Boxes hold the items that are most dear to the heart, but they also can serve as an element of expression. Fortresses. Castles. Little Princesses rescued from Dragons by Little Princes. Boxes have been an integral part of life even before the recognition for what they truly were; even children use them in their everyday life. The shipping box that once held furniture now holds the Styrofoam swords of overly eager little boys or the Barbie dolls of little girls. This represents the true value that a shipping box can hold in the daily lives of people.
Many innovations are created by mistake. From leaving dirty Petri dishes to transform into the lifesaving creation of penicillin to the sticky atrocity that formed the original bubble gum, the lesson reappears through all of time itself. Not all mistakes remain mistakes, for accidents breed success when learned from and built upon. The cardboard box is only one example of many, but it clearly exemplifies this ideal. Originally titled as “paper boxes,” its creation is awarded to the M. Treverton & Son firm from England in 1817. As a member of their company, Robert Gair accidentally invented the first precut paperboard when a metal ruler mistakenly shifted and sliced the paper, he had attempted to cut to create the so-called paper box. This gave rise the first prefabricated paperboard boxes. Soon to follow were cardboard boxes in the 20th century as people learned how to make the boxes thicker, and thus more structurally sound and reliable. Gair learned from his mistake and bettered upon it, until he invented a fundamental, but often unnoticed, a piece of modern life.
The box is seen through recent history as unassuming, not given enough credit for the work that it allows humans to accomplish. Yet, the advancements, so quickly progressed, are seen today as uneventful, ignoring the true headway that has been made. In today’s world, seeing a truck or train or plane full of boxes seems boring, one event of a day in many. Yet, to think of the story behind not only the boxes but also the items that the boxes are securing for passage, can be illuminating. Boxes keep the things that we hold most dear, safe. They are with us throughout life and allow us to function in a modern-life that would be impossible without. Boxes hold a place in our world that is severely overlooked in everyday life and yet have an established, important role. Their place is a mess of contradictions that will never cease but will still be used to construct the lives of many.
Artwork comes in many forms. Yes, there is the painting by a Picasso passed between museums, packaged securely in boxes, that’s valued at millions, but there’s also the finger painting that a child sent to his grandmother, which is completely priceless. It is a process. The child grabs his favorite paint color; it’s green “just like Grandma’s scarf!” and proceeds to smear out a green stick figure, getting barely any of it on the paper, and most on the table. Yet, he is proud, and declares that it “must be sent to Grandma.” and so, it does. The painting is carefully placed in a box, along with the love of the child, and sent to his grandmother, safe and sound until she receives it and places it onto the mantel. In this story, the focus seems to surround the child, while the crucial role that the box had was left untold. It leaves off the multiple hands that the box passed through, the long train ride through three states and that one time a worker dropped the box, swore, and hoped it wasn’t fragile. And no, the contents weren’t fragile, but rather quite priceless.
Boxes are pivotal in everyday life, waiting in the background to be needed, and I, for one, hope to need them in the future. In the next ten years, my dream of being a Biomedical Engineer will promote the introduction of boxes into my everyday life. Every piece of crucial medical equipment, among other items that are slightly less crucial, will be packaged and kept safe in boxes until the time wherein I can utilize then comes. Experience-wise, I have already gained firsthand knowledge of the necessity of boxes in the medical industry. I have volunteered over seventy hours at a local hospital, performing various activities such performing oshibori to relax the patients, but also, a main task of mine was to unload and carry boxes containing essential supplies that a hospital needs to function. Once again, the purpose of the box was ignored in favor of the supplies inside. Once again, the fact that without the boxes the medical supplies would be in shortage seems insignificant. Yet, this is seemingly untrue.
The box has allowed the increase of shipping globally. It has allowed for e-commerce to explode and change the process of how we shop. This has forced a change in the American economy, and with it, the American people. To exemplify this, without the box, Amazon would not be Amazon. That happy smile when you waited all week for that coat rack to come in and it finally appears on your doorstep, would be non-existent because Amazon and boxes coexist, and Amazon relies completely on the usage of the cardboard box. This only proves to show the truthfulness of the importance of boxes.
But there are more to boxes than just cardboard. The advancements made has made the allowance of metal, plastic, Styrofoam, and any combination of materials, available to the public. The ginormous cargo boats that carry a range of items, from cars to paper goods, in boxes, allow for the crossing of oceans to deliver inventory to happy customers. Packing items, and shipping them, from international shipping to the next town over, remains the safest way for transport. The crystal globe that Great-Grandfather Jim saved from his first marriage will remain completely safe when packaged properly and shipped. The love and memories that make the box, more than just a box, will remain protected and secure.