Bob Linden, author of “The Classification of Violin Shaped Bottles” with some of his viobots (and also a few “banjobots”)

Another type of figural glass bottle: violin shaped bottles or “viobots.”

Photos above mostly from, except for the Bard’s Town Whisky bottle on the right, which is from Fantomaster’s Flickr Photostream; the lower right bottle contains maple syrup and a couple of the photos, I think, were from eBay

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Greenhead Fly Traps

Our greenhead fly Trap
Like everyone else around here, we’ve outfitted our greenhead fly trap (above) with re-purposed packaging

Greenhead fly traps…

On the rare occasions that we go away for the weekend, the place we usually go is to the marshlands of south Jersey on the Delaware bay. Reed’s Beach is a nature preserve and a critical stopover for migratory birds en route to arctic breeding grounds. (See

Because it’s a nature preserve, it cannot be developed any further. The houses on stilts and the trailers that were already there can stay, but no new construction is permitted.

For bird watchers this place is some kind of Mecca, and for a few weeks in May while the horseshoe crabs are spawning and the red knots & ruddy turnstones are feeding—(although not so much now as in the past)—the beach is closed to humans.

One regrettable feature of life in Reed’s Beach and similar wetlands communities, are the greenhead flies.

Adult flies mate on the open marsh. Within a few days and without seeking a blood meal, the female lays her first egg mass, consisting of 100 to 200 eggs. To produce additional egg masses, the female needs a blood meal…

Adult female greenheads move from the salt marsh to nearby wooded or open areas along the marsh edge to seek suitable blood sources. There they await and attack wildlife, livestock, and people that venture close enough for them to detect.

Females live for three to four weeks in the uplands before they become too weak to bite. Because of this long life, larger numbers of blood hungry flies build up in areas near salt marshes. The physical removal of large numbers of flies can reduce this buildup and thus decrease the greenhead fly problem locally.

The Greenhead and You
Elton Hansens and Stuart Race, Rutgers University

It was Elton Hansens and Stuart Race (quoted above) who designed the greenhead fly trap that we use. The original plans (below) call for a dark black box, open at the bottom with screen at the top into which a couple of hole with cone shapes guide the flies to the top —(they naturally tend to fly upwards towards-the-light)—where they are invariably imprisoned in packaging.


The original instructions mentions using “transparent shoe boxes” but as a DIY necessity, individuals here will use will just use whatever packaging is at hand: bottles, jars, takeout food containers, etc. One innovation that everyone seems to be onboard with: the neck of a PVC bottle makes a good cone and is easier than fashioning a cone from screening, as the original design stipulated.

(See some more examples, after the fold…)

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Gun-Shaped Bottles

Gun-shaped Hijos de Villa Tequila bottle: the lower photo (above) is from Eddie Quinones’s Flickr Photostream

The gun-shaped Hijos de Villa Tequila bottle was getting a lot of attention online last year. Old news from Johnny-come-lately, Box Vox, right? I know, but looking into it now, I’m a little surprised at how many other gun-shaped, glass bottles there are to be found. Some of which are even older.

These two gun-shaped candy bottles are from Ruby Lane. (Vintage packaging from the days when kids were encouraged to play with guns.)

Although I’ve touched on the topic of bottles as a weapon(think: barroom brawl)—I hadn’t considered “weapons” to be one of the fundamental packaging metaphors. (See: Packaging as Metaphor) I don’t know, maybe I missed something…  “In the battle of the brands, packaging is a weapon.” or “The package is a not-so-secret, deadly weapon with which to annihilate the competition.” (Or something like that.)

Pistola Bucanero "Mocambo" 1821—a buccaneer.jpgstol-shaped rum bottle (Note: gun-shaped bottles are one of those packages that, themselves, require packaging.)

(More gun-shaped bottles, after the jump…)

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Matt King’s Carnival Straw Cart Corrals

“Turbo” Matt King, 1999—Flexible straws, hot glue, packaging

I had just been reading about Sylvan Goldman’s invention of the shopping cart in Thomas Hine’s book, so shopping carts—(and how they are stored)—was already on my mind when followed a link to sculptor, Matt King’s web site.

Cart corrals—those ubiquitous steel structures peppered throughout the parking lots of America’s malls and supermarkets—are some of my favorite “found” sculptures. As objects that evoke both a whiff of the Wild West and the gluttony of contemporary consumerism, their presence always makes me chuckle. In 1999 I made 50 cart corral designs out of bendy straws and hot glue. They are as goofy as the original only smaller.

Matt King

A lot of his other work also uses products & their packaging as raw materials. (See: Blister Pack, SPF30, & Mergers)  A few of the sculptures from his SPF30 series even include folding chairs—the conceptual inspiration for Sylvan Goldman’s shopping cart invention.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Another baby found in a Timberland shoe box

Baby shoe box photos from KidsDesignerWear-UK. (This is not the box in which the baby girl was found in Hempstead, and is only shown here for illustration purposes & for flat-footed irony.)

Yep. This is the second time I’m quoting a Daily News story about a baby in a Timberland box. (The earlier story was from September of 2007. See: Packaging and Moral Turpitude.)

The girl was less than a day old when she was discovered by a man who heard a noise and peeked inside a Timberland work boots box around 9 p.m. Sunday in Hempstead, L.I.

Baby, less than a day old, found in shoebox in lobby of Long Island apartment building
The NY Daily News, 6/22/09

And from the NY Post:

A newborn baby girl was found alive in a Timberland shoebox in the entrance to a Long Island apartment building, police said today…

A breathing hole had been cut in the middle of the lid.

Poor Timberland. Some news reports just say “shoe box,” but most of the reportage makes a point of including this key, brand-name detail. Is this just to give the story verisimilitude?  Or is it a commentary on the mother’s values? As if to say: “Look, she can afford to buy expensive Timberland boots, but she can’t afford to take care of her child.”

Radioactive Packaging

From the Standard Chemical Company Photo Album (ca. 1915-1920)—no caption but I’m guessing that what we’re looking at are lead-lined tubes for containing a “radioactive source,” an elegant leather snap case and a wrapped shipping parcel (with twine & sealing wax for security). 

After Marie Curie’s discoveries in the late 1800’s and well into the early 1900’s—before the dangers of radiation were well understood—radium, radon, uranium (and radiation in general) were considered modern and high-tech. Plenty of products that were not even radioactive capitalized on the glamor of radioactivity by incorporated “radium” and “uranium” etc. into their brand names. (Radium Brand Butter, Radium Brand Cigars, Radium Cigarettes, Radium Condoms, Radium Beer, X-Ray Soap, Uranium Ice Cream, and more recently: Radioactive Energy Drink.) 

But radioactivity was also touted as a a miracle cure and innumerable products were manufactured with radioactive ingredients and long patent-medicine-style lists of claimed health benefits.


From The Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) Health Physics Historical Instrumentation Museum Collection—top left: radium water (jar itself is not measurably radioactive, some sort of emanation device (e.g., a radioactive disk) would have been kept inside); to the right: Hungarian Radiumvizes Bread (radium water … was used in the production of the bread … As such, the bread would have contained slightly elevated levels of radium, but nothing that could be considered dangerous); below: “Radioaktive“ Toothpaste from WWII Germany. According to the tube, “Its radioactive radiation increases the defenses of teeth and gums”; second row: two radioactive mens health products—left: Vita-Radium Suppositories (“These suppositories were guaranteed to contain real radium—and probably did”); right: The Radiendocrinator (Product directions: Male—Place Radiendocrinator in the pocket of this adaptor… Wear adaptor like any  “athletic strap”… This puts the instrument under the scrotum as it should be. wear at night. Radiate as directed.); third row left: Arium Radium Tablets (For rheumatism. neuritis, neuralgia, gout, etc. Directions: “Take two tablets with glass of water before or after each meal. To derive the most beneficial effects, ARIUM should be taken regularly as directed.”); on right: radium bromide bottles (“These homeopathic triturations containing radium bromide powder were distributed from a pharmacy in Pennsylvania in the 1960s”); bottom left: Radithor “Eben Byers was the  founder of the A.M. Byers Company, one of the world's largest steel companies…  At the recommendation of his doctor, he began drinking Radithor… he averaged three bottles a day for two years.  Byers stopped consuming Radithor in 1930 when his teeth started falling out and holes appeared in his skull. Perhaps more than anything else, his death in 1932 alerted the public, and much of the medical profession, of the harmful effects of "mild" radium therapy.” (1932 WSJ headline: The Radium Water Worked Fine Until His Jaw Came Off); on right: a Wards Radium Ore Heating Pad.

Like Eben Beyers, mentioned in the caption above, Marie Curie, herself, was an unwitting victim of radiation exposure.

Her death on July 4, 1934, at the Sancellemoz Sanatorium in Passy, in Haute-Savoie, eastern France, was from aplastic anemia, almost certainly contracted from exposure to radiation. The damaging effects of ionizing radiation were then not yet known, and much of her work had been carried out in a shed without any safety measures. She had carried test tubes containing radioactive isotopes in her pocket and stored them in her desk drawer, remarking on the pretty blue-green light that the substances gave off in the dark.

By the 1950s & 1960s, while the public stilled viewed radiation as something modern and futuristic, this view was now tinged with the threat of atomic war and nuclear fallout. Retail kits for detecting radiation ran the gamut from uranium prospecting, to bomb-shelter fallout-detection to educational science kits. The idea of radioactivity as a panacea and cure-all had largely fallen out of favor—(although the radium bromide above is from the 1960s!)

(Photos of radiation testing kits, after the fold…)

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Tin Cans & Charivari


Via Lovely Package: Athens-based graphic designer, Chris Trivizas’s tin can wedding invitation

Another way in which packaging has infiltrated the culture: the “charivari” tradition of “good-natured hazing” of newly-weds has evolved into the current tradition of tying tin cans to the rear bumper of the newlyweds’ car.

How long has this tin-can-thing been a tradition? Before there were cars, tin cans were tied to horse-drawn wagons, but it cannot have been the tradition before metal cans were invented the early 1800s. (See Can-Opener Patents)

(More about tin cans & newlyweds, after the fold…)

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Health Cigarettes


From Trinkets & Trash: Artifacts of the Tobacco Epidemic, “Medicinal, nontobacco cigarettes were sold under a wide variety of brands until about mid-century for asthma, catarrh, and hay fever.”

Reading an article in the business section of Monday’s NY Times (quoted below) reminded me of these earlier tobacco health claims (above).

Tobacco Regulation Is Expected to Face a Free-Speech Challenge
By Duff Wilson

The marketing and advertising restrictions in the tobacco law that Congress passed last week are likely to be challenged in court on free-speech grounds. But supporters of the legislation say they drafted the law carefully to comply with the First Amendment.

The law’s ban on outdoor advertising within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds would effectively outlaw legal advertising in many cities, critics of the prohibition said. And restricting stores and many forms of print advertising to black-and-white text, as the law specifies, would interfere with legitimate communication to adults, tobacco companies and advertising groups said in letters to Congress and interviews over the last week.

The controversy, legal experts say, involves tension between the right of tobacco companies to communicate with adult smokers and the public interest in preventing young people from smoking…

Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an advocacy group that was a leader in pushing for the law, said: “Frankly, the tobacco industry and the advertising industry have never heard of an advertising restriction that they thought was constitutional. In this case, great care was taken to permit black-and-white text advertising that permits them to communicate whatever truthful information they have.”

(For more about past tobacco advertising claims, see: Not a Cough in a Carload.)

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Perfect Slice Deconstructed


As a polyhedral nerd, there was no way I could remain mute about these close-packing, prism-shaped Kleenex boxes, that I’ve been seeing everywhere online. But none of the pictures I’d seen so far really showed how it worked. Someone (not me) would need to venture out into the real world. So when I heard Debby say she was going to Target last week, I asked her to score me some of the ‘limited edition’ products. Turns out there were only two left at the Target store here on Staten Island. 


Everyone, including me, digs the orange, lime & watermelon fruit versions. (Illustrations by Hiroko Sanders) The striped one is sort of the wallflower of the pack. That’s the one I’ll be deconstructing. (After the fold…)

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From ZuPreem: Canned food for wild animals. (I like the inset animal face illustrations with the shield-shaped manes)

(Dry food for omnivores and primates, after the fold…)

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