Smithsonian Snapshot: The Ubiquitous Lunch Box

Lunch Box collection; Image courtesy Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Beginning in the 1950s, television transformed the lunch box from an ordinary food conveyor into a storyteller. The screen-like sides of the lunch box offered kids a new form of self-expression. Since then, the lunch containers carted to and from offices and school classrooms have reflected American culture. Certainly, no meal received more cultural “attention” than lunch.

Box makers paid for the right to use TV shows to promote lunch box sales. The studios used boxes to gain market exposure. And children acquired a new statement of their power and influence in the emerging world of mass-marketed consumer goods.

This selection of boxes and their drink containers from the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History explores that colorful heritage. And to spice up what may be a loooong day at the office, share with us what your favorite lunch box was while growing up!

Having lived in the DC area for ten years, Ben still loves to wander the city with his wife, shooting lots of photos and exploring all the latest exhibits and galleries. A certified hockey fanatic, he spends some time debating the Washington Capitals club with friends – but everyone knows of his three decade love affair with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A professional writer, gamer, photographer, and Lego enthusiast, Ben remains captivated by DC and doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.

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3 thoughts on “Smithsonian Snapshot: The Ubiquitous Lunch Box

  1. No question: I had a Star Wars lunchbox that was pretty damned awesome.

    Embarrassing truth: I also had an Alf lunch box. Yes. That Alf.

  2. Mine was, to no one’s surprise, a battered Empire Strikes Back metal box. I used it for nearly six years until the thermos’ art wore off completely and rust started taking over the inside lid. Then it got relegated to “dice holder” for my high school gaming days.

    Sadly, it didn’t survive the move to college. Some dingus stole it shortly after I moved in…