I am currently reading books set in Ireland in the 1950s. In one of them, parochial school children save “silver paper” for the benefit of missionary priests. Does anyone know, exactly, what “silver paper” is?
Food wrap. Like gum comes in. My parents in Canada used to talk of doing the same thing.
My guess would be tin foil, sheets of very thinly rolled tin. It was used similarly to the way alumnium foil is used today, but was more expensive. Some organisations would collect used tin foil and sell it for scrap, with the revenue going to some charitable cause.
Thank you, D18 and Schnitte. It is what I thought, but wasn’t sure. D18, because your parents talked about doing the same thing, I am confident of the answer!
I very vaguely remember this from my (Canadian) childhood as well.
How does saving tin foil help missionary priests?
Here in the UK we used to save the foil caps from glass milk bottles. My primary school had a permanent collection point. Presumably sold for scrap, the proceeds went to fund guide dogs for the blind.
See my answer above. Tin was (and is) a valuable metallic commodity. It was lucrative to collect used tin foil and melt it down to recover the tin. We don’t do it with aluminum foil anymore because aluminum is too cheap to make that worthwhile.
Now we know where the idea of collecting foil yogurt lids in an envelope pinned to the office break room bulletin board came from.
Tinfoil/aluminum foil could be turned in for recycling, and, thus, cash.
Perhaps the missionary priests sew the foil pieces together to make hats.
Could also be metal on one side and paper on the other side, like is still used to wrap some old school style bubble gum.
Would it be horribly cynical of me to suggest that “save shiny trash for good cause” drives were simply ways to involve children in charitable acts?
As someone who remembers the 60s in the UK, this is the only thing I would call “silver paper”. Aluminium foil would be called “tin foil”. Actual tin foil would be vanishingly rare, I think, even in the 50s.
It used to be much more common, too – it was also in cigarette packets, and a lot more people smoked then.
In 1950s Ireland, I suspect that the bulk of it would be from cigarette packets, and milk bottle tops.
In the UK a BBC childrens programme called Blue Peter has run an annual appeal since the early 60s. They have collected milk bottle tops, aluminium cans, rags, stamps, old cutlery and many other pieces of household junk. A memorable one was at the time when the UK was switching from electric plugs with round pins to the current model with rectangular pins. They said to send in the old round ones (for the scrap value of the brass pins) but many of their over enthusiastic young viewers also “collected” the plugs from appliances sill in use.
Blue Peter has raised over £100 million (in today’s money)from their appeals.
We did this in Holland 60 years ago.
One comedian made up a reply from the African children: “Many thanks for saving the silver paper. It tasted really good.”
I’m wondering if ‘silver paper’ used to wrap gum etc might ever have been silver leaf glued to a paper backing. Silver is expensive, but back before the ubiquity of aluminium, it was cheap enough to use in coinage. Beaten into silver leaf, a little goes a long way.
I can’t find any useful results either because there are none, or for the same reason that searches for ‘tin foil’ return results about aluminium.
Here’s the Dutch Wikipedia page about “zilverpapier” translated by Google Translate, pay no attention to the fact that they translate “zilverpapier” into “tin foil” rather than “silver paper”:
Coincidentally, I bought a chocolate bar earlier today which was wrapped in the paper/metal material. As the paper takes care of the mechanical stresses, the metal layer is really, really thin. Amazing that it was worth anyone’s time to recycle those tiny amounts of metal.
Actual silver leaf would cost a good deal more than tin leaf. Plus, it would tarnish on exposure to air. So as a food wrap or covering silver foil wouldn’t appear to offer any advantages over tinfoil.