Introduction: In this article, Gena Philibert-Ortega writes about a phenomenon of the 1950s and 1960s: housewives hosting Tupperware parties. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.”
A recent episode (Season 4, episode 3) of the Netflix series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel featured Mrs. Maisel (Midge) hosting a Tupperware party. This season of the series, set in 1960, would have been a decade into women holding Tupperware parties. Tupperware provided women a chance to earn money selling a product that everyone could use, and the flexibility they needed to conveniently earn some money long before telecommuting and online meetings were a thing.
Tupperware was invented in 1946 by chemist Earl Tupper. His idea for non-breakable plastic containers included a lid that was based on a paint can lid and allowed a seal that guaranteed nothing would leak. The rest, as they say, is history. The following five facts tell more of the Tupperware story.
(1) Not Every Plastic Container Is Tupperware
Tupperware, named after its inventor Earl Tupper, is synonymous with plastic kitchen storage containers. Today, people refer to almost any kitchen container as Tupperware, like they refer to all photocopy machines as Xerox. But in reality, there are other companies that manufacture plastic storage items. At the time that Tupper invented his containers, food leftovers were stored in non-sealable containers made out of glass and other breakable materials, or metal.
(2) Tupperware Was Originally Sold in Stores
Most people are familiar with Tupperware parties – but before the home parties, Tupperware was like any other retail item: it was sold in stores. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a success. Independent saleswoman Brownie Wise started offering Tupperware at home parties and selling the plastic containers directly to consumers. This allowed her to demonstrate the product and show women how the containers benefitted them, in their home.
Learning of her success, Earl Tupper collaborated with Brownie and the Tupperware party sales force was born. But the success of the long-standing home parties doesn’t mean that Tupperware didn’t find itself back in stores at some point. In 2001 Tupperware could be found at some Target stores, but by the Fall of 2003 the program stopped.
(3) Help Wanted
Today, you might become a Tupperware consultant by contacting Tupperware or talking to another consultant – but in the early days, help wanted ads in the newspaper helped Tupperware get its start. These advertisements for business opportunities invited interested parties (women weren’t always specified) to contact Earl Tupper and provide information about qualifications. The mention of a possible income of $500 a week, equivalent to over $5,000 today, must have been quite inviting in post-war 1949.
As mentioned above, Brownie Wise began giving home parties selling Tupperware. She also placed newspaper advertising looking for women to help build her party business idea.
Brownie used all kinds of tactics to show the usefulness of Tupperware, including tossing a bowl filled with water at her parties to demonstrate the lid’s unique seal.
Because of her success in selling the product, Earl Tupper invited Brownie to join the company in 1951.
(4) The Party Has Gone from the Home to Social Media
The first Tupperware parties were held in homes, but today you can choose a home party or a virtual one via social media. Anyone can attend an online party, and best of all you don’t need to clean your house. The only bad part is you miss out on the food and demonstrations of how different pieces can be used.
(5) There’s a Tupperware Code
Newer Tupperware has coded bottoms that help you know what is dishwasher, freezer, microwave, and food safe. This article from “Taste of Home” explains what symbols to look for and what they mean.
My Favorite Tupperware Piece
I’m a big fan of Tupperware and have some favorite pieces. Probably the one I love the most is called the “Pick-A-Deli Keeper,” but most likely you, like me, refer to it as the pickle keeper. The selling point of this product is that you don’t have to reach into the cold juice of a pickle jar to fish out that one pickle you want for lunch. This product allows you to pull the pickles out of the juice and then place them back again. Although you might think of it as a pickle keeper, you can use it for olives, mozzarella, tofu, jalapenos, or really any marinated foods. You can also use it to store snacks like carrot or celery sticks.
What’s your favorite Tupperware piece? Did you ever host a party? Did you sell Tupperware? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
Note: An online collection of newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, is not only a great way to learn about the lives of your ancestors – the old newspaper articles also help you understand American history and the times your ancestors lived in, the activities they engaged in, and the news they talked about and read in their local papers.
23 thoughts on “Your Ancestor’s Party: 5 Facts about Tupperware”
My favorite is the “That’s a bowl!” They are huge and I have 2, great for summer salads.
Terri, “That’s a Bowls” are great!
Thanks for reading my article and commenting.
I’ve been to only one Tupperware party, but am happy that the products can be run through the bottom rack of the dishwasher. I did not know about the codes. I read a book on Brownie Wise and watched a documentary. Poor lady! An early memory of mine is the TV commercial with the lock on the lettuce –- for “locking in freshness.” It terrified me and gave me nightmares! I would see the print ad in magazines and horror would shiver through me. I have no idea why!!
Sara, well the locking in of freshness helped Tupperware set itself apart. Funny that it terrified you!
Thanks for sharing your memories and for reading the article. I appreciate it!
As a current Tupperware consultant, I LOVE these articles that showcase the amazing product! Facebook parties are a big thing and I LOVE to showcase this kind of content. Thanks for this wonderful lesson on the history of Tupperware. P.S. The Fridgesmarts are my favorite product!
Thanks for reading and commenting on the article Janet. I bet social media has really changed the opportunities Tupperware consultants have to share with customers. Very different than the old days of only in-person parties. I love Tupperware history and was excited to share a few facts.
Slightly off-topic, but the show “Eerie Indiana” had a family that slept in “Foreverware” and they never aged. I thought that was a take on Tupperware.
Jean, based on some of my Google searches it appears you’re right. Thanks for sharing that!
My favorite piece is a cake keeper with removable carry handle. The keeper belonged to my Mom and I use it all the time. It works great keeping a layer cake fresh. You can turn it over with the dome on the bottom and use the bottom as the lid to store a couple batches of cookies. I also have a really large Tupperware mixing bowl that I mix my Thanksgiving stuffing in every year. It also belonged to my Mom. Thanks for bringing back such great memories with this article.
Diana, thank you for sharing memories of your mom and her Tupperware!
In 1964 when my husband was an officer in the Marine Corps, I gave a Tupperware party and invited the squadron wives. Everybody came, and I was crowned The “Tupperware Queen”! I was given a set of ceramic lunch dishes, several other items, and a rolling serving cart. (I still have the serving cart!) The next day one of the wives called me and asked if I had read “The Officer’s Wife’s Handbook.” No, I said, I wanted a copy but my husband insisted that I “knew all that stuff” and didn’t need the book. Then she explained: “One of the rules is: when an officer’s wife invites, you have to go!” Was my face red! No wonder I was the Tupperware Queen! After 58 years, I still have most of my Tupperware. The piece I’ve used the most is the lettuce keeper or salad keeper. Always loved Tupperware, but that was a party I’ll never forget!
Paula, what a great story! Thanks for sharing that. I will say that I like the idea of a Tupperware Queen. 🙂
I still have several containers left from the 60s: the one I use the most is my spaghetti keeper. I think there was an insert that measured it for serving, but it’s gone. I have 3 nesting bowls and 4 rectangle container keepers… for everything! I still have or did some bottoms that needed new lids -– which you used to be able to get. I may have gotten rid of them since they were useless w/o proper lids. The half-gallon liquid keeper now stores my rice -– I use it every day.
Guess you could say I’m a Tupperware fan! 🙂
Susan, Tupperware did have a policy that they would replace broken or damaged pieces. Not sure that they do today. But in some cases, they wouldn’t have those older pieces. I think your experience really speaks to the longevity of Tupperware which makes it a favorite brand for so many.
Thanks for sharing your experience.
I have hosted Tupperware parties since late 50s. My cabinets are full of pieces which are still used daily.
When we were abroad for 4 years, new people I met always wondered if I sold Tupperware because I brought so many with me!
One thing I wish that would be available, and it may be, is to have a consultant come in to the home and pair each piece with a seal. Over the years I have misplaced some, but wouldn’t know what size or name to order.
Priscilla, that’s a LOT of Tupperware parties! You could contact Tupperware to ask what consultants offer. They may not have those seals for older pieces but I will say that I find Tupperware in antique stores so that’s a possibility for older pieces.
Thanks for taking the time to comment on my article.
I collect Tupperware. I collect the pastels from the 1950s and the bold colors of the 1970s. I have some baby spoons that 3 generations of babies have used. I have some of my mom’s original pieces and some of my own. I especially love the 1970s toy dishes and baking sets. When I got married in the early 1970s, everyone I knew had a Tupperware bridal shower. I have given at least 2-5 parties in my lifetime. I think we even had one when my daughter got married in 1993.
Chali, I loved reading about your collection. I had someone else I know tell me that they had a Tupperware bridal shower too.
Thanks for taking the time to share your memories!
I sold Tupperware back in the day. It paid off GREAT for me. It was a perfect job for this mother with two little boys. My boys helped pack orders at the end of the week. It was the perfect first job for them as they earned their allowance. They learned a lot.
Jo Ann, it is the perfect job for so many moms. Thanks for sharing your experience!
I remember my mother having Tupperware parties far back as the 1970s. I was just a child but loved to sit in on the demonstrations. Much later, I learned Earl Tupper was also from our (then) hometown of Shirley, Massachusetts. As a child I thought that made our little town famous. It didn’t of course, not by a long shot. Here’s an article about his time there if you’re interested: https://shirleyhistory.org/about/shirley-families/tupper/#:~:text=Earl%20Silas%20Tupper%20was%20born,operated%20a%20small%20family%20farm : accessed 16 May 2022.
I loved your piece. It was fascinating to read more of his history and how the at-home parties got started.
Thank you for sharing!
Thank you Missy! I read that article and it definitely provides more information about Earl Tupper and his life. I appreciate you providing the link.
Thank you for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it.
My cupcake carrier is still in mint condition after 45 years of service. A group of us used to have frequent Tupperware parties, and every hostess made fantastic desserts for her guests. My specialty was vanilla layer cake topped with sugary boiled frosting and grated coconuts. Yum!