History of Product Packaging

Today, packages are everywhere. Food, beverages, electronics, and appliances all come in some sort of packaging. Our trash is full of containers that carried consumer goods from the store into our homes.

From factory to market, market to home, and home to landfill, modern packages have been carefully designed for every step. Packages not only store and protect goods, they help sell them. Each box, bottle, can, tube, bag, and jar serves as a silent salesman on the store shelf. At the same time, packaging is designed for efficient transportation and disposal.

New technological processes and innovative new materials have repeatedly changed what could be packaged and how those packages could be sold. However, despite companies’ best efforts to build strong brands and remain at the cutting edge of technology, new packages are not always successful, and all packages have a lifespan.

Where do product packages fit into the history of advertising and branding? To changes in technology? To the growth of consumerism? To shifting social values? Explore this exhibit to discover the history of consumer packages in the United States over the last 150 years.

Hagley Library | UD History | UD Museum Studies