Today in Smithsonian History: March 27, 1990

Ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Earl S. Tupper Center at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Glenn Tupper cuts the ribbon to officially open the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Earl S. Tupper Center, named in honor of his father, in Panama City, Panama. The inauguration ceremony for the new center featured a speech by the president of the Republic of Panama, Guillermo Endara Galimany, at left. Behind the present are Secretary Adams and STRI Director Ira Rubinoff. STRI Secretary Monica Alvarado, in traditional Panamanian dress, holds the ribbon, at right. (Photo by Marcos Guerro, as featured in the Torch, May 1990)

March 27, 1990 The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama formally dedicates the new Earl Silas Tupper Research and Conference Center. Secretary Adams, Panamanian President Guillermo Endara, and members of the Smithsonian Board of Regents attend the dedication ceremonies. STRI’s first professionally designed exhibition, “Parting the Green Curtain: The Evolution of Tropical Biology in Panama,” opens to the public at the Tupper Conference Center.

Tupper (July 28, 1907 – October 5, 1983) was an American-born Costa Rican businessman and inventor, best known as the inventor of Tupperware.

Vintage ad for Tupperware

Earl Tupper’s product was an innovation; he purified a waste product of the oil refining process into flexible, translucent plastic containers that were suitable for food storage. What began as a marketing struggle for Tupper—Americans didn’t yet trust plastics, which were known for being smelly and greasy—turned into an opportunity for American women to participate in business, independently making money, forming professional networks, and popularizing Tupperware within their own communities. (Courtesy Ann and Thomas Damigella Collection, National Museum of American History)

Posted: 27 March 2016
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