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Audio Tour Stop #1: Industrial Age Sets the Stage for Mass Production and Packaging as We Know It Today

In the 1700s handmade packaging of wood, glass, metal and wrapped paper was common. Many items were sold by piece or bulk in simple paper packaging or in wood, tin, ceramic or glass containers. Frequently customers used their own containers or sacks to carry their goods. The transition from selling loose products to individual packages began with popular trade items such as tea, coffee, tobacco and spices. Tobacco became the first food item to be sold in metal containers. People feared that metal containers were too toxic for edible products.

Industrialization that started in England spread throughout Europe during the mid to late 1700s and arrived in North America during the 1800s. Improvements to the steam engine, bulk material handling and the creation of interchangeable parts set the stage for the mass production of goods and packaging as we know it today. Mechanical advancements applied in machines for textiles, printing, tooling and grain mills laid a foundation for the first packaging machines that would appear in the mid-1800s.