What Was Bubble Wrap Originally Made For?


Bubble wrap was originally meant to cover your wall - not for safety, but for style. That’s right: it was originally meant to be a wallpaper.

In 1957, engineer Al Fielding and inventor Marc Chavannes sealed together two shower curtains, creating the air pockets that give bubble wrap its distinct texture. Unsurprisingly, not many homeowners were interested in bubbly walls. Perhaps, Fielding and Chavannes thought, it was an issue of marketing. As a second attempt they tried to sell their creation as insulation for greenhouses. To their disappointment, this use also failed to gain traction.

Bubble wrap wouldn’t find its true purpose until a few years later, when IBM announced its new computer model. Frederick W. Bowers, who worked for Sealed Air (the company that bought the patent and made bubble wrap), saw an opportunity: product packaging. He met with IBM and showed them how they could keep their cargo safe with bubble wrap. From that first step, bubble wrap went on to reel in $400 million each year.

The world is certainly better off with bubble wrap protecting its picture frames, clocks and TVs (and not sharing wall space with them). For families, bubbly walls might have prevented some dents and scrapes. But where would it have left all of the great young crayon artists of the world?