Friday, October 10, 2008

Earl Tupper

Earl Tupper (1907-1983) is as famous for his invention of the airtight plastic food container Tupperware as he is for the method he used to sell his new invention.

Tupper worked for a year with the plastics manufacturing division of DuPont and then left to form his own company in 1938. His new company did contract work for DuPont and Tupper's big invention came when DuPont and Earl S. Tupper Company began to concentrate on peacetime, everyday use, plastic products. Tupper developed a process to make clean, clear, translucent plastic from polyethylene slag. Out of this new process, he invented an airtight lid for plastic bowls.

The new plastic container was marketed as a give away with cigarettes and while it won design prizes and was seen as a "Wonder Bowl", people were slow to adopt the new method of storing food. It wasn't until Tupper began working with Brownie Wise that his company became a phenomenon. Wise had been selling large quantities of Tupperware at Home Parties, Tupper noticed her large number of sales, quickly hired her as his company's vice president and made Home Parties the exclusive method of selling Tupperware.

Tupper's new invention of an airtight and waterproof plastic bowl and lid set made Tupper a successful inventor, his recognition of a better marketing scheme made him a hugely successful businessman.

Interestingly, afraid of how his children would be taxed if he died as the sole owner of Tupperware, he was advised to change the structure of his company and create a board. Tupper didn't like this idea and instead sold his company for $16 million in 1959 to Rexall Drug Company. Shortly after, Tupper divorced his wife, bought an island in Central America, gave up his US citizenship to avoid taxes and moved to Costa Rica.

MIT's Inventor of the week: Tupper
PBS's American Experience Tupperware!

1 comment:

Will Luther said...

I hope someday I can divorce my wife, buy an island, and give up citizenship in order to avoid theft errr taxes.