Since the original rendition of the modern-day lunchbox in the early 1900s, this American staple has taken many forms and born many images, often representing pop culture and social trends of the era. From cartoon characters to iconic and relevant imagery, lunchboxes have since been a subtle reflection of contemporary culture.
Interestingly, though, the concept of the lunchbox did not originate in the twentieth century. Decades prior to this first version of the lunchbox we know today, a simpler lunch pail was carried — a cylindrical metal container used to transport food for a midday meal. This initial lunch pail was originally considered to be a symbol of low socioeconomic status; those who could afford the time and money necessary to eat a proper lunch would not need such a container. Additionally, these lunch boxes were often fashioned from old tobacco boxes. However, as the lunchbox developed over time to be a far more practical and socially acceptable tool, it came to embody all that was popular at the time. The monetization of lunchbox-cover imagery hit its stride in the 1950s, when a company called Aladdin emerged, capitalizing on the mass-production of lunchboxes.
Here we take a look at a variety of lunchboxes throughout history, and highlight just how they’ve evolved — and how they’ve stayed the same — in both shape and design over the decades. Inherently, in doing so we also take a look at how pop culture and mass consumption of popular television characters has shifted.