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Our subject for today is corrugated cardboard.

It was on this day, 19 December* back in 1871 that New Yorker Albert Jones received the first US patent for corrugated paper board, which he proposed as a packing and shipping material. A similar form of paper corrugation had been patented years earlier, in 1856, in England, where it was used as a liner for tall hats, but Albert Jones’ patent was the first that specifically proposed it as an improved packing material.

Corrugated cardboard - simple and clever, like all the best inventions.(© All Rights Reserved)

Corrugated cardboard – simple and clever, like all the best inventions.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Jones’ original patent was for a single-face corrugation, that is, a sheet of corrugated paper lined on one side with flat cardboard paper. Oliver Long soon updated and expanded the Jones patent by patenting corrugation with lining on both sides – basically the standard cardboard packing box as we know it today.

It took a while for the concept to catch on, but by 1890 corrugated cardboard boxes were in general use. It was initially used for packaging breakable material like glass and pottery, and by the mid-20th century it had become cheap enough to be used for packing fruit and fresh produce, reducing the bruising of the fruit going from the farm to the market.

Eventually, corrugated cardboard has become so commonplace that it is pretty much ubiquitous as the preferred material for boxing and packing. In fact, it’s really hard to imagine a world without it, isn’t it?

*Some sources say the patent was issued on 20 December, but most seem to agree on 19 December being the correct date.

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