I’ve never been to a Tupperware party, though I was once given a Shaklee vitamin pitch after what was suppose to be an innocent dinner, and my physician tried to sell me on becoming an Amway distributor, which I found more sad than annoying since he couldn’t seem to make it as a doctor.
Of all the multi-level marketing schemes out there, I’ve always admired Tupperware, not only because they made useful products, but they also took the party-selling concept to new heights. I was surprised to find the company is still at it and has updated its party themes to “Girls’ Night In,” “Hello Cupcake!” and “Salsa Celebration,” among others. Most of today’s images are from a 1968 Tupperware catalog, supplemented by Tupperware images I found around the Web. Click on any image for a larger version.
Earl Tupper was a would-be inventor who eventually found success with the Tupper Wonderbowl in 1946. But it wasn’t until he teamed up with one of his most successful sales associates, Brownie Wise, in 1951 that things started to really take off. Wise had the party-selling concept down and went on to become the head of Tupperware Home Parties, the sales arm of the Tupper Plastics Company. Here are Earl, top, and Brownie, bottom, showing how party sales are done.
Brownie was a super saleswoman who put on annual Tupperware “Jubilee” gatherings in Florida, at which top Tupperware saleswomen (and they were mostly women back then) gathered and celebrated all things Tupperware for four days.
Earl Tupper ran the factory with a strict hand and Brownie ran the sales organization. She would even become the first woman to grace the cover of Business Week magazine.
But Earl fired Brownie in 1958 and sold the company to Rexall Drugs shortly thereafter. Earl retired to a private island in South America and Brownie went on to try other at-home party sales efforts, though none were as successful as Tupperware.
Tupperware has changed hands a few times and even tried direct sales through Target stores, but nothing has topped the home party sales strategy.
For hosting a party of your friends, you receive a hostess gift. And if you want to go further, you can host more parties and eventually become a regional manager or distributor. For many women in the 1950s and early ’60s, hosting Tupperware parties was one of the few options for making extra cash without working outside the home.
Many of the patents for Tupperware and its famous “burping seal” have expired and you can now buy Tupperware-like products at many retail outlets. But people still love to shop, and many people apparently still love to party, so Tupperware lives on.