Bubble Wrap was invented as wallpaper.
Source: Original photo by RealPeopleStudio/ Shutterstock
Next Fact

Bubble Wrap was invented as wallpaper.

Bubble Wrap is one of the 20th century’s most versatile — and dare we say most beloved — inventions. The pliable, air-pocketed sheets have been used for decades to insulate pipes, protect fragile items, and even make dresses. And that’s not to mention the fascination some people have with popping its bubbles (both competitively and for fun). But when it was first created in 1957 in New Jersey, inventors Al Fielding and Marc Chavannes had a different vision in mind for their ingenious padding: home decor. The pioneering duo hoped their creation — which trapped air between two shower curtains run through a heat-sealing machine — would serve as a textured wallpaper marketed to a younger generation with “modern” taste. The initial idea was a flop, however, and Fielding and Chavannes soon pivoted to promoting Bubble Wrap, then called Air Cap, as a greenhouse insulator (another idea whose bubble would quickly burst). 

Wallpaper was once used to keep homes pest-free.
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It's a Fact
Flock wallpapers, known for their velvety feel and elaborate designs, were first crafted in the 17th century using leftovers from the wool industry. The thick, fuzzy panels were in part popular because installation required turpentine, the scent of which repelled moths.

It took another invention of the time — IBM’s 1401 model computer  — to seal Bubble Wrap’s fate as a packing material. Under the company name Sealed Air, Fielding and Chavannes approached IBM about using the air-filled plastic in shipping containers, replacing traditional box-fillers like newspaper, straw, and horsehair. After passing the test of transporting delicate electronics, Sealed Air became a shipping industry standard. Over time, Fielding and Chavannes were granted six patents related to Bubble Wrap manufacturing, and Sealed Air continues to create new versions of the remarkable wrap — including a cheaper, unpoppable version that’s popular with cost-minded shippers (but not so much with bubble-popping enthusiasts).

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Numbers Don’t Lie
Price of the world’s most expensive wallpaper
Year Charlotte Perkins Gilman published “The Yellow Wallpaper”
Version of Microsoft Windows that introduced desktop wallpaper
Times the amount of Bubble Wrap produced each year could wrap the equator
Europe’s oldest surviving wallpaper features a _______ design.
Europe’s oldest surviving wallpaper features a pomegranate design.
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Think Twice
Bubble Wrap was nominated to the Toy Hall of Fame.

Some of the best toys aren’t toys at all — a phenomenon well known to people who spend painstaking hours selecting gifts for kids, only for the items to sit ignored in favor of the toy’s packaging. That allure among the younger set helped secure Bubble Wrap a nomination to the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2016 as a nontraditional toy (akin to honorees such as the stick and the cardboard box). The poppable plastic didn’t become an official inductee, but its appeal has been replicated by the Pop It!, a squishable popping toy with a feverish following. The silicone poppers provide endless snaps that some psychologists say can reduce tension and anxiety, making them especially popular during a stress-inducing pandemic. While the fidget toy seems like a modern solution to everyday jitters, Pop-Its were actually invented in 1975 by a former classmate of Anne Frank. Five decades later, reduced manufacturing costs have given the bubble-bursting toy a second chance at soothing anxious minds of all ages.

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