The History of Papermaking



In 1690, the first paper mill in North America was built by William RIttenhouse outside Philadelphia. He had learned the papermaking trade in Mulheim, Germany. The Rittenhouse Mill became the family business for the next century. Rittenhouse could well be called America’s Father of Recycling, since all of the mill’s fiber for hand papermaking was obtained from discarded rags and cotton.

Recycled paperboard was first manufactured in several small mills in the 1860s and 1870s, making mass merchandising possible. Before then, most products were shipped in bulk and sold from barrels in small neighborhood stores. Now manufacturers could package their products as they wanted and distribute them over a wide area. One of the first products to take advantage of this new approach was an American classic, Quaker Oats Oatmeal, packaged in 100% recycled paperboard.

In the late 1930’s, however, paper manufacturers moved away from recycled materials and began using “virgin” tree fiber, initially for the corrugated or “cardboard box” and in the 1950’s for bleached white folding cartonboard. From that point forward to today, virgin and recycled paperboard manufacturers have shared the market for all paperboard packaging products.

Today, the 100% recycled paperboard industry is producing competitive, versatile products. From moisture-resistant refrigerated food boxes, to crisp, smooth pharmaceutical packages printed with the sharpest type and brightest graphics, the 100% recycled paperboard industry has successfully developed packaging options for the changing needs of the marketplace.