Today In Fact, 28 July

Tupperware Day

Earl Tupper was born this day in 1907 in a small New Hampshire town called Berlin. After getting a degree he started a gardening and tree cutting business but it went bankrupt during the depression. He married Marie Whitcomb in 1931, and the first of their five children was born a few years later.

Earl was lucky to find a job in a plastics company in Leominster. Leominster, once famous for its comb industry, had made the switch to plastic in the late 19th century, and there were many small plastics factories run by self-taught engineer/inventors. It was a great place for Tupper. After one year working for the Viscaloid plant (the plastics manufacturing division of DuPont), Tupper bought a few used moulding machines and began making beads and plastic containers for cigarettes and soap. He called his company Tupper Plastics.

Tupper was given a slab of polyethylene slag by the factory. He used the slag to mould lightweight cups, saucers, plates and containers. In the early 1930’s Tupper designed airtight and watertight lids for the containers.

In 1938, Earl founded the Tupperware and soon after the war, began selling Tupperware to departments stores. Around 1948, Tupper got a call from one of his agents, a lady called Brownie Wise. She had devised a method of selling the Tupperware using house parties.

For a decade, Brownie ran the Tupperware marketing and developed the party plan approach used by many other companies around the world. Tupper however grew jealous of Brownie Wise’s celebrity even though her marketing method was the key to his company’s success.

In 1958, without much fanfare, Earl fired Brownie and soon sold the company. He divorced his wife and renounced US citizenship in order to avoid paying taxes. He bought an island off the coast of Mexico and lived in glorious retirement until 1983.

Brownie Wise never regained any success in other businesses and it seems her sprit was broken by Earl Tupper. Business partnerships do not rely on mutual respect or on friendship. In business, the best partners just happen to work well together. The Tupperware brand was built from a partnership between Tupper and Wise and yet betrayal made one wealthy and crushed the other. Did Earl Tupper do good? Was Brownie Wise too naïve?

– Posted by Douglas Racionzer (