capabilities of the new product were not obvious to consumers at first, and Tupper's containers did not sell well in retail stores. A Michigan woman named Brownie Wise thought of marketing Tupperware through the home-sales method. Wise developed the system of Tupperware parties, at which a demonstrator could show the uses and advantages of Tupperware. As Tupperware became a staple of many American kitchens, some women found job opportunities in Tupperware sales.
- Currently not on view
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- ca 1949
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- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center