This online exhibition on the history of consumer packaging is an ongoing joint effort between the Hagley Museum and Library and the History Department at the University of Delaware. In the spring semester of 2012, under the guidance of Professor Katherine Grier, eleven graduate students in the UD History Department each wrote a research paper situating a particular product or package within the broader histories of product packaging and American consumer culture. The students found many primary sources, including corporate histories, advertisements, trade magazines, and of course the objects themselves, in the library and archives here at Hagley.

As part of their coursework, each student distilled the eleven papers by theme and drew from their research examples to create the first draft of an exhibit script. Hagley then hired one of the students, John Vanek, to turn the numerous text drafts into the online exhibit you see today. The project is open-ended. When Professor Grier teaches History 867 again, a new group of students will research more objects from the Hagley collections. The new research will then be integrated into the existing website.

Project Credits


Chamberlain, Abbey, “Fresh Frozen: Sara Lee’s Recipe for Success.”

Corrigan, Stephanie, “Fantasies in a Box: The Use of Labels and Lithography to Sell Cigars in Nineteenth Century America.”

Eberle, Chris, “Wawa: Building a Brand of Quality and Freshness.”

Gagnon, Jesse, “From Factory to Kitchen Table: DuPont Cellophane and the Growth of a New Product.”

Guillen, Nalleli, “Establishing ‘California Pure’: Marketing and Selling Sylmar Brand Olive Oil, 1893-1922.”

Hall, Della, “’You Think You Have Gift Problem?’ The Marketing and Packaging of Crown Royal.”

Hlebinsky, Ashley, “Destruction by a ‘Bouffant Bimbo’: El Producto Package Redesign, 1955-1975.”

Huggins, Kelli, “Gambling on Garfield: The Creation of Alpo Cat Food and Its Brand Identity.”

Muskavitch, Laura, “The Ruin of Success: How Palmolive Soap, the Brand, Doomed Palmolive Soap, the Product.”

Pilgrim, Danya, “The N. K. Fairbank and Lever Brothers Companies: A Study in Soap Packaging and Advertising, 1882-1939.”

Vanek, John, “Bottle or Can? The Rheingold ‘Chug-a-Mug’ and Beverage Bottle Innovation in the 1950s and ʼ60s.”

Content Direction and Website Development:

Professor, Department of History and Director, Museum Studies Program:
Kasey C. Grier

Curator of Digital Collections, Hagley Museum and Library:
Kevin Martin

Web Content Developer:
John Vanek