E. Bryant Crutchfield, the Mead paper executive who created the Trapper Keeper, has died of bone cancer. He was 85. The iconic binder became so popular in the 1980s that, according to the company, as much as half of all US middle and high school students owned one. From the New York Times:
Just as important as what the Trapper Keeper did was how it looked. Starting with the earliest prototypes, Mr. Crutchfield understood the visual possibilities inherent in its wide exterior panels. Early versions featured soccer players, dogs and cats, and a coastal scene, all stock images he bought from a design agency[…]
"We rolled it out, and it was just like a rocket," Mr. Crutchfield said in a 2017 interview with the website Mental Floss. "It was the biggest thing we'd ever done. I saw kids fight over designs in retail."
Until then, most school supplies had been anonymous commodities. The Trapper Keeper conferred personality, and invited further customization. Students drew in them, poked holes in them, wrote poems and love letters on them. They had unintentional uses as well, doubling as headrests at nap time and shields in a snowball fight.
(via Dave Pell's NextDraft)