The Very First Cardboard Boxes Were Used For?
Answer: Board Games
Cardboard is ubiquitous in modern life. We buy much of our food in cardboard boxes. We pack our belongings in cardboard boxes when we move. We receive packages from near and far carefully cradled in cardboard. The simple, cheap, and easily produced and recycled material is everywhere and the history of the 20th century would be more than a little different without the stuff.
The Chinese invented cardboard (which should come as no surprise given their advanced paper making processes) and the earliest forms of cardboard (sheets of treated Mulberry tree bark) can be traced back to around the first century B.C. (they invented a more traditional form of cardboard around the 1600s).
For the next eighteen centuries, however, nobody thought to make the stuff into a box. Despite cardboard’s migration from Asia to Europe along trade routes, despite the fact that there are abundant references to the stuff in old printers’ manuals and the like, it wasn’t until 1817 that we find our first documented use of a cardboard box.
There, in 1817, we see the distribution of the popular war strategy game “The Game of Besieging.” That’s right, in the most appropriate first use we can think of (given how much cardboard is used in the modern game industry), the very first cardboard box was used for none other than a board game.