You've all heard the expression "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." Which clues you in to the facts that a) eggs used to be carried around in baskets, and b) baskets are not a secure way to carry eggs.
Earlier we told you about Stuart Ellis' Fredericksburg Metal Egg Crate Company, and ended the tale by asking why you'd never heard of it, or him, or seen any of its products, despite its success back in 1913. The short answer is that a competing design made better use of materials and apparently had an inventor with better business sense.
Two years before Ellis' Virginia-based company was formed, a Canadian inventor named Joseph Coyle, who lived in British Columbia, observed a dispute being waged between the Aldermere Hotel and the Bulkley Valley Farm. The former regularly ordered eggs from the latter, the eggs frequently arrived broken, and each blamed the other.
Coyle owned a local newspaper, the Interior News, which meant two things: He was well-situated to be aware of local gossip, and he had access to lots of paper pulp.
The inventive Coyle took some paper pulp and formed it into a sort of tray with little indentations the eggs could nestle in. Sadly no images of the resultant egg carton exist, but it proved to be a superior solution to carrying eggs in a basket, and Coyle found himself in charge of a second successful business. At some point he switched from making the cartons by hand to developing some kind of production machinery for them, but details on this are scant.
What we do know is that by 1919 Coyle decided to try and take his business to the next level—and initially failed. He moved his egg carton operation from his home base of Smithers to the bigger town of Vancouver, teaming up with a company called United Paper Products. But the venture was not a success, and Coyle subsequently made a bold move and shipped his production machinery to America, Los Angeles specifically.
In L.A. the Coyle Safety Carton Company found success. We don't know whether Coyle was a business genius or if he hooked up with some L.A. biz-savvy slickster, but whatever the case, in the 1920s Coyle improved his design and started selling licensing rights to companies in Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh, and London, Ontario.
Our own Bruce Tharp recently kicked off a series on design rights licensing, reminding us that properly done, it's a great way to go. Read Bruce's first entry on the subject here.