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Reynolds Wrap turns 50, is inducted into Smithsonian

September 17, 1997

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ For 50 years, Reynolds Wrap has sealed sandwiches, preserved leftovers and even improved television reception when twisted across antennas.

Now, the Smithsonian Institution is recognizing the aluminum foil’s golden anniversary by including an original box of it in its Domestic Life collection today.

The idea for Reynolds Wrap was conceived just before World War II when Reynolds Metals executive Clarence Manning was asked by his harried wife to find a turkey pan she could use to roast Thanksgiving dinner.

Figuring he had little chance of finding a pan on a holiday, the executive pulled from his briefcase some sample foil the company was planning to market to commercial kitchens.

Mrs. Manning cooked the turkey to perfection, and Richmond-based Reynolds Metals began exploring foil’s suitability as a household product. Reynolds Wrap was launched on Sept. 16, 1947, with an elaborate campaign to explain the product to baffled retailers and housewives.

``Back in 1947 there weren’t many supermarkets, so we had to go out into mom and pop stores,″ said Charles M. Mapes, 84, who was Reynolds’ first foil salesman. ``The reaction was wonderment. Cooking food with a wrapping material was a brand new idea.″

Early boxes of foil came with a pamphlet containing instructions and recipes so homemakers would know what to do with it.

Reynolds has donated one of those first rolls to the Smithsonian, which accepted it as part of its record on the lives of women in the mid-20th century, said Rodris Roth, a curator in the Smithsonian’s Division of Social History.

``One facet of this woman was her place in the kitchen, and what people had on their kitchen counters and shelves,″ she said.

The foil will be officially included in the Smithsonian’s collection in Washington, but it may not be publicly displayed.

Reynolds Wrap may have been used mainly for wrapping baked potatoes and lining roasting pans, but people quickly found more imaginative uses for the thin, shiny metallic sheets.

People living far from TV transmitters fashioned elaborate attachments out of foil to catch distant signals. Drivers with a need for speed stuffed foil into the hubcaps of their cars in the futile hope that it would foil police radar.

``There are a lot of cute ideas out there, but the unique ideas are not going to sell a lot of aluminum foil,″ said John Lowrie, head of Reynolds’ consumer products division.

The loyal sales force that combed the country educating consumers about Reynolds Wrap has made the brand one of the strongest in America. Lowrie said the foil can be found in 70 percent to 80 percent of America’s kitchens.

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