• Caroline Martin

Metal Lunch Box Circa 1910

This metal lunch box, as well as a few others, are on display within the Browntown Schoolhouse, one of five historic buildings we have on site at the Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes.

Metal lunch boxes such as this, also known as lunch pails or lunch tins, were used by children attending this schoolhouse which was in operation from 1878 to 1955. They would use them to carry food from home just as children do today. While class was in session, the lunch boxes hung on hooks on the side of the room along with coats and hats. Students were given an hour for lunch and would generally stay on the premises during that time.

The first known lunch boxes come from the industrial revolution, when it became commonplace for men to work long hours away from home. A number of things were used as lunch boxes, such as tightly woven baskets, old metal buckets, and, most commonly, empty tobacco tins.

Lunch boxes were not produced commercially until 1902 and soon after that the lunch box and thermos set (as pictured) was developed. This allowed students and workers both to carry different foods with them: for example, soup in the round thermos section and biscuits in the lower section without mixing the two and allowing the soup to stay warm until lunch.

This summer, Heritage Village’s 3-day summer camp, “Sizzlin’ Summer in the Schoolhouse,” offers children aged 7-11 the chance to experience what life was like for the children who attended Browntown Schoolhouse in the late 1800s. Check our website for more details on this amazing opportunity!

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