The egg carton is a marvel of ingenuity

Barry Evans
Barry Evans

This year, 2019, is now very old and makes one want to reminiscence about things that have happened in the past – not just 2019 although many things have happened in this year as well.  For some reason there seems to be a need to think about inventions on my part.  Everybody has heard about big inventions like the cotton gin, the steam engine, and even the atomic bomb.  However, what about the inventions that are found useful in everyday life but which nobody ever wonders who came up with them in the first place.  There are most likely tons of people out there through history who have never received the credit which they deserved.

Take the illustrious egg carton for example. How many pumpkin pies do you think The Blonde in the house might be able to make if eggs just came in a sack or you had to carry them home in your pockets? Eggs obviously need shelter and protection. But for centuries no one gave a darn and by the time folks got home with eggs bouncing around in a pocket or swinging along in a sack (or poke as they used to be called), the homemaker would be lucky to have enough eggs for one pie let alone two.

Have you ever really taken a good long look at an egg carton? It is a marvel of ingenuity! Someone obviously put an extreme amount of thought when it was first designed. I would imagine that there were some failures along the way with eggs getting smooshed due to a bad design. Then, someone figured out the proper way to coddle each egg so that it would have a useful life in providing substance to the general public. However, that was just the beginning. Even though the proper design was available, there became a necessity to manufacture the cartons.

Thus, we now have another unknown inventor! (OK, perhaps his/her mother knew, but folks probably just supposed that she was bragging). The egg carton inventor first had to figure out what material to use. Plastic probably had not even been invented then so he/she had to figure out what kind of paper to use and how to shape it. Some folks who think about these type of things believe that the inventor started with old newspapers.  Newspapers were good for wrapping fish so why not eggs? Obviously, that did not work as when they had the paper boy throw them on the porch most usually were crunched. Besides the newspapers could not maintain the design the first inventor had established.

It is said over campfires that were prominent in older days (before Smokey the Bear was around) that the first person to try and make an egg carton flipped his lid.  Apparently, he spent the rest of his life sneaking into hen houses to break eggs with a rolled up newspaper.  They say that in old hen houses in Rhode Island where Rhode Island Red chickens used to live that on a dark and foggy night you can hear sounds from the hen houses of a rolled up newspaper swatting and the following crunch of eggs.  Most folks stay away from those hen house, believe me!

However, as is usual with the advance of human kind some genius of a person did figure out how to manufacture the egg cartons that we all cherish today.  No one knows the inventor’s name (except perhaps the mother), but we all owe that person our humble thanks  Now if someone can explain to me why if you open the filled egg carton at the store you will find eggs sitting there in their un-cracked state.  However, if you do not look, there will undoubtedly be one or more that are cracked.  Since it is usually the husband who doesn’t look, this can provide some serious home discussions.

Oh well, very few inventions are perfect. Who knows what the egg carton will be like in another hundred years!

Barry Evans writes about Life in The Villages for