Leo May, a miner working underground at INCO Ltd, the world’s major nickel producer, sat his black tin lunchbox on its end to use as a seat while waiting for the “cage,” the underground elevator system bringing men and supplies in and out of the mine depths. He was flat on the ground the next thing he knew, his lunchbox squashed.
Leo May’s inventive mind led to creating a lunch box that would hold the weight of a person and their lunch when there was no seat available (miners often ate their lunch on the job, in field conditions without chairs or benches). Plus, it had to be affordable for the miners, who earned $1.25/per hour at the time.
GETS TO WORK IN BASEMENT WORKSHOP
Working from a small workbench out of his basement workshop, he came up with a design that supported him and was built to last. When he showed up at work with his shiny new lunchbox, he was immediately inundated with orders for 40 more.
L.MAY MFG IS BORN
Leo’s hobby evolved into a small company called L.May Mfg. To identify his lunch boxes, he modestly chose a small stamp in the most popular font of the day and placed it on the upper left-hand side, “just like the address on the letter,” where that very same stamp shows today.
MASS PRODUCTION (1978)
These engineering marvels were hand-produced for a few years until demand forced him to invent unique automated equipment for mass production. In 1978, the company was incorporated under L. May Metal Fabricators Ltd.
SETTING THE STANDARD
Leo’s lunch boxes became the standard for the mining and construction industry, and virtually 100% of INCO’s 20,000 workers carried the lunch box from Sudbury. Many workers starting their mining careers at this time had the same lunch boxes until retirement, 30 years. Some say they work as good luck charms.
AROUND THE GLOBE
Now, Leo’s lunch boxes are sold around the globe as “The Original Miners Riveted Aluminum Lunchboxes” and are used in many innovative situations from industrial uses, promotional items for advertising agencies, fashion items, and household items uses, and have been seen in movies and TV commercials. Its functionality is limited only by your imagination.