Food Facts & Lore

The Egg Carton

Joseph Coyle Egg Carton – Buckley Valley Museum – British Colombia

The proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” comes to mind. Indeed, the concept of the egg carton was inspired by necessity rather than mercantile intentions. The original idea took root in the mind of a newsprint publisher, once upon an ordinary day, when he overheard a conversation between a hotel manager and a farm delivery man.

British Colombia. 1911. Publisher-journalist Joseph Coyle’s Interior News was produced near a hotel. He likely had a daily routine for arriving and perhaps stepping out around lunch-time for a bite. In any case, he came upon a bit of a dispute between a man who was delivering eggs to the nearby hotel and the hotel manager.

It was customary at that time to transport the eggs in a basket, or other similar container wherein the contents could easily shift and rattle on the way. Not a very profitable state of affairs if you need to supply a hotel kitchen. The hotel manager was thus clearly frustrated, but Coyle’s mind conjured up a solution.

He first fashioned cartons with individual slots where each egg could be cushioned into place and apart from the next. The contraption soon proved ideal and indispensable. Demand was so high that Coyle later designed a machine to automate most of the carton production. The machine still exists and is on display at the Royal BC Museum.

Thus there appears to be a most practical reason why one should not put all their eggs in the same basket.

(Image Attribution: Buckley Valley Museum)