What do Nathaniel Wyeth, Luella Gamber, and Frederick J. Baur have in common? No, besides that you’re not interested in them. No, besides that they are probably the answers to trivia questions. And no, not that they have nothing to do with your daily life. Chances are that they DO make a difference to your daily life, and we’ll prove that if you’ll let me get ON with this and stop tossing snark at me. This is my blog, and I am the resident snarkshooter, Salmon S’mores.
In the late 1960s, Pepsi was thinking of ways to compete with a new glass bottle over at Coca-Cola. The 6.5 ounce bottle was really selling, and Pepsi execs, like executive everywhere, wanted a new product that was exactly the same but completely different to counter it. V.P. John Sculley, however, did the research, and decided the world didn’t need another small bottle. Pepsico needed to look the other direction. If there was an easy way to get people to buy LOTS of Pepsi all at once, this would help the company’s bottom line better than producing a lot of small bottles. Coke had experimented earlier with a 26 ounce bottle, but it was glass, and the resulting explosion when it was dropped was discouraging.
So the job was assigned to Nathaniel Wyeth, who came up a large plastic bottle, something which would hold two quarts, or, since the Metric movement was busy in the United States at the time, two liters. In 1970, the two liter bottle of Pepsi hit store shelves and the world changed. People who like a fizzy soft drink with their lunch could now serve everyone at the table without opening a lot of bottles and trying to make sure Skippy didn’t tip his over while grabbing for the pickles. You didn’t need to run to the fridge to get more of those little 12 ounce cans, either.
(For those of us who are old enough to recall,. These bottles USED to be flat on the bottom. To the 2 liter bottle as you know it today, a special base was glued so the bottle was more stable on the table. This was complicated and expensive, so in 1993, the industry as a whole gave up that second piece of plastic, and Skippy has been knocking over 2 liter bottles ever since. If you’re interested, the 3 liter bottle and the 1 liter bottle had very short stays. The 12 ounce can appeared first in 1963, around the time the pull tab was invented, and the 20 ounce bottle dates to 1993. For a history of the 12 ounce can, the 16 ounce can, the 23 ounce bottle, the 26 ounce can, the new 13.2 ounce bottle, please look elsewhere. It just gets too complicated.)
Luella and Ralph Gamber bought some bees, taking up beekeeping as a hobby. Very lucky and/or very industrious, by the end of World War II, they were shipping Dutch Gold Honey around the country. In 1957, they were looking for a cute little novelty gift container, and developed a bear-shaped honey bottle with a hat which doubled as a dispenser tip. They figured this cute novelty would make a nice gift over the Christmas season and then disappear, so they didn’t go to the added expense of trademarking or patenting their invention.
The bear now appears under dozens of different names for dozens of companies. There was some tinkering with the design over the years (early models often developed leaky ears, the original bear was too fat to allow an informational label on his back, and putting that pointy cap on had to be done by hand, so factory workers were spraining their wrists a lot) but it is now logically considered one of THE finest ways to present honey at the table.
You don’t THINK of proctor and gamble when you think snack food, but you’re not looking beyond the surface. In the 1960s, the company took on the weighty problem of potato chips. One of the most popular snacks in parts of the world with plenty of potatoes (you can look up their invention by an angry chef and their banning during World War II elsewhere) they nonetheless had a tendency to break up into fragments at the bottom of the bag. (If the folks at P&G had realized these are the best part, the world would be different today, but we can’t go back.)
Frederick J. Baur was assigned to fix the problem, and developed a machine and recipe and, most important, a container. And in 1968, Pringle’s newfangled Potato Chips hit the market. There are three hundred theories about why these were called pringles, probably all of them wrong, and a lot of discussion of how long it took to make them taste like something other than unflavored mashed potatoes, but the Pringles can is considered one of the great innovations of the 1960s. (The face on the can is Julius, by the way. The handlebar mustache was supposed to make him an old-fashioned inventor type who might be interested in a “new-fangled potato chip”. His face has altered slightly over the years, and Pringles has dropped both the “newfangled” and, when ordered to do so by lawyers, the phrase “potato chips”. Everyone calls ‘em Pringles anyhow.)
And yes, what you’ve heard is true. Frederick J. Baur did ask that his cremated remains be buried in his great invention. His kids were a little dubious about this, but when Dad died, they decided he ought to get his way. AND, rather than apply at the factory for a fresh, unused can, they decided to go all the way and just buy a can at the store, share the chips, and then send the inventor on his last trip. After some argument, they decided the “original” flavor was the most appropriate.
So are you NOW impressed with Luella Gamber, Fredrick J. Baur, and Nathaniel Wyeth? Okay, be that way.