Earl S. Tupper Drinking Cups 1946

  • Not on view

These containers, used for holding and pouring liquids, are part of a line of products called Tupperware. Tupperware is made of nonbreakable plastic that is molded and shaped by a machine. Their unique feature is an air-and-water-tight seal that prevents liquids from spilling and food from going bad. How are these similar to or different from other storage containers you’ve used?

Kids label from 2023
Additional text

“And because you can see what’s inside,” a 1950s television ad for Tupperware pitched, “no more forgotten leftovers.” Inspired by the seal of paint-can lids, Tupper used by-products from the oil refining industry to create his first airtight plastic container, later branded as Tupperware, in 1938. His Tupperware Plastics Company developed a line of plastic homeware that was mainly sold at Tupperware House Parties, an innovative sales strategy developed by American businesswoman Brownie Wise. Made of clear or colored plastic in varying transparencies, Tupperware promised consumers extended freshness and provided a glimpse of the food these containers helped preserve.

Gallery label from 2023

In 1947 Tupper, an inventor and chemist at DuPont, designed the unique air- and watertight Tupper Seal for containers to prevent both spilling and food spoilage. He used this feature to enhance his range of polyethylene Welcome Ware, devised years earlier. The result—Tupperware—became a powerful symbol of suburban domestic life in the 1950s. In addition to its cutting-edge material and form, Tupperware's innovative marketing secured its success. Brownie Wise, a single mother who ultimately became vice president of the company, developed the hostess party model that gave housewives the chance to earn money independently.

Gallery label from What Was Good Design? MoMA's Message 1944–56, May 6, 2009–January 10, 2011
Manufactured by Tupper Corporation, Farnumsville, MA
Each: 2 7/8 x 4" (7.3 x 10.2 cm)
Gift of the manufacturer
Object number
Architecture and Design

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