Tupperware: The Promise of Plastic in 1950s America
Reviewed by Elizabeth Skadden, Fri., March 31, 2000
The Promise of Plastic in 1950s America by Allison Clarke
Smithsonian Press, 265 pp., $24.95
Centuries from now, scientists will dig through the layers of our civilization and discover ... Wonder bowls, Ice-Tups popsicle freezers, and other Tupperware -- so much of it that these anthropologists of the future may assume it was used in our religious ceremonies, which wouldn't really be that far off the mark. As Allison Clarke illustrates in her cultural history, Tupperware: The Promise of Plastic in 1950s America, though the small plastic bowls were never worshiped, their advertisement and widespread use helped usher in a new religion: consumerism. Clarke points out that Tupperware really had two progenitors: Earl Tupper, who invented Poly-T-ware as the first step toward a Utopia of "better living through plastic," and Brownie Wise, who created the home party plan. Clarke makes us fully aware that while Tupperware may be a fading memory, the consumerism that it helped foster will be strong for centuries to come.