How Trapper Keepers Won the Hearts of Every Last Kid in the 80s and 90s

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Look, you either know about Trapper Keepers or you don’t. You’re one of us, and we can discuss all day about how they smelled and the sound the velcro made when you first pried it open, and how you agonized for weeks before picking your new one before a new school year, or you don’t know what in god’s name I’m prattling on about.


If you’re the former – a fellow GenX, Xennial, or older Millennial – then you might be curious to read a little about how the Trapper Keeper appeared and worked its way into every last one of our hearts (and memories).

The Trapper Keeper came courtesy of the Mead Company, which was founded in the mid-19th century and is probably most famous for those black and white composition notebooks that proliferate in every educational environment everywhere.

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The idea for the Trapper Keeper came from employee E. Bryant Crutchfield in the early 1970s. He’d been studying the American educational system and how it was changing, and believed kids would be studying more subjects and would need a way to organize those materials in an easily portable item, since lockers were getting smaller.

Magic was born, y’all.

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Not right away, though – Crutchfield would draw inspiration from a folder I’d never heard of, the Pee-Chee, which was the first to store pages in a 3-ring binder.

He would draw inspiration from other desk items that allowed students to express their personality and preferences, like Mr. Sketch markers (mmm, that cheery red, y’all)…

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Pencil grips…

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And pencil toppers.

There was already a 3-ring binder available, and he worked using that, too, but of course, the addition of the six subject folders, the printed cover, and the velcro closure really brought it all home.

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If you want to hear a more detailed historical account of the story, check out this episode of Mentalfloss’s Throwback.


Just hearing her undo that velcro is enough to take me back – I can almost smell the new plastic.

What was your favorite Trapper Keeper cover? Let’s reminisce in the comments!