If you read our previous post about Marianne Boers’ paintings of Reynolds Wrap boxes, you might have noticed the “key.”
Reynolds Wrap used to print a picture of a key on the lower right hand edge of their box’s flap. This started in 1961 and ended sometime around 1970. The idea came about as a solution to the unintended consequences of a number of other Reynolds Wrap packaging innovations.
Reynolds was the first to add a serrated blade to every box. At first they used ordinary unsealed tuck flaps on these cartons. Then it occurred to someone that, since consumers used foil to wrap their food, this might not be so hygienic. People might open up Reynolds Wrap’s boxes in the store and handle or otherwise contaminate the product. So the company then came out out with a new “sealed, sanitary package.” In their effort to unseal these “sanitary” boxes, however, some customers must have sliced their fingers on the serrated blade. Which is where the “Easy Key-Opener” came in.
Now, it’s not like a sardine can where they provide you with an actual key. It’s more like a diagrammatic suggestion that you might want to use a key (rather than your finger) to open this carton.
TO OPEN: Lift Key Tab.
Pop open carton along line.
You may notice that they call it a “key tap” on the box, but it seems to have a number of different names. More names (including the inventor’s), after the fold.
Whose idea was this? Charles M. Mapes. Or, at least, his name is on the patent.
Mapes, however, was no itinerant inventor.
“It wasn’t easy selling a product that people had never seen, nor even imagined,” said Charles Mapes, Reynolds’ first Reynolds Wrap salesman and now a retired vice president of Reynolds Metals Company. “Our salesmen went door to door, urging people to try it. Of course, once they used it in the kitchen, they loved it.”
from a 1997 Press release:
The Anniversary of an American Icon — Reynolds Wrap(R) Aluminum Foil Turns 50
In 1972, Reynolds Wrap’s chairman (R.S. Reynolds) wrote a letter to Senator Frank E. Moss in connection with his Senate Subcommittee’s study: Initiative in Corporate Responsibility. Reynolds included a document entitled “Voluntary Actions by Reynolds Metals Company in the Interests of Consumers” as an enclosure in that letter. The key-opener was mentioned in that document.
REYNOLDS WRAP PACKAGE IMPROVED
A sealed sanitary package adopted for Reynolds Wrap about 15 years ago. Since 1961 the “key” snap-open feature has permitted easy opening without injury.