We know that quite a bit of what Americans see as Chinese food is not really Chinese. In China, you won’t get fortune cookies at the end of a meal, and you won’t find General Tso’s Chicken on the menu, either. And now we learn that the ubiquitous folding takeout box we are so familiar with isn’t Chinese, either!
The design was patented by an American named Frederick Weeks Wilcox in 1894. But the box wasn’t for Chinese takeout at all. Its purpose was to carry oysters. The oyster pail was designed to be waterproof, easy to assemble, and able to allow steam to escape from the top. When it was invented, oysters were sold all over New York City, because they were plentiful and therefore affordable. The transition to carrying Chinese food in them happened due to changes in the oyster market and in the rise of Chinese restaurants occurring at the same time. Today, it’s hard to think of anything else when we see that small folded paper box with its distinct bucket shape. Read how the Chinese takeout box came about at The Dieline. -via Kottke
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