Chicago Paper Tube & Can

Chicago Paper Tube & Can

Chicago Paper Tube & Can Company, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of custom, high-end, round paperboard containers and industrial products exclusively manufactured in the United States.

Headquartered in Chicago since 1898, Chicago Paper Tube provides sustainable packaging for designer brands and luxury labels within a diverse group of industries, including health and beauty, home care and gourmet foods.


Chicago Paper Tube & Can Co. opened its doors in 1898 on Chicago's west side, the same area it would call home for the next 107 years. Previously owned by the post office, the four-story building at 137 S. Albany Ave. had also been used as a horse stable for several years. Delivery wagons resided on the main floor while an elevator, operated manually with a pull rope, moved horses and feed to and from the floors above. This same elevator would later feed raw materials to CPT's first manufacturing operations, which were primarily hand-rolled paper tubes for a smattering of local industries. In those days, paper tubes and cores were made one at a time by rolling and gluing stacks of flat paper into a single tube -- much like rolling a cigarette.  The process required large amounts of stacked paperboard sheets. The elevator transported the giant stacks from the main floor to the gluing stations on floors 2 and 3 where they were converted to tubes for clients like the Chicago Telephone Company, who would use small, thick paper cylinders to protect repairs made along telephone wires. Their technicians would slide a paper tube over the repaired line, dipping the entire splice, cable and all, into paraffin wax to form a watertight seal. The price for these in 1898: 15 tubes for a penny.


The phone company's wax-dipped weatherproofing was a precursor to what would become an innovative and successful Chicago Paper Tube product: the Par Tube.  Installing a wax tank for immersing and waterproofing paper cores, CPT gained clients who used the coated tubes for a variety of applications requiring water resistance and/or lubricity. One of these clients was Chicago Rawhide, a manufacturer of leather drive belts for industrial applications. Pete Petersen, a Chicago Rawhide engineer, discovered another use for the tubes they purchased from CPT. An avid golfer, Pete determined the wax-coated tubes fit perfectly over his new golf clubs, preventing the grips from scuffing while inside his golf bag. The wax casing kept the paperboard from disintegrating, even in inclement weather. After sharing the concept with his buddies and local golfers, Pete saw the tubes' popularity take off. They were in such high demand that in 1948, Pete and his wife, Laverne, brought the tubes to market on their own. Petersen worked with Howard Gill to create an ad for the Par Tube that appeared in the first edition of Howard's new magazine: Golf Digest. The idea was a hit, and in a few short years, Par Tube became an important CPT customer.

Thanks in part to the Par Tube, Pete took the helm of the company in 1958. Although it had been successful, Pete knew the Par Tube’s future was threatened by the arrival of extruded plastic, which was cheaper to produce than the paper tubes CPT made through the convolute-wrapping method. As a result, he made the critical decision to purchase a machine called a spiral winder. Long ribbons of paper could be fed into the spiral winder to produce tubes that grew continuously off the end of a shaft. This method was vastly more efficient than the convolute method CPT had previously used, allowing Pete to price tubes much more competitively. However, the new business acquired by the transition to spiral winding meant that CPT needed more space.

In 1967, the company moved to 2330 W. Van Buren, another four-story building across from Crane High School near the Eisenhower Expressway. On the afternoon of April 4, 1968, a whiskey bottle crashed through the office window and landed on Pete's desk—rioting in the aftermath of Martin Luther King's assassination would cause the plant to shut down for several days. When employees returned to work, they learned their previous building at 137 S Albany had burned to the ground.

Though the Van Buren building was twice as large as the facility on Albany, it lasted only until 1976, when, once again, the company needed more space to accommodate its growth. The nearly 60,000-square-foot building at 925 W Jackson Boulevard had almost three times as much space as the Van Buren building, and its West Loop location was even closer to major transportation hubs. Once an auto dealership that jockeyed cars throughout its structure, the building featured two 10,000-lb capacity elevators that proved a great boon to the company's shipping, receiving and material handling. Deep concrete floors enabled massive rolls of paper to be stacked and stored safely on any level.


Guided by Pete and Laverne, the company continued to grow CPT's main product lines of mailing tubes and winding cores at the Jackson Boulevard location. Competition for the core business was bec