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Bubble Wrap turns 50 this month

SADDLE BROOK, N.J. - People have walked to the altar dressed in it, protected their garden plants with it, even put it on display at art museums.

Mostly, they like the sound it makes when they destroy it, piece by piece, which largely explains the appeal of Bubble Wrap, the stress reducer disguised as package cushioning that maintains an inexplicable hold on pop culture.

The product once envisioned as a new type of wallpaper turns 50 this month, and enthusiasts' obsession with it has spawned more than 250 Facebook pages devoted to Bubble Wrap.

Ken Aurichio, communications director for Sealed Air, based in Elmwood Park, N.J., the company that manufactures it, thought he'd witnessed every form of Bubble Wrap mania until he received a wedding invitation last year from a woman in Ohio who said she would wear the product on her trip down the aisle. (He didn't attend.)

Bubble Wrap initially was conceived for an entirely different purpose. According to Aurichio, a New York City designer approached inventors Marc Chavannes and Al Fielding in the late 1950s with a proposal for creating textured wallpaper.

That idea stalled, but the product the two created in a small lab in New Jersey found its niche when, according to company lore, Fielding was flying into Newark Airport and noticed the fluffy clouds that seemed to cushion the plane's descent.

Fifty years later, Sealed Air has global revenues of more than $4 billion and legions of fans who have come up with myriad uses for Bubble Wrap (It's a wig! It's a mobile home! It's a sleeping bag! It's a flotation device!).

- AP

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