by Lori Ritchie
Page after page of 1950s advertisements portrayed American women as
homemakers, equipped with the latest domestic gadgets, freed from the
drudgery of past generations. In reality, many women needed to earn
money to support themselves and their families, yet they had limited
The jobs they could get in factories, on farms, behind store counters,
or as secretaries offered little flexibility for scheduling family
duties, and not much hope for advancement. Many husbands identified
themselves as the breadwinners and expected their wives to stay home.
Home party selling gave women the opportunity to earn money while
working from their homes, serving both the prevailing social code and
a practical need.
Tupperware brand products made their debut in 1946 the start of a
revolutionary post-war period in history. For 50 years, Tupperware
brand products have closely followed roller coaster trends from the
suburban movement to the 60's feminist revolution to '90s "cocooning"
continually adding a unique organizational touch to the lives and
kitchens across the nation.
Just prior to its consumer introduction in 1946, inventor Earl
Tupper's plastics like the materials of many manufacturers were
dedicated to the war effort. The versatility and convenience of
Tupper's "miracle" products helped to launch the plastics revolution
of the next decade.
Tupper's first consumer plastic products the Wonderlier Bowl and Bell
Tumbler offered a unique benefit that traditional food containers did
not they were lighter and less likely to break than traditional glass
With the onset of the post-war "baby boom," women dedicated themselves
to caring for their growing families. The "Tupperized" kitchen was
born ... a kitchen that was well organized and neat, and featured a
variety of containers that replaced unsightly open packages and that
kept food fresh longer.
In 1946, Tupper introduced his legendary airtight seals patterned
after the inverted rim on a can of paint which prevented food from
drying out, wilting or losing its flavor in the now-common
refrigerator. Despite their breakthrough nature, Tupper's products
didn't sell well in retail outlets, primarily because consumers needed
demonstrations in order to understand how they worked.
In response, the first Tupperware Home Party was held in 1948,
introducing an all-new way for Tupperware products to reach consumers.
Demonstrations proved a dramatically effective way of communicating
the benefits of the revolutionary seal.
By 1951, the Tupperware Home Demonstration system was working so well
that all Tupperware products were taken off store shelves to be
distributed in this manner. The direct sales demonstration was a
welcome diversion for women, whose involvement in the community mostly
revolved around their family.
Selling Tupperware products via the party sales method was an
appealing career for these women, who had few career opportunities
after their men returned from the war. As consumers relocated from
large urban centers to homes in the suburbs, backyard barbecues became
a favorite way for families and neighbors to spend leisure time.
The new Tupperware products answered needs created by this popular
pastime. The Party Bowl kept macaroni and egg salads fresh and cold
outdoors, while The Pie Taker provided easy transportation for
homemade desserts. The Dip 'N Serve Serving Tray functioned much the
same way, making it simple to get chips and dip to and from the
backyard or the picnic site.
The '60s were times of social upheaval with the family undergoing
social changes. As two-income families became more common, women
actively pursued career opportunities and Tupperware filled the
ensuing product niche with designs like the Traveling Desk, Drawer
Organizers, and the Plastic Carrying Case.
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