Massachusetts

Brownie Wise, The Brains Behind Tupperware

In 1950, Earl Tupper was sitting in his Leominster, Mass., office struggling with how to get his business off the ground when Brownie Wise called.

He never met Brownie Wise, but she phoned to tell him about a party. What happened next changed every kitchen in America.

Brownie Wise

Brownie Wise

Earl Tupper was born in Berlin, N.H., in 1907. His family moved to Lowell, Mass., where Earl grew up. He took a failed stab at a tree maintenance business. By 1946, Earl had his own  firm in Leominster, making and selling plastic containers for storing food.

Birth of Tupperware

At the end of World War II, DuPont had distributed blocks of polyethylene to plastics companies. It had  mass produced the stuff for war uses, but it hoped to find new uses for the material.

Tupper had a stroke of genius. He contacted DuPont and asked if they would send him a sample of the polyethylene before they added stiffening agents to it. The pliable plastic was exactly what he was looking for, and he shaped it into sealable food storage containers. The containers had a characteristic 'burp' when sealed: Tupperware.

Tupper had his plastic bowls selling in hardware and department stores, but they didn't sell well – everywhere except one little Florida company that couldn’t get enough of his bowls. Why? he wondered. And so he contacted the company called Tupperware Patio Parties, run by Brownie Wise.

Brownie Wise

Brownie Wise was Tupper’s opposite, outgoing and vivacious. Born and raised in Georgia, she had married a Ford executive and moved to Dearborn, Mich. There, her marriage soured and she divorced.

She worked as a sales representative for Stanley Home Products, a Massachusetts-based company that sold cleaning goods through in-home sales parties. Brownie Wise quickly spotted the opportunity Tupper was missing.

His product needed a personal touch for people to understand it. At an in-home party, the product could be thrown on the floor to demonstrate its durability and tossed around to show how light it was.  Sales reps could also show firsthand the Tupperware ‘burp’ that seals in the flavor of food.

Brownie Wise moved to Florida and started her patio parties company. At that point Earl noticed how much product she moved. During their first phone conversation, Earl invited Brownie to visit him in Massachusetts. Once they met, he knew she was right.

In the home, there would be no inhibitions or distractions. Housewives could picture his modernistic designs right in their own kitchens. And the sales force was there for the asking.

Tupperware Parties

After getting a taste of economic freedom during World War II, many women wanted something other than homemaking. Tupperware sales parties were perfect.

Earl and Brownie created Tupperware Home Parties Inc., and Brownie became vice president. Earl would make the product, Brownie would sell it.

Over the course of several years, Brownie created a whole new kind of sales network, one that relied on fun sales conventions. She called them jubilees and filled them with skits and awards. Blenders and other kinds of incentives were added to the commissions, and a whole new type of sales structure rose up. Brownie’s all-woman sales force – taken for granted at home – reveled in the praise and celebration at their annual ‘sales jubilees.’

Tupperware_party

1950s Tupperware party.

By 1958, business was booming. If only Brownie Wise and Earl had been able to continue their partnership, we can only wonder what might have been. Instead, she got bossy and arrogant. He got jealous and testy. Even though he paid to promote Brownie’s image as a whole new style of female executive, he was jealous when people started viewing her as the reason for Tupperware’s success.

So, without notice, Earl fired her and he sold the company to Rexall Drug Stores. He divorced his wife and moved to Costa Rica so he could avoid taxes. Tupperware rolled right along without either of them.

At first, Rexall talked of scrapping Brownie Wise’s innovations like the sales jubilee.  But employee after employee told the new company president that such a move would be a disaster. Rexall backed off and didn’t mess with success.

Tupperware Brands sales totaled $2.21 billion in 2016, and women are still holding parties and attending jubilees in countries around the world.

Image of Brownie Wise By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33209984.

This story about Brownie Wise was updated in 2017.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Elise Giammarco Carlson

    Elise Giammarco Carlson

    October 2, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    He donated 400 acres in Smithfield RI to Bryant college for heir suburban campus

  2. Debbie Ewing Lyons

    Debbie Ewing Lyons

    October 2, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    Very informative. Liked it

  3. Barbara Benedict

    Barbara Benedict

    October 2, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Loved the story…always hated the product! Never had any luck with them!

  4. Debbie Hogue Stapleton

    Debbie Hogue Stapleton

    October 2, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    My mother-in-law was related to the Tuppers and I have original recipes in “mother” Tupper’s handwriting.

  5. Jade Lally

    Jade Lally

    October 3, 2014 at 7:16 am

    So cool!

  6. Danielle Downes

    Danielle Downes

    October 3, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    Interesting bit of history. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Nancy Huntley

    Nancy Huntley

    October 4, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Very interesting. Everyone I know has been to Tupperware parties.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top