In 1856 the first known corrugated material was patented for
sweatband lining in top hats. During the following four decades
other forms of corrugated material were used as packaging
material for glass and other products shipped in wooden crates.
Then in 1894 the first corrugated box was made. At this point
production of corrugated was very slow and the market was
skeptical of its use as a dependable shipping material. Over
the next several years it was only used to package lightweight
items delivered locally. However, by 1900 there was a nationwide
network of railroads that made it possible to distribute
products throughout the nation. At this point corrugated
containers were still not a recognized classification by
which to ship goods. The term "contained" meant enclosed
on all sides in wood. Then in 1903 corrugated was approved as
a valid shipping material for a manufacturer of cereal that
had obtained an exception to the official classification.
This initial acceptance jump-started the market for corrugated
production and by 1910 there were an estimated 50 companies
in business making corrugated or solid fiber boxes. While
corrugated lacked the stacking strength of wood it was more
affordable, more readily available, lighter weight, more
uniform in quality, and more adaptable to volume packing, sealing,
and handling. It also offered cushioning and printability advantages.
All of these characteristics were attractive to businessmen
at that time who were eager to take advantage of nationwide distribution.
Corrugated soon became the dominant shipping container and
has adapted to and evolved with change over the years to solidify
and expand its role.