Tin foil: Commonly used term, but was there ever such a consumer product?

“Tin foil” is a commonly used term to describe what is, in reality, aluminum foil. In my experience the term is used, mostly – but certainly not exclusively – among oldsters. And, while the term is not thriving, it is certainly surviving.

But, was there ever such a thing as* tin * tin foil as a consumer product? Or was it always just a misapplied term used to describe aluminum foil?

And, if they ever marketed tin foil made of tin to the general public, was it used primarily the same way we use aluminum foil today, for wrapping food?


From the OED:

(1487) Tin hammered or rolled into a thin sheet; also, a sheet of the same rubbed with quicksilver, used for the backing mirrors and precious stones. A similar sheet of an allow of tin and lead, used as a wrapping to protect [dried fruits] from moisture or air.

Tin foil is still the most common term for it in this country in my experience.

When I was young in the dinosaur age, there was also a heavier lead foil. That and tinfoil were used primarily for packaging, such as for cigarettes, foodstuffs, etc. Many of us kept the cigarette leadfoil and rolled it into balls, which grew bigger and bigger. There were contests among kids for the one with the biggest balls. Lead, that is. :smiley:

As I recall, it was not until many years later that aluminum foil was available in packages for home wrapping use. I’d have to guess in the 60s or 70s, but can’t recall now.

How did people from your generation survive this long? :stuck_out_tongue:

This gives you an idea when aluminum foil started to be used in the kitchen.

Reynolds Wrap

…which was also used to make Christmas tree tinsel, incidentally. Problem is, you need to put it on and remove it one strand at a time.

Or what? The tree would tip over? :stuck_out_tongue:

(Yeah, I know, lead is soft and mushy)

The bottom line is that aluminum is a fairly modern material, whereas tin has been known about for many centuries – perhaps even as far back as ancient times. So before there was aluminium foil, there was tin foil.


Tin foil has returned in a big way as a replacement for the lead foil capsules on wine bottles. Not as big as plastic or laminate, but preferred for the premium market.


…Oops, wrong thread. Sorry.

Never mind; found it.

Not me. I thought that gave it a too structured look. :smiley: I’d just grab handfuls and toss them onto the tree. However, as we were poor, after Christmas, we pulled them off and carefully put them aside for the next year.

Apparently you weren’t too poor or ambitious as you didn’t remove it for resale from the other trees at the curb for trash pick up. Lazy kid.:slight_smile:

Really? Everyone I know says ‘tin foil’. I don’t think I’m an oldster, at 26.

Where do you live, out of curiosity? Because I’ve never heard anyone in the U.S. say tin foil in any context outside of tin foil hat or the equivalent. And I’m more than twice your age.

So am I but “tin foil” is about the only term we’ve ever used.

Useless trivia: How It’s Made had a section on [del]tin[/del] aluminum foil recently. The rollers used to flatten it can only get it down to twice the thickness required so for the last pass they double it, running two sheets through and, thus, squeeze it down to the requisite thickness. Because of this the sides look different. The side facing the other sheet have the flat finish while those next to the rollers remain brighter, retain their shine.

Never, even when you were a kid? Or just lately? When I was a kid in the 50s and 60s in New York City “tin foil” was pretty much the default term, even though it was actually aluminum foil. My mother still calls it that.

Good GAWD!

And I thought the lights were real test of patience! :slight_smile: