Here at Lil Packaging, we like to think we know quite a lot about cardboard, but here are a few facts that have surprised even the experts amongst us.
Hats off to cardboard
First popular in the UK in 1856, cardboard was not actually used to make boxes as it is today, but by milliners who patented a technique for lining and insulating tall hats.
Speaking of hats, who doesn’t love the feel of party-hat elastic under their chin? Party hats in England were originally made by rolling a thin piece of cardboard into a conical shape; I bet you didn’t know, though, that this kind of hat has been around since 2800 BC when Egyptian pharaohs donned similar pointy headgear to symbolise their elevated status. For all we know, they probably invented the piñata as well.
Art for Cardboard’s Sake
In literature, the earliest use of the word ‘cardboard’ crops up in the novel “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” (1848 Anne Bronté). The protagonist, Helen, uses a bit to sketch a picture of the man she loves.
“I had carefully obliterated all such witnesses of my infatuation. But the pencil frequently leaves an impression upon cardboard that no amount of rubbing can efface.”
She’s not the only one to use cardboard as an art material; millions of us still love it for painting and sticking, constructing and modelling, not forgetting hours of cheap and environmentally friendly, imaginative play. I defy you not to have these two corresponding childhood memories: bowl haircuts and at least one parent moaning about how you preferred the damn box to the present inside.
And it’s not just those under the age of 18 who find cardboard gives them artistic licence. If you’re in any doubt, check out the work of sculptor Chris Gilmour http://www.chrisgilmour.com/ whose creations out of corrugated cardboard are highly creative, elaborate and quite frankly, staggeringly beautiful, (not two words I ever thought I’d use in the same sentence as ‘cardboard’).
The age of innocence (and cardboard)
Finland loves cardboard so much that, since the 1930s, it’s given every expectant mother a brown cardboard box packed with essentials to help them along with the expensive business of having a baby. Most new-born Finnish babies also sleep in the boxes for a time and it’s been said that the practice helps lower the rate of sudden infant death syndrome (although this isn’t something every expert agrees on).
It’s one thing to let your baby sleep in a cardboard box, but can you imagine sending them through the post? Well, in 1913 Mrs Jesse Beauge of Ohio could. She posted her 10lb baby to his grandmother’s house in a box – very much alive and well – for a cost of 15 cents; she even insured him for $50. She wasn’t the only one! May Pierstorff’s parents wanted to send their five year old daughter to visit her grandmother, but couldn’t afford the train ticket. The nifty solution they came up with was to attach the correct number of stamps to May’s coat and she was shipped in the train’s mail carriage - along with all the other parcels and postage boxes - straight to her grandmother, no ill affects reported whatsoever. Those were the days!
Fancy staying in a cardboard holiday home? Well, you can if you travel to Brittany. L'Îlot Carton on the island of Belle-Île, is a house which has been thoroughly put through its paces, surviving many strong winds and fierce Atlantic storms. Cheap to run, cheap to build and extremely energy efficient, one day, it can even be completely re-cycled.
Right, you’ve stayed in the house, now worship in the church. You might have to travel a bit further than the coast of France this time however. To New Zealand. The community of Christchurch was waiting for a decision to be made on the rebuilding of their Anglican cathedral after the earthquake of 2011 left it in ruins. In 2013, Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, working with a local firm, built what was meant to be a temporary structure out of wood recycled from broken homes, steel, ploy-carbonate and yes, you’ve guessed it, cardboard! Known as the Cardboard Cathedral, the structure is built to 130% of the current earthquake standard and is seen as a symbol of moving forwards.
Cardboard how we admire you: material of the past, material of our childhood, material of artists and architecture and best of all, material that is gentle to Mother Earth.
We think it’s safe to say that cardboard will continue to be used, both practically and as an inspiration well into the future. It’s hard for us here at Lil Packaging to imagine a life without cardboard, so it’s gratifying to know that it’s well and truly out there in all its weird and wonderful incarnations. Long live cardboard and all those that love it!