Lunchbox, The Exciting World of Metrics

The objects children take to school can communicate messages. In the 1970s, the U.S. government encouraged more general use of the metric units of weight and measure, units that had been adopted in almost all other nations. To teach children about metric units, some parents purchased this lunch box.
The lid of this metal box illustrates four things commonly measured with metric units (the output of power generators, the size of car and motorcycle engines, Olympic distances, and prescription drugs). The back shows decimal units of length, weight, volume, and temperature. One side shows the U.S. decimal currency, while the other shows natural phenomena associated with decimal units (the century plant, the centipede, and the millipede). The top has a scale of inches with their equivalent lengths in centimeters. The bottom illustrates decimal units of time.
The lunch box contains a blue thermos with a white rim and red cap. It holds eight ounces of liquid.
Currently not on view
Date made
ca 1976
King-Seeley Thermos Company
Physical Description
metal (box and lid material)
plastic (handle material)
overall: 7 1/4 in x 8 5/8 in x 4 in; 18.415 cm x 21.9075 cm x 10.16 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of George A. Norton III
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Measuring & Mapping
Science & Mathematics
Metric System
Data Source
National Museum of American History


One day, tired of seeing kids sport their cool Superfriends, Adam-12 and Marvel Comics lunchboxes everyday while I had to eat regular school lunches, I begged my mother to please, please buy me a cool lunchbox to I could be popular. One day, she came home from the store with a big surprise for me, and she was so excited that I couldn't wait to see what she had bought for me. The Exciting World of Metrics. I only took it to school one time. After that my dork status was sealed—a label that stuck with me throughout my school years, long after the other kids had forgotten about the lunchbox (after all, they had only seen it the one time).

Add a comment about this object