Anyone who writes historically accurate fiction spends a lot of time researching stuff. Stories written in the romance genre tend to not always be correct…probably because a lot of people who read them read the books for the romance and don't care about the history. But there are those of us who like getting things accurate. As a result, we wind up researching stuff, and then probably after hours of research, we don't use but a line in our stories.
So when my hero in A Rancher'sWoman had some tools shipped to him, I started to think about that. He was quite resourceful, and a box made of wood would be re-purposed or taken apart and used in some other way. My brain toyed with that idea, and soon I was looking at boxes. The weight of certain things can be a bit much, but put the heavy object in a wooden box and it becomes extremely heavy! Weight was money when things had to be shipped.
Guess what? There was a time that all boxes were wood, or wood frames covered with sheet
metal, leather, linen, or some other
material. But when it came to shipping, they were primarily wood. Eventually we
had manufactured metal boxes, usually used for things that needed to be stored
in the box.
|Replicas of Old Tins|
My brain went to cardboard boxes. They existed in the 1800's; I knew they did. So when did all of it switch from wood to cardboard, and when did those corrugated cardboard boxes come about? I started researching, because for me, it's a big puzzle, and I like finding the pieces.
Several hours of research gave me these lines for the book.
Robert picked up one of the tools but poked at the paper box. "This is good. Less weight."
So what sort of box was it? Honestly, I don't know. It could have been shipped in a corrugated cardboard box. There was a slim possibility that a tool manufacturer would use such a box for shipping hand tools, but I suspect it was just a heavy cardboard box. Certainly not exciting. I truly believe if it had been a corrugated box, Mark (the hero) would have taken it apart to see exactly how it was made.
So was all my research for nothing? I don't think so. I enjoy learning about new things, or in this case old things. And all those tiny little things that we take for granted made a difference in the lives of people in the 1800's.
Cardboard boxes were invented in 1817. Someone in England made one and about the same time someone in Germany made one. Great minds think alike? When it comes to this stuff, it's a matter of who grabs the patent first. Credit goes to a company named M. Treverton & Son in England.
Pleated paper was invented in England in 1856 and used as liner in tall hats.
Albert Jones invented a shipping material using pleated paper that had been stuck to a single sheet of paper. It was used for wrapping glass lamp chimneys, bottles, etc. for shipping.
In 1874, a guy by the name of G. Smyth invented a machine to manufacture this pleaded paper that was glued to a single sheet of paper. Then, in that same year, Oliver Long improved on Jones design by putting the pleated paper between two sheets of flat paper, which is today's corrugated cardboard. But the first corrugated, manufactured, shipping box happened in 1895. That would be within the timeframe for my hero in A Rancher's Woman to possibly receive a corrugated box that contained a new chisel. But corrugated cardboard boxes really didn't gain a good foothold until the early 1900's.
As is often the case, things happen by accident, and that's what happened to Robert Gair in the 1870's when he was supposed to be cutting and then creasing seed bags. The ruler he or one of his employees was using somehow slipped, and he accidentally cut and creased at the same time. Unfortunately he didn't realize his ruler slipped until the cutting machine ruined a bunch of bags by scoring and creasing them around his ruler. But it didn't take Gair long to figure out how to create a machine to do the scoring and creasing at the same time - this time in the proper place! Thus the precut, ready to be folded, manufactured box was invented.
And who were the biggest users of Gair's pre-cut, foldable, cardboard boxes in the 1800's? Companies who sold small products such as Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P), Lorillard (tobacco manufacturer), Ponds (cosmetics), Colgate (toothpaste), and Kellogg (cereal). But Gair's biggest client was National Biscuit Company, known today as Nabisco. In 1896, Gair received a contract for a two-million unit order of cardboard boxes that were lined with waxed paper for the biscuit company's crackers.
So the puzzle is solved with a few patents, and we have a great timeline of cardboard boxes
So as we flatten and toss all those boxes into the recycle bin, we are handling a little piece of history. History that made life a little simpler, cleaner, stackable, lighter in weight, and readily identified as the boxes were easily printed.