Cardboard boxes are industrially prefabricated boxes, primarily used for packaging goods and materials. Specialists in industry seldom use the term cardboard because it does not denote a specific material.
The term cardboard may refer to a variety of heavy paper-like materials, including card stock, corrugated fiberboard, or paperboard. The meaning of the term may depend on the locale, contents, construction, and personal choice.
Several types of containers are sometimes called cardboard box:
In business and industry, material producers, container manufacturers, packaging engineers, and standards organizations, try to use more specific terminology. There is still not complete and uniform usage. Often the term “cardboard” is avoided because it does not define any particular material.
Broad divisions of paper-based packaging materials are:
- Paper is thin material mainly used for writing upon, printing upon or for packaging. It is produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets.
- Paperboard, sometimes known as cardboard, is generally thicker (usually over 0.25 mm or 10 points) than paper. According to ISO standards, paperboard is a paper with a basis weight (grammage) above 224 g/m², but there are exceptions. Paperboard can be single- or multi-ply.
- Corrugated fiberboard sometimes known as corrugated board or corrugated cardboard, is a combined paper-based material consisting of a fluted corrugated medium and one or two flat linerboards.
There are also multiple names for containers:
- A shipping container made of corrugated fiberboard is sometimes called a “cardboard box”, a “carton”, or a “case”.
- A folding carton made of paperboard is sometimes called a “cardboard box’’.
- A set-up box is made of a non-bending grade of paperboard and is sometimes called a “cardboard box”.
- Drink boxes made of paperboard laminates, are sometimes called “cardboard boxes” and sometimes “cartons” or “boxes”.
The first commercial paperboard (not corrugated) box was produced in England in 1817.
The Scottish-born Robert Gair invented the pre-cut cardboard or paperboard box in 1890 – flat pieces manufactured in bulk that folded into boxes. Gair's invention came about as a result of an accident: he was a Brooklyn printer and paper-bag maker during the 1870s, and one day, while he was printing an order of seed bags, a metal ruler normally used to crease bags shifted in position and cut them. Gair discovered that by cutting and creasing in one operation he could make prefabricated paperboard boxes. Applying this idea to corrugated boxboard was a straightforward development when the material became available around the turn of the twentieth century.
Corrugated (also called pleated) paper was patented in England in 1856, and used as a liner for tall hats, but corrugated boxboard was not patented and used as a shipping material until December 20, 1871. The patent was issued to Albert Jones of New York City for single-sided (single-face) corrugated board. Jones used the corrugated board for wrapping bottles and glass lantern chimneys. The first machine for producing large quantities of corrugated board was built in 1874 by G. Smyth, and in the same year Oliver Long improved upon Jones's design by inventing corrugated board with liner sheets on both sides. This was corrugated cardboard as we know it today.
By 1908, the terms "corrugated paper-board" and "corrugated cardboard" were both in use in the paper trade.
The Musée du Cartonnage et de l'Imprimerie (Museum of the Cardboard Box) in Valréas, France traces the history of cardboard box making and the art involved in printing, in the region. Cardboard boxes have been used there since 1840 for transporting the Bombyx mori moth and its eggs from Japan to Europe by silk manufacturers, and for more than a century the manufacture of cardboard boxes was a major industry in the area.
Crafts and entertainment 
Cardboard and other paper-based materials (paperboard, corrugated fiberboard, etc.) can have a post-primary life as a cheap material for the construction of a range of projects, among them being science experiments, children's toys, costumes and insulative lining. Some smaller children enjoy playing inside of boxes.
Often, young children enjoy playing in old corrugated shipping containers. A common cliché is that, if presented with a large and expensive new toy, a child will quickly become bored with the toy and play with the box instead. Although this is usually said somewhat jokingly, children certainly enjoy playing with boxes, using their imagination to portray the box as an infinite variety of objects. One example of this from popular culture is Calvin of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, who often used a cardboard box for imaginative purposes from a "transmogrifier" to a time machine.
So prevalent is the cardboard box's reputation as a plaything that in 2005 a cardboard box was added to the National Toy Hall of Fame in the US, one of very few non-brand-specific toys to be honoured with inclusion. As a result, a toy "house" (actually a log cabin) made from a large cardboard box was added to the Hall, housed at the Strong - National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York.
The Metal Gear series of stealth video games is well known for a running gag involving a cardboard box as an in-game item, which can be used by the player to try to sneak through places without getting caught by enemy sentries.
See also 
- Soroka, W (2008). Illustrated Glossary of Packaging Terms. Institute of Packaging Professionals. p. 33. ISBN 1-930268-27-0.
- Koning, J (1995). Corrugated Crossroads. TAPPI Press. p. 35. ISBN 0-89852-299-4.
- TrOlLiNg LoLz LuV cOoKiEz!!. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009.
- "Glossary". School District Diversion Report 2000: Appendices. California Integrated Waste Management Board.
- Frederick Le Gros Clark (1980). Growing old in a mechanized world: the human problem of a technical revolution. Ayer Publishing. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-405-12780-9.
- What is Corrugated?. Fibre Box Association.
- Soroka, W. Illustrated Glossary of Packaging Terminology (Second ed.). Institute of Packaging Professionals.
- D996 Standard Terminology of Packaging, and Distribution Environments. ASTM International. 2004.
- Paula Hook and Joe E. Heimlich. "Paper and paper products". A History of Packaging. Retrieved 2005-10-26.
- Diana Twede and Susan E. M. Selke (2005). Cartons, crates and corrugated board: handbook of paper and wood packaging technology. DEStech Publications. p. 41–42, 55–56. ISBN 978-1-932078-42-8.
- US patent 122,023, Albert L. Jones, "Improvement In Paper For Packing", issued 1871-12-19
- US patent 150,588, Oliver Long, "Packings For Bottles, Jars, & C.", issued 1874-05-05
- "Corrugated cardboard - packaging that has been used for almost 150 years". Farusa Packaging.
- "Hazeltine, Lake, and Co. ad". The World's Paper Trade Review (London) L (9): 19. August 28, 1908.
- Geary, James (2000-10-13). "Thinking Inside the Box: Discover the wonderful world of cardboard at the Museum of the Cardboard Box". Time (magazine).[dead link]
- Stratton-Coulter, Danielle (2005-04-20). "When a cardboard box is 'home'". The Daily Iowan.
- O'Brien, Kerrie (2005-06-08). "Out of the box". Melbourne: The Age.
Further reading 
- Amanda Formaro. "Cardboard Box Costumes". Thrifty Fun. Retrieved 2005-10-26. — several Halloween costumes that can be made with cardboard boxes and paint
- Lauren Guerriero. "What Can You Do With a Plain Old Cardboard Box?". Parents.com. Archived from the original on January 7, 2008. Retrieved 2005-10-26. — six projects using cardboard boxes as children's playthings