Tupper Millionaire Line, set of cups and saucers in rack, 1954

Two sets of long-handled spoons, 1954.

The American Dream of the Post World War II American Housewife

Welcome Ware, green tray, ca. 1942.

Welcome Ware, blue Party Susan bowl with compartments and handle, ca. 1942.

Tupperware catalogue , cover, 1965.

Promotion brochure for Tupperware dealer, 1962.

Tupperware catalogue , cover, 1958.

Flower vase, ca. 1960, with pierced grid to hold flowers in place.

 

 

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
Stadhouderslaan 41
31-(0)70-3381111
Den Haag
Tupperware
plastic fantastic

April 3 -August 15, 2010

There she stands, smiling out at you from the kitchen sink. Perhaps a bit less voluptuous and definitely a lot more lady-like than Marilyn Monroe, but equally blonde and slim-waisted: happy, successful and a good housewife! This is Tupperware’s American Dream as it was born in the late 1940s and can still be seen in advertisements from that period. The success of Tupperware was due in the first instance to the genius of Earl Tupper (1907-1983); his Tupper Plastics company began life manufacturing parts for gas masks and navy signal lamps. Soon, however, it switched to producing practical, no-nonsense plastic containers, beakers, cutlery and other household products, marketed in a way which — amazingly enough — actually contributed to women’s liberation.

Tupperware’s commercial success was due in large part to saleswoman Brownie Wise (1913-1992). It was she who invented the famous Tupperware party plan, a totally new idea which allowed housewives to achieve their own income by selling Tupperware. They could look after their families all day and work in the evening at the famous Tupperware parties, selling plastic containers to other women in an unthreatening domestic setting. Selling Tupperware was an innocent and acceptable occupation. It helped make women in America stronger and more independent, as witness a period poster showing a cheerful young housewife who has made enough money selling Tupperware to buy a brand-new car.

Tupperware is an industrial product made to serve as a practical adjunct to domestic life. The company’s success has never been due to any contribution by high-flying designers or any luxury image. Tupperware is attractive and convenient. Its simple cheerfulness is the great strength of the well-known plastic utensils, with their usually rounded forms and pastel colours like mint green and pink. As the exhibition shows, the company’s range exhibits great uniformity of design, but not of colour: many of the objects recur time after time in ever-changing hues.

Tupperware is a splendid example of how a plastics manufacturer could exploit the positive post-war mood to become a company capable of contributing to the emancipation of women and the development of American society. This spring, the Gemeentemuseum shows how Tupperware from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s — with original packaging and publicity materials — became part of the American Dream and the cultural history of the Western World.

Welcome Ware, red recipe box, ca. 1942

Tupper Millionaire Line, salt and pepper shakers, with donkey stand, ca. 1955.

Welcome Ware, milk beaker advertising Borden’s Starlac. The heart of milk ca. 1950.

Tupperware catalogue , cover, 1958.

Tupperware advertisement, 1960.

Tupperware catalogue, 1958.

 

Tupperware business card, 1961