A Brief History of the Egg Carton

By Taylor Ray

Call it what you want (we’ve heard extra, bougie, and luxe, among other things): our egg carton is unlike anything that’s ever graced the shelf. But it wasn’t created overnight or out of thin air, and its design wouldn’t have been possible without the ingenuity that came before it. When heritage and modern needs converge, innovation happens. So let’s start at the beginning.

The invention of the egg carton

Prior to 1911 and before the widespread introduction of grocery stores in the United States, the vessel of choice for egg selling was the humble basket. Egg breakage was rampant, so much so that it was the catalyst for the invention of the world’s first egg carton. Baskets weren’t cutting it anymore.

Blast from the past

Let’s back up, though. In 1906, a man named Thomas Peter Bethell made the jump from basket to box with an invention known as the Raylite Egg Box. Made from wood and containing individual cardboard compartments for each egg, it was the first egg transporter of its kind. So vintage! They go for upwards of $300 on Ebay these days.

A few years later, a newspaper editor hailing from British Columbia invented the first iteration of the egg carton as we know it. Legend says that Joseph Coyle was dining at a local hotel in 1911 when an argument erupted between the hotel owner and the hotel’s egg supplier. Over what, you ask? Broken eggs in the hotel’s latest shipment. Valid. Naturally, Coyle returned to his office (we imagine he finished his breakfast first) and, over the course of a few weeks, invented the egg carton.

Coyle’s first iteration had the same long and narrow shape as the mass produced egg cartons of today, with the only obvious difference being the lack of “cups” on the bottom. Basically, it looked like a box from the outside. Under the lid is where the magic happened: much like the Raylite Egg Box, Coyle’s egg carton contained individual compartments for each egg. However, the inventor took things a step further by adding V-shaped pieces of cardboard to each compartment, sort of like “slings” to cradle each egg in place during those bumpy train rides. It was revolutionary, obviously. And suddenly, Coyle was making big moves. Soon after his breakthrough, he patented his egg carton, automated the process by inventing a machine (no biggie), and began producing them all over North America.

Egg cartons through the decades

So how did we get to where we are today? Coyle’s egg carton isn’t quuuuite today’s egg carton, but it is the blueprint for it. In 1921, Morris Koppelman improved upon Coyle’s design, bringing it closer to the modern version. Ten years later, Francis H. Sherman patented an egg carton made with formed and pressed paper pulp, just like the ones that line grocery store aisles now. Almost 40 years later, polystyrene foam got its turn in the egg carton business. Styrofoam was all the rage in 1967.

Innovation informed by heritage

The Consider Pastures egg carton is the love child of Coyle’s revolutionary design and the avant-garde notion that this unassuming object has the potential to be more than just a vessel. With a patent pending, it’s a unique, premium, and innovative take on a type of food packaging that hasn’t changed drastically since its inception, but coupled with a nod to the original and its intended purpose. Although they probably won’t take a horse and buggy or train ride any time soon, our eggs would probably survive one just fine: the individual compartments in our cartons cradle each fragile egg, minimizing breakage during trips to and from the store. The deliberately minimalist and distinctive print is hyper-aware of its surroundings, forming a cohesive pattern and modern aesthetic reminiscent of wallpaper (the cool kind, not your grandma’s) when stacked on the shelf. Smaller details like the gold foil and bold lettering ask shoppers to consider – and perhaps reconsider – what an egg carton should look like. And at the heart of the Consider carton is the same question that probably crossed the mind of Joseph Coyle in 1911: what lies beyond the status quo?


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