The History of the Lunch Box

America’s love affair with the lunch box dates back to the preindustrial age. Miners realized it wasted time to go home for lunch, so they took their lunches to work in handkerchiefs and metal pails with lids.

Children looked up to their fathers and wanted to have a packed lunch, too. It wasn’t until a little before the 1900s that a proper tin lunch box was fashioned. (Fun fact: The first tin lunch boxes were made from empty tobacco tins!)

In 1935, Mickey Mouse was the first popular character to be featured on a tin lunch box.

original mickey mouse tin lunch box


By the mid-20th century, televisions became more common in households and, therefore, tin lunch boxes featuring children’s favorite shows and other pop culture icons became prevalent.


star wars jungle book tin lunch boxes

It wasn’t until the 1960s that plastic lunch boxes started being sold. In the following years, most plastic lunch boxes were made with insulation covering the plastic to keep the meal’s desired temperature.

Today, things continue to change and the classic lunch box has featured a number of twists. Check out these contemporary lunch containers.

compressible together

This compressible lunch container prevents huge, empty containers from taking up all your cabinet space. When compressed, this lunch box lays flat. When preparing lunch, expand it out and fit an entire meal inside.


thermos meal container

Never underestimate the benefits of having a good quality thermos. Although the original thermos was invented in 1892, it was very tall and narrow—great for hot beverages but not ideal for meals. Many modern thermoses are wider, making it the best container for soup, pasta, rice dishes, or any meal you’re trying to keep warm.


bento box food container

A bento-box-style lunch container is great for storing a full-course meal. The built-in compartments remind users to get their daily intake of all the food groups and that their lunch should be balanced. However, no one’s going to stop you from filling every section with gummy bears!

What a long way the lunch box has come. Whether you’re homeschooled or attend a traditional school, lunchtime can be fun when you change up what you’re having and sport different lunch boxes. Thanks to these nifty containers, lunch will never be boring again.

What is your favorite lunch box memory? Who is your favorite retro lunch box character? Leave your answers in the comments below.

Featured Image – Dee / CC by 2.0


Related Articles

Join our community

Sign up to participate in America’s premier community focused on helping students
reach their full potential.