Box Vox

packaging as content

April 29, 2011

Anthropomorphic Aerosol Can

If you’re searching for something relatively obscure on Google, you sometimes run up against this smug, algorithmic presumption that you must have misspelled it.

Last week, while researching “Muffets” (the round shredded wheat), Google kept insisting that it was surely Muppets that I was looking for. To the point where I was forced to type: muffets -muppets (Muffets, not Muppets, damnit!)

But along the way Google showed me something that I was grateful to see: a 1967 commercial for Linit Fabric Finish spray, featuring an anthropomorphic aerosol can with the familiar Jim Henson/Kermit-the-Frog voice.

Predating Sesame Street’s debut by several years, the spray-can puppet was made by Don Sahlin and the “fair damsel” at the ironing board was played by Jenny O'Hara.

(Sir Linit photo & Henson’s “Linit Man” character sketch, after the fold…) 

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April 28, 2011

Nesting and Shredded Wheat

Nest1

Two ways of nesting with shredded wheat:

1. A nest-shaped shredded wheat biscuit…

“A cup-shaped biscuit having its walls made up of interlaced cereal filaments forming a nest-like structure with a rounded edge, the general course of which is approximately followed by the filaments visable at that edge.”

William Erastus Williams, in 1909

OpenShedNestedBox
2. Shredded wheat biscuits that will nest for more efficient packing…

“… in packing the biscuits in cartons or boxes as illustrated in Figure 2, usually with the convex bottoms up, the biscuits will nest into each other. The biscuits can thus be much more expeditiously and securely packed, and a larger amount of food can be contained in a smaller carton.”

John Leonard Kellogg, in 1916

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

April 27, 2011

Rauschenberg’s Nabisco Shredded Wheat (Cardboard)

NabiscoShreddedWheat Robert Rauschenberg, Nabisco Shredded Wheat (Cardboard), 1971. Cardboard, 70 x 95 x 11 inches.

And since we’ve been focusing so much on Shredded Wheat for the past week or so—(Shredded Week?)—here’s another thing: Robert Rauschenberg’s cardboard wall sculpture, above.

Rauschenberg made quite a few artworks from shipping cartons. This one was made from Nabisco Shredded Wheat shipping cartons. Like Warhol, he’s also used Kellogg’s Cornflakes shipping cartons.

KelloggsCornflakesCardBird1 Robert Rauschenberg, Cardbird I, 1971, Offset lithograph, screenprint, tape, and polyethylene collage on corrugated cardboard, 45 x 30 in. / 115.3 x 76.2 cm., Edition of 75

Cardboard 1, however, is not an actual cardboard box at all, but a trompe’l'oeil reproduction of one…

The Cardbird series is a tongue-in-cheek visual joke. It is in fact a printed mimic of cardboard constructions. The labour intensive process remains invisible to the viewer – the artist created a prototype cardboard construction which was then photographed and the image transferred to a lithographic press and printed before a final lamination onto cardboard backing.

from the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010

A similar concept was later used by Peter Blake in his 2005 “Fag Packets” print series.

(Another of Rauschenberg’s trompe’l'oeil cardboard concepts, after the fold…)

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April 26, 2011

Scott H. Perky’s Symmetrical Typeface Patent

 

PerkyFont

 

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In addition to inventing round shredded wheat, Scott H. Perky also patented an audacious font concept in 1909. Citing the inefficiencies of reading only from left to right, Perky proposed a symmetrical font that would allow books to be typeset in lines of alternating direction…

The invention consists in certain means of printing alternate lines, whereby the reading can be done from left to right and from right to left in a continuous manner, and the skipping from end of one line to the opposite end of the next is avoided.

It is hardly necessary to allude to the strain upon the eyes and brain, which results from much reading. To students, researchers and others whose lives are cast among books, any device which promises to … lessen fatigue of the optical tract, and consequent headache and brain fag, will appear of unusual importance. In ordinary reading … the brain is exerted through the eyes in movements from left to right with alternate senseless skippings from right to left …

In carrying out this invention it is designed to use a font of type, whereof each… letter, number or other character… is of symmetrical form… and is thus adapted to present the same appearance whether read backward or forward…

In reading print of this character… difficulty will at first be found owing to the unaccustomed appearance of the symmetrical characters, but in a limited amount of time, the mind becomes familiar with them and this trouble will disappear. And in the continuous hold of the eye and mind on the text, as the reading proceeds, without skipping or losing place or connection, will be found much compensation.

from the text of Patent No. 921,156

Note: the highlighted phrase “brain fag” is no typo: 

The term “brain fag” was used in the US as far back as 1852, describing an overworked brain, in 1877 to describe mental exhaustion in professionals similar to neurasthenia, and later in 1919 to describe mental fatigue in the elderly. The term ‘fag’ is believed to have been derived from ‘fatigue’. This American usage declined by the 1950s.

from Wikipedia entry on Brain Fag

The other phrase “senseless skippings” is highlighted because I thought it was kind of poetic for a patent.

(The first 3 lines of Perky’s patent, set in his patented font, after the fold…)

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April 25, 2011

Muffets: Son of Shredded Wheat

Muffets-hex1 SideHexMuffet
In addition to the cereal cup shown at the end of last Thursday’s post, another food that Scott H. Perky (son of Shredded Wheat inventor, Henry D. Perky) invented was “Muffets: The Round Shredded Wheat.” (AKA: “The All-Year-Round Cereal”)

I was twelve when shredded wheat was born, and worked and played in father’s laboratory. I grew up under the influence of his enthusiasms, worked in every department of his factory, made some inventions of my own, and in 1920 invented Muffets. Now I am, myself, conservatively but with great hopes, introducing what I consider the first new departure since my father’s in the line of popular “cereals.”

Scott H. Perky
from a letter to the editor,
Time Magazine, Jan. 21, 1929

Just as Henry Perky’s Shredded Wheat Company was eventually bought out by Nabisco, so too was son, Scott Perky’s Muffets Brand bought out by Quaker Oats.

This 1930s hexagonal box (via Worthpoint) must be one of the earliest versions of the Quaker Oats Muffets box. A package design with a number interesting features:

a. It’s a close-packing hexagonal prism.

b. It has a faux die-cut window revealing a trompe l’oeil illustration of the product contained within.

c. The biscuits illustration also serves as an orthographic diagram of the package contents (albeit from just one angle).

d. At one end of the box there is a seal-of-approval type graphic burst, guaranteeing that “if you do not agree that these are the best whole wheat biscuits you have ever used we shall gladly remit the cost of this package.”

e. On the bottom panel (not pictured here) the ingredients are listed: “Whole Wheat, Irradiated Dry Yeast. Each Biscuit provides 50% of the Minimum Daily Requirement of Vitamin D”

In 1923, Harry Steenbock and James Cockwell discovered exposure to ultraviolet light increased the Vitamin D concentration in food. After discovering that irradiated rat food cured the rats of rickets, Steenbock sought a patent. Steenbock then assigned the patent to the newly established Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. WARF then licensed the technology to Quaker Oats for use in their breakfast cereals.

from Wikipedia’s entry on the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

According to Wikipedia, Irradiated food does not become radioactive, but in some cases there may be subtle chemical changes…”

At the other end of the box is a serving tip about how you can cut out the centers to use the biscuits as “patty shells.” Nowhere on the package do the words “breakfast” or “cereal” appear.

(Some later versions of Quaker Oats Muffets packaging, after the fold…)

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April 22, 2011

Easter Egg Carton Brooch Buyer’s Guide

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We provide this information as a public service for anyone who is in the market for package-related holiday jewelry.

Photos above, of the 1981 Hallmark Easter egg-carton brooch, are from Ruby Lane. What’s that got to do with the price of eggs? Nothing, in this case, since their listing is no longer online… but keep hunting below and our oddly specific buyer’s guide may prove helpful to your search.

EasterEggCartonPin4

On eBay… Buy it Now Price = US $9.95

EasterEggCartonPin3

On eBay… Sold for US $10.50

EasterEggPin2

On eBay… Sold for US $5.86

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

April 22, 2011

Egg-Shaped Earth Day

Since today is simultaneously Earth Day and Good Friday, I was looking for a way to somehow connect the earth and (Easter) eggs.

If you search online for “egg-shaped earth,” you’ll find lots of stock photos, mostly of cracked egg-shaped earths meant, I suppose, to symbolize the fragility of life on our planet. (Some even have their yokes spilling out.)

Not wanting to add anything to this already polluted metaphor (planet earth with botchulism?) it was more interesting to me to learn that there is a whole “egg-shaped earth controversy” surrounding a particular translation of the Qur'an. Hence, the video above.

Not everyone is buying it, however. Scientists insist:

The Earth is not quite spherical, due to what is know as “rotational flattening.” It’s not egg-shaped, either, it’s shaped more like a pumpkin.

Earth: Round or Egg-Shaped, Newton Ask a Scientist

Clearly, we’ll have to revisit this topic on Halloween.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

April 21, 2011

Cereal Cups: Then & Now

CerealCups

Shredded Wheat cereal cups. Two kinds…

Then:
Henry D. Perky, the inventor of Shredded Wheat, also designed an edible “cereal cup.” His 1895 patent is vague about what it was meant to actually contain, but I’m guessing something other-than-cereal.

CerealCupPatent

Now:
Now when we say “cereal cup” we mean plastic cups containing a single serving of cereal. Although these packages are too small to hold Perky’s original, full-size shredded wheat biscuits, they can and do accommodate Mini-Wheats. (See: KFoodService EU Pack, Cereal to Go and I Am Breakfast)

CerealCupArray

(Another “cereal cup” patent, after the fold…)

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April 20, 2011

Anthropomorphic Shredded Wheat Box

SheddedWheatElfinBox

And speaking of Shedded Wheat… naturally there’s an anthro-pack. An anthropomorphic elfin baker/box from a 1924 magazine ad. ($6.50 at ioffer.com)

Elfin packaging mascots do not seem to be as poplular these days as they once were. Keebler elves notwithstanding.

(See also: The Grape Nuts Anthro-Pack)

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

April 19, 2011

Shredded Wheat Documents:
Cereal as Intellectual Property

SheddedWheat

Patented in 1895 by Henry Perky, Shredded Wheat was initially denounced as tasteless by John Kellogg: like “eating a whisk broom.”

PerkyPatent

As Perky found success in manufacturing the cereal, however, Kellogg did offer to buy him out, but for too low a price.

Perky died in 1908 and the “Shredded Wheat Company” continued as exclusive manufacturers of the biscuits until Perky’s utility patents expired in 1912…

BiscuitPatent

At this point Kellogg’s began to manufacture their own version of Shredded Wheat and a series of litigations began, culminating in the landmark “Kellogg Co. v. National Biscuit Co.

The Shredded Wheat Company was acquired by the National Biscuit Company in 1930, and two years later Nabisco brought yet another suit, which six years later would reach the Supreme Court …

The Court’s analysis.. compared the size, form and color of the cereal cartons in which each company sold its biscuits, and noted the use (and size and prominence) of a house mark by Kellogg to differentiate its product. Indeed, the Court went so far as to assess the post-sale market such as restaurants, in which (because the carton was not present) the size and appearance of the competing biscuits themselves were crucial. Kellogg’s biscuit was only two thirds of the size of Nabisco’s biscuit, and slightly different in appearance…

…the Kellogg Court found both the term SHREDDED WHEAT and the pillow shape of the biscuits to be generic…

The Story of Kellogg Co. v. National Biscuit Co.: Breakfast with Brandeis

(For more about John Kellogg, see: Bobby Grossman’s Corn Flakes, Die Originalen)

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design