Breaking away from politics and cultural issues of the day… this is kinda fascinating, doncha think? Ever wonder how it came to be? I love popping the bubbles!
Bubble Wrap was invented as wallpaper.
Bubble Wrap is one of the 20th century’s most versatile — and dare we say most beloved — inventions. The pliable, air-pocketed sheets have been used for decades to insulate pipes, protect fragile items, and even make dresses. And that’s not to mention the fascination some people have with popping its bubbles competitively and for fun. But when it was first created in 1957 in New Jersey, inventors Al Fielding and Marc Chavannes had a different vision in mind for their ingenious padding: home decor. The pioneering duo hoped their creation — which trapped air between two shower curtains run through a heat-sealing machine — would serve as a textured wallpaper marketed to a younger generation with “modern” taste. The initial idea was a flop, however, and Fielding and Chavannes soon pivoted to promoting Bubble Wrap, then called “Air Cap” as a greenhouse insulator (another idea whose bubble would quickly burst).
It took another invention of the time — IBM’s 1401 model computer — to seal Bubble Wrap’s fate as a packing material. Under the company name Sealed Air, Fielding and Chavannes approached IBM about using the air-filled plastic in shipping containers, replacing traditional box-fillers like newspaper, straw, and horsehair. After passing the test of transporting delicate electronics, Sealed Air became a shipping industry standard. Over time, Fielding and Chavannes were granted six patents related to Bubble Wrap manufacturing, and Sealed Air continues to create new versions of the remarkable wrap — including a cheaper, unpoppable version that’s popular with cost-minded shippers (but not so much with bubble-popping enthusiasts).