From Moving to a Movement: The Cardboard Box

The cardboard box is an object that transcends everyday use. Simply put, cardboard is used for a wide array of things from storing those bland corn flakes everyone pretends to like (as well as the sugary ones you hide from guests and the kids) to constructing small brown models of everything under the sun. The cardboard box is truly a symbol of our time. From industry of the 20th century into the modern age, carboard has marched through history with triumph earned through hard work and sweat. The box, with its sturdy but cheap construction, shows that we have the knowledge and resources to create useful items AND provide those items for nearly everyone under the sun.

If we were to send an object into space that perfectly represented modern man, that object would be the cardboard box. Almost anything in the world made by our hands could be stored inside a cardboard box. Almost everything you purchase is stored inside a cardboard box. By the end of your move, I’m sure you will be tired of staring at the never-ending ocean of tans and browns, but the box itself has an interesting history almost as varied and complex as its many uses. Today, we will go into the history and the legacy of the most common moving item, though it may very well be the most common item in general.

Seven-Score and Many Moves Ago

In the heart of Brooklyn almost 150 years ago, a printer and paper bag maker by the name of Robert Gair accidently created a folding carton made of paperboard. By some divine intervention, Gair was using a ruler to crease his bag when it slipped, cutting into the bag. In that moment, he held his newfound creation into the air and light shone on it through the dusty New York window. Gair exclaimed “I have single handedly revolutionized industry, but absolutely no one is going to know how to properly collapse these things before throwing them away.” Gair may not have been so privy to the eventual success of his invention, but he went on to get into the corrugated fiberboard shipping container business at the start of the new century.

At around the same time in history, flaked cereals took off, launching Mr. Kellogg and his brand into household fame. With this newly successful food item, there had to be a cheap and efficient way to supply the American people with the corn flakes they so desperately craved (Fruity and chocolaty cereal wasn’t a thing yet). In a time when people used water instead of milk in their cereal, Kellogg had the bright idea to opt for the beautiful invention known as the cardboard box. At the time, the sealed wax bag that now holds the cereal directly was on the outside of the box. The world is weird sometimes.

The name for the cardboard box is a bit of a misnomer, mostly because an item known as “cardboard” doesn’t exist. Cardboard is a state of mind, man. The term is used to describe materials of different sorts, which explains why boxes that house electronics and the boxes used to ship produce look completely different but are still referred to as “cardboard.” While the word may have been used well before in common speech, the first time the word appeared in print was in Anne Brontë’s novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It is the lesser known sister, but this still counts as an interesting fact. Right?

The Storage Legacy

            Sometimes when you combine something awesome, like cardboard, with awesome people, you get some fantastic things. The simplicity and durability of such a common item (as well as its widespread use) has set the invention up for many ventures beyond its days of packing up corn flakes and guest-appearing in sub-par Victorian novels. Here you can see a perfectly sane man jumping 2,500 ft. into a giant pile of cardboard, without a parachute. Gary Connery didn’t make the cardboard box extreme. He simply reminded us that it is. If you’re more tech savvy, cardboard has entered the world of virtual reality with the Google Cardboard, which is essentially a pair of goggles made from cardboard with a place where you can put your cell phone to experience ‘virtual reality’ videos you always see on your news feed.

I think I have made it clear that cardboard is inherently cool, but it’s also there to warm your heart and give comfort to your best friend. The cardboard box is the perfect toy and makeshift home for your household cat, providing hours of entertainment for both you and the overjoyed feline. The invention goes beyond species and touches even the animal kingdom. This behavior isn’t just found in the common pet cat, but large cats also display curiosity and affection for the boxes. No one can disagree that this was why the internet was made.

The cardboard box is there in every area of our life, so of course it is there during one of the most stressful times of your life: your move. It shoulders some of the burdens, not strong enough to carry them alone, but doing the absolute best with the material the factory gave them. In storage, the boxes wait, keeping watch over your belongings and, maybe snuggled inside the metal of a Mobile Attic Storage container. They are the silent guardians and unspoken heroes of the moving process. You may be tired of seeing that endless beige, but the cardboard box is always there for you. Just relax and get lost in the endless waves of corrugation. ~JB

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