The Egg Carton Invented in BC

As this promotional ad indicates, the egg carton was invented in BC[I]

It started in Aldermere, BC, in 1911 (near present-day Telkwa), when a  hotel owner decided that baskets were not the best way to transport eggs[ii].  His complaint about the numbers of eggs broken in a delivery he received (transported by horse and wagon over rough roads so you can imagine the eggs got jostled quite a bit) was overheard by Joseph Coyle, a patron at the hotel restaurant . Coyle, born in Ontario in 1871, had settled in the  Pacific Northwest in the Bulkley Valley area.  He established several newspapers, including the Bulkley Pioneer (in Aldermere) in 1906, the Omineca Herald (in Hazelton) in 1909, and the Interior News (back in Aldermere – 1910).[iii] Besides being a newspaper man, he was a part-time inventor.

The argument sparked Coyle’s inventor’s mind. He got to work and designed the first egg carton, hand made from newspaper with cushioned slots to protect each egg.  His egg carton design was eventually patented in both Canada and the US.  This is a diagram of the design that was submitted for patenting:

Coyle’s first egg cartons were hand made but he eventually designed a machine so they could be produced in greater numbers and he founded the Egg Safety Carton Company.  He quit the newspaper business and concentrated on making egg cartons. He moved with his machine first to Vancouver, then Toronto, Chicago, and Los Angeles. This image shows his Los Angeles egg carton factory in 1924[iv].

It wasn’t long before Coyle’s ingenious carton became the norm for egg transportation. The Egg Safety Carton was advertised as “It saves you more than its cost”.[v]

 

It seems that Coyle was a creative genius as he also invented a vehicle anti-theft device and a cigar end trimmer but he wasn’t that savvy as a business man. He sold licensing rights to his egg carton design to other companies and in the end he wasn’t the one who got rich. His daughter is quoted as saying that he was no match for the sharp practices of big business and their sharper lawyers[vi]. Coyle returned to British Columbia in the late 1930s, and took up residence in New Westminster, near Vancouver. He passed away in 1972, at the age of 101. His death certificate identified him as the “inventor of paper boxes.”[vii]

The Coyle Safety Egg Carton, was the predecessor to the modern egg carton that we all know and use today. We still buy eggs in cartons that have two rows of six. Many of the egg cartons in currently in use in Canada are produced by the Canadian Keyes Fibre Company Limited (CKF Inc.) in their manufacturing plant in Langley, B.C. using a moulded pulp process similar to Coyle’s design.[viii]  So the BC connection to the ubiquitous egg carton continues.

[i] Image source: Bulkley Valley Museum http://bvmuseum.com/

[ii] Image source: http://etc.usf.edu/clippix/picture/basket-full-of-eggs.html

[iii] https://www.gent-family.com/BC/aldermere.html (as an aside, my grandparents were living in Hazelton in 1910 so I am thinking that they may have know Joseph Coyne.

[iv] Image source: Bulkley Valley Museum, http://search.bvmuseum.com/list?q=Coyle%2C+Joseph&p=2&ps=20

[v] image source:  https://packagingrevolution.net/the-importance-of-product-protection-in-ensuring-collaborative-supply-chains-the-case-study-of-the-egg-carton/; original source Bulkley Valley Museum, Smithers, BC.

[vi] https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/bc-inventor-created-better-way-to-carry-eggs/article16118691/; https://packagingrevolution.net/the-importance-of-product-protection-in-ensuring-collaborative-supply-chains-the-case-study-of-the-egg-carton/

[vii] https://www.timescolonist.com/life/our-inventors-changed-the-world-1.17203467

[viii] https://nationalpost.com/entertainment/egg-week-an-ode-to-the-egg-carton-an-unassuming-example-of-perfect-design

One Response to The Egg Carton Invented in BC

  1. Diane O'Shea September 6, 2018 at 6:04 am #

    So very interesting! Will pass onto my egg farming friends!

    Learned last night that in the depression grocers would receive large buckets of jam that they were to dole out to their customers – the customers were to bring small containers. There were some reasons for this process with cost saving being one. But apparently grocers didn’t like this and would pass the buckets to farmers who were to use them with people that couldn’t have coupons – I am trying to think who those would be unless they were immigrant workers. Did those exist in the depression years? The large buckets of jam seemed to me to be predecessors to bulk foods. – Some thing more to think about and I will ask my mother!

Leave a Reply