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Milk containers: old and new

If you had a cow in your backyard along with some fruit trees, you might not go to a market to buy milk or juice. Instead, you could milk the cow and squeeze the ripened fruit.

You'll probably agree that milk or juice poured from a container is more practical for today's life style.

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As early as 1884, Dr. Harvey D. Thatcher of Potsdam, N.Y., patented a milk bottle and earned the title ''Father of the Milk Bottle.'' Dr. Thatcher's glass bottle weighed 2 1/2 pounds! During the 1880s various styles of round glass milk containers appeared. By the late 1940s the square-shaped glass bottle was more popular. It took up less space in the ice box or refrigerator.

One modern container, used to deliver beverages to millions each day, is made of paperboard. At home you pour milk or juice from large paperboard containers. At school or at a fast-food restaurant, you might use a straw to drink directly from a single-serving container. Today's built-in spout is a great improvement over earlier versions that were fastened with staples or featured a zipper.

Today's paper containers are quite different from one introduced in California in 1906. It had a major drawback - it leaked! Still, people liked its lightweight, unbreakable, throwaway features.

By 1936, a machine was developed that glued the bottom and dipped the carton in wax. The wax coat prevented leaking. Much later, the wax coating, which tended to flake off, was replaced by a plastic, or polyethylene, coating.

When the milk or juice arrives at your neighborhood market, it is stored in well-lighted refrigerator cases. Here the container performs another service. It protects milk from light, which can rob food value and freshness.

Some people choose their favorite beverage by the color and appearance of the container. They don't read labels. Artists who design containers work to make them attractive. They know a sudden change could confuse customers and hurt sales.

In early 1981, a new kind of package was approved for use in the United States. It had already been used for milk and juice in other countries for more than 20 years. It is called the asceptic package. It's made from layers of plastic-coated paper lined with aluminum foil. The package is airtight and can be stored at room temperature.

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A paper container that delivers beverages that stay fresh for months without refrigeration may change the way Americans buy and use juice and other beverages.

Look around and notice the various ways foods are packaged. Most people never consider the talents that combine to produce containers for food and beverages.

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