Metal lunch pails became popular among blue-collar workers at the end of the 19th century. The first metal lunch boxes for children were made in the 1920s and 30s, for children who wanted to emulate their working parents.
In 1950, Aladdin Industries revolutionized child lunch boxes when they released a metal lunch box decorated with a decal of Hopalong Cassidy – it was a huge success, and soon a slew of other character-based lunch boxes followed. Between 1950 and 1970, 120 million lunch boxes were sold.
In the 1960s, cheap vinyl lunch boxes made a brief appearance, but they were too flimsy and failed to catch on with kids. In the 1980s, molded plastic lunch boxes and thermoses, which were less expensive to manufacture, replaced metal lunchboxes. But character based lunch boxes have never gone out of style, and are still popular among school children today.