Thursday, February 9, 2012

Central Florida's shrine to the Tupperware party

Earl Tupper invented Tupperware, but Brownie Wise brought them to Florida. Wise, a single mom in 1949, moved to Miami at her doctor's advice to help her sick son. Before she moved to South Florida, she sold Stanley Home Products (including Tupperware) through home parties in Detroit. Earl Tupper's innovative plastic containers were slow to move off department store shelves, so when Wise contacted him about a late order, he invited her to meet him and hired her immediately. The company was divided into two parts, the manufacturing division in New England, and Tupperware Home Parties, led by Wise in Florida.

Tupperware's inventor, Earl Tupper

April 1954 issue of Business Week with Brownie Wise on the cover

After a year spent in an airplane hanger in Orlando, Tupperware headquarters opened in 1953 on 1,000 acres in Osceola County next to Gatorland. According to Bob Kealing author of "Tupperware Unsealed: Brownie Wise, Earl Tupper, and the Home Party Pioneers", Wise had a vision for Central Florida, years ahead of Walt Disney, claiming she "really struck on the idea of creating Orlando as a tourism destination, . . . on this idea of Florida as this glamorous place." The Central Florida site became the place where Tupperware sales people could visit for training and was home to the Jubilee, an annual sales convention and celebration.

Vintage postcards of Tupperware World Headquarters

According to "Flashbacks: The Story of Central Florida's Past", Osceola County of the 1950s was "run by a tight group of cattleman and citrus men, wary of outsiders," but Wise
soon won them over. In the early 1960s Tupperware built a state-of-the-art auditorium on their property to hold the Jubilee celebrations, and when I moved to Orlando it was still a widely used concert venue (I've seen everything from a lecture by Marianne Williamson to a concert by Willie Nelson there.) Today the 2,000 seat auditorium is called the Osceola Performing Arts Center and it is home to the Osceola School for the Arts.

Wise's home party direct sales tactics were ideal for Tupperware, as party hosts explained Tupper's patented "burping seal" to intrigued housewives. As a result both Tupperware and Wise had meteoric rises in popularity. The first woman to grace the cover of Business Week magazine, Wise became the role model for her mostly female sales force. Eventually, however, the relationship between Wise and Tupper soured and Wise left the company in 1958 shortly before Tupper sold it. Wise started three Mary Kay-like direct sales cosmetic companies that all ended in failure, and Wise passed away in 1992 in Kissimmee.

Images promoting a space-themed Jubilee in 1960. Apparently the rockets
were painted pastel colors matching Tupperware products.
From the State Archives of Florida

Brownie Wise's legacy lives on at Tupperware World headquarters, with a new exhibit about the history of the Tupperware brand called the Confidence Center. From an original molding machine used to manufacture early bowls, to keepsake collectible Tupperware "Tiny Treasures", this well-designed space traces the evolution of the brand that is now known world-wide. This compact space showcases the development of Tupperware products, themes of past Jubilees and most importantly the international sales force that continues to use Wise's Tupperware party sales methods today. A quote from Wise in the exhibit puts it this way: "If we build the people, they'll build the business."

To learn more about the free exhibit, visit this companion Retro Roadmap blog.


  1. Great photos and history! I think I'm adding Brownie Wise to my list of inspirational people!

  2. Thank you for an excellent blog and for mentioning my book, "Tupperware, Unsealed." Brownie Wise deserves to be much better known and credited for making central Florida the vibrant place it is today. Here's to Brownie, the unsung trailbalzer for women in business.

  3. I had no idea this even existed as a place anyone could visit. Awesome! I collect old tupperware, so it will be a fun afternoon.

  4. I never visited this place but just the fact that it was so local helps explain why it was such a big part of my life growing up in Orlando, Winter Haven & Auburndale. I loved our Eames inspired salt & pepper shaker set & the jello mold with interchangeable top design impressions that you feature pics of here. One of my grandmothers worked for STANLEY HOME PRODUCTS which was connected to Fuller Brush Co. - but the whole "Party" concept that began with Tupperware carried over to their selling strategies, as well. She would be quite the hostess & kept a shed out back for stock & always had lots of social activity with other ladies coming to her place for merchandise. Now of course we grin & bear it considering how plastics are contributing to poisoning our waterways - but hopefully we can get some of that under control soon. (Especially the unsustainable disposable beverage containers.)

  5. Tupperware is the greatest, my mother was a in 1956 Minnesota main district seller there, Rainbow Sales, my mother was Betty Davis, and also her son took over in 1968 James and Betty Stribling, wonderful life from Tupperware. Rita Benson of Laughlin, nevada

  6. Visited this site in the 1970's. After the tour they gave out free salt and pepper shakers. Not sure if they still do this.

  7. Went here in the 1970's for a tour of the facility. At the end they gave us salt and pepper shakers. Don't know if they still do this.

  8. saw the greatest band in history there . King Crimson. And Mannheim Steamroller. Great auditorium. INXS played there too.