Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Dukes of Hazzard Lunch Boxes by Aladdin - Did You Know There Are 5 Different Ones?

One of the most popular and most fondly remembered pieces of Dukes of Hazzard memorabilia is the Dukes of Hazzard lunch box.  Every collector has one on their shelf, and every fan had one in the early '80s.  Lunch boxes are viewed as a piece of our childhood.  So many people affectionately  remember taking their favorite lunch box to their first day of school.  Taking that iconic Aladdin brand Dukes lunch box with Daisy, Luke, Bo, and the General Lee to school told the rest of the class you were a fun lovin' Good Ol' Boy or Good Ol' Girl!  As iconic as the Dukes lunch box is, many fans don't know there are five different versions of it.  This blog post is devoted to the preferred mid day meal carrying apparatus of citizens of Hazzard County from around the world, the Dukes of Hazzard lunch box.

Lunch boxes were first marketed to school age kids in the 1930s when Mickey Mouse adorned a metal pail.  In the '50s, Aladdin Industries entered the market with their licensed Hopalong Cassidy lunch box and quickly became the leader in the market.  Aladdin marketed nearly all the major pop culture licenses for decades including Superman, Fantastic Four, Star Trek, and Gunsmoke.  In the late '70s and early '80s, one of the most popular brands around was definitely the Dukes of Hazzard.

The standard Dukes of Hazzard lunch box, and the one most causal fans remember, is the metal box released by Aladdin in 1980.  The front of the box features the three cousins, Daisy, Luke, and Bo along with an image of the General Lee driving straight towards you.  The show logo is included.

I have several copies of this version of the lunch box, including this one in perfect condition that Jeff gave me as a Christmas present over fifteen years ago.  It has the original tag attached.

The selling point on this tag is the Wide Mouth Thermo Bottle.  Though commonly referred to as the thermos, Thermos is actually a brand name of a different product.  Similar to referring to all facial tissues as kleenex, many people call all bottles that accompany lunch boxes as the thermos.  From here on out, I am going to be like most people and also just call it the thermos.

The Dukes of Hazzard lunch box is filled with action, just like the Dukes of Hazzard television show.  The side most commonly called the front is only called that because it is the side that opens.  The opposite side could just as easily be the front because it has a graphic that is just as nice.  It features Bo and Luke exiting the General Lee while Daisy and Uncle Jesse look on.  Boss Hogg is also featured.  All of the artwork used on the lunch box is unique to the item.  I'm glad Aladdin used unique art and didn't use the same designs seen on t-shirts, bed sheets, and toy packages.  The likenesses are very well done and each actor is faithfully portrayed.  My only issue is with Luke's red shirt on the back and Bo's red plaid on the front.  This is an early product and perhaps the designers didn't think the boys would be wearing basically the same thing for seven years, but why would they?  Why did they?

The sides of the box feature more action starring the General Lee.  One side has an explosion that the Gen'ral is jumping away from.  A car resembling the Carnival of Thrills stunt car isn't fairing as well as our beloved flying orange clunker car.  The two-part episode Carnival of Thrills aired in September 1980.  I wonder if this car is designed to resemble cars from the episode or if it was a coincidence?

The opposite side has the General jumping over Rosco and Enos as they crash into each other rather violently.  In all the shots, the General is portrayed quite accurately, except for the lack of push bar.

The top of the lunch box features the General Lee parked in front of Cooter's garage, except you can't really see the General at all because of the plastic handle.

At an angle you can see that it is another great piece of General Lee artwork.  It appears Luke is inside the car.

The bottom features Ol' Crazy Cooter and Boss Hogg running away from a skiing General Lee (up on two wheels.)  Bo and Luke had complete control of the Gen'ral and there was no need for JD and Cooter to be alarmed.

In looking at close ups of the characters, they really are good representations.  Uncle Jesse sure didn't like when the boys slid across the hood.  He thought they were a little too rough on the Gen'ral.  Daisy approves.

In this shot Boss seems to be saying, "What are you going to do, those Duke Boys are getting away again."

Here he is about to land face first in a pool of mud, and he knows it.

Cooter isn't in fear of being hit by the General Lee at all.  He's just having a good time and scaring Boss a little.  They did a good job with Ben's character.  He has a shop uniform on, a jacket with a name tag, and even one of Cooter's signature yellow hats.  I believe this one is the Animal Feed hat that is also on the Figures Toy Company figure.

The inside of the box doesn't have any directions, but does tell you which way to insert the thermos.  There is ample room for a salami sandwich, small baggie of cheese curls, and a chocolate pudding pack.  That sure was rather specific, but that's my perfect grade school lunch.

Speaking of the thermos, no Dukes of Hazzard lunch box is complete without the General Lee Thermo Bottle.

Unlike the lunch box, the thermos only has the General Lee and no Dukes characters.  The fact that they didn't include the characters in 1980 would pay off for Aladdin Industries a few years later.  The front of the bottle features the logo above the rebel flag and the General Lee text that resembles the text used on the car.  Good attention to detail Aladdin designers.

One side features an explosion similar to the one on the side of the box, but it is not the same artwork.  The Carnival of Thrills-esque car is blue this time.  It's still in for a rough landing.

The other side features a couple of shots of the General Lee pulling off some nice stunts.  It is jumping and skiing!  That Gen'ral can do it all.

The lid on the standard Dukes Thermo Bottle is red.  It has the Aladdin logo and Thermo Bottle.  It is a standard lid that is used on many bottles that came with Aladdin lunch boxes.  They came in a variety of colors.  From time to time you will see a Dukes thermos for sale that has a different color lid.  It is wrong and someone along the way matched the thermos with a lid from another set.

The base of the thermos is also the same red that matches the lid.  The Thermo Bottle has the Warner Bros. info as well as the 1980 trademark date.

The "Pop Top" is also standard to all the Aladdin lunch boxes of the time.  You had the option of sticking a straw into it, but I remember just chugging it directly from the brown part that popped up.

I wasn't one to bring soup or hot liquids in my lunch, it was usually red or orange kool-aid, or chocolate milk for me, but you had the option if you so desired.  You could even use the lid as a cup.  

The bottom of the Thermo Bottle has more trademark info as well as the "Keeps Hot....Keep Cold" statement.

Speaking of trademark information, it is everywhere on the lunch box.  The WB is on one side of the front...

and the Aladdin in on the other side.

It is also on both sides of the back.  This furthers my agrument that either side could be the front.

The metal Dukes of Hazzard lunch box is a staple of many Dukes collections.  It makes a perfect gift for any Dukes fan.  I mentioned that Jeff gave me a pristine one, but Natalie gave me one first.  It was a Christmas present from her for our first Christmas together.  Both of those lunch boxes have a very special spot in the collection and in my heart.  I've been given a couple others over the years as well.  Everyone's favorite local auctioneer John Peters gave me a beat up one that he found at an auction and I've acquired a few more along the way.  It was one of Aladdin's most popular offerings and anytime you see a big lunch box collection, you know the collector has a Dukes box in the middle of it.  Being that the metal Dukes lunch box is an incredibly popular Dukes item, many people don't know that it is only one of five different ones.  Let's explore the other Aladdin Dukes lunch boxes.

Our friends to the north, in Canada, got their own version of the Dukes lunch box in 1980.  The rarest variant of all five lunch boxes is the Canadian lunch box that is made of orange plastic.  In the '70s, manufactures started producing plastic lunch boxes that cost less to produce.  Though the standard Dukes box was made in metal, some cost cutting was involved in creating the variants.  Canada got their own Dukes lunch box, but it was only decorated on the front.  It seems producing mass numbers of similar boxes and stickers to slap on them would save loads of money over pressing out 3D stamped metal boxes.  The Canadian box features the same design as the standard metal one, but not as three-d-ish.  I only recently added this version to the collection after searching for it for quite a while.  The plastic used is orange which makes all the sense in the world, just not all the sense in the USA, as we'll get to soon.

The product also feature the trademark of Aladdin Industries Products of Canada, Inc.  Aladdin had a Canadian branch, eh?  The Canadian flag is also featured.  There is no mistake that this is the Canadian variant.

The back of the box is blank.  No Boss Hogg, Uncle Jesse, or Cooter here.  There is also nothing on the sides.

Inside fits the Thermo Bottle as well as room for all your lunch needs.  Our northern neighborhoods like cheese curls and pudding, right?  

The one item I don't have is the accompanying Canadian Thermo Bottle.  It's harder to track down than the Canadian lunch box.  It features the same General Lee design but has an orange lid and base.  Our good buddy Dave DeWitt, owner of the amazing traveling Dukes of Hazzard museum, shared a few photos of his.  

If trying to track one down, like I currently am, there are two things to keep an eye out for.  The lid may be easily swapped out for an orange one, but the base tells you it's genuine.  Aside from being orange, the verbiage is also multilingual.  Anyone out there have one that I can add to the collection?  I love having Dave DeWitt as a friend and fellow collector that I can bounce ideas off and ask for  advice.  Thanks for sharing the pics Dave!

Our friends to the north weren't the only ones to be offered a cost cutting plastic alternative.  The American plastic version came out in 1981.  For some reason it was produced using red plastic.  Not sure why they decided to use red, as orange makes so much more sense.

The American plastic lunch box is bigger than the Canadian version.  It uses nearly the same sticker as the Canadian that resembles the front of the metal lunch box.

The back of the box is also blank.  There is a molded Aladdin logo inside a large circle.

The red plastic lunch box is insulated and much thicker.  It has a slot on the side.

That holds the thermos in place.  I would imagine the insulation would keep my salami sandwich and pudding pack nice and cool.

When looking at it closely, you see that the entire lunchbox is one piece of plastic.  The hinge is just a thin piece that is connected to both sides.  Because the plastic is so thin on this portion of the box, it is easily broken.  I've seen many plastic Dukes lunch boxes for sale that are actually two separate broken apart pieces.

Conversely, the Canadian plastic lunch box has separate pieces and a rod through the hinge so it's not as easily broken.

If you've been paying close attention to the images used on the boxes, you might have noticed something is missing.  The metal lunch box and the Canadian version are lacking the 01 on the front image of the General Lee.  Someone at Aladdin must have noticed in 1981 as it was added it to the red plastic American version.  It wasn't properly outlined in white, but at least it's there.  

The metal version features an 01 less General Lee.

And so does the Canadian version.  I'm glad Aladdin fixed their mistake and added the 01.

Somehow, the sticker used on the red plastic lunch box has been released to the public.  I wonder how these sorts of items survive.  I remember seeing a roll of several of them selling on ebay at one point, then pairs started showing up.  I wonder if the buyer of the original roll pieced them out and sold them or if more surfaced.  Regardless, I bought a pair on two different occasions.

They are the same image used on the red box.  The WB and Aladdin copywrite info is all the same.

It's cool having these odd little production stickers.  The red American plastic lunch box came with the same thermos as the metal version and it is still dated 1980.

The third plastic version is similar to the domed shaped lunch box popular in previous decades.  Though the top is not rounded like a dome, it features the same design, hinges and latches in the middle as opposed to a lid that opens.  Just the General Lee is featured.  The artwork is very similar to the General on the other boxes, but updated.  It has the correct 01s with the white outline, the flag has more detail, and the push bar has been added.  The artwork stretches past the hinges and part of the car is shown on top of the rebel flag on the bottom portion.

Perhaps it was a maneuver to sell more lunch boxes to the Dukes loving public, but it seems both versions of the American plastic lunch boxes sold in less numbers as they are both more rare than the metal one.  This one is more scarce than the other plastic one.

The back is, once again, blank.

The design is quite different.  The thermos is suspended in the top compartment and you could fit a lot of pudding packs in the bottom.  There is some space in the top beside the thermos, but the lunch packer would have to be pretty creative to fit something up there.  Maybe the old method of sticking something up there and closing it real fast would work, but that might bust the pudding pack lid.  Don't need pudding spilled inside the box, 'cause that would make for an awkward lunch.

The top features an Aladdin branded handle.

The dome style was smaller than the red plastic, but it seems more food can fit inside.  With just a matter of throwing on a new Dukes of Hazzard sticker on old stock of lunch boxes, it's no wonder Aladdin and Warner Bros. released different versions.  They wanted to sell as much Dukes merchandise as they could.  There were absolutely no ramifications to Warner Bros. for selling so many Dukes of Hazzard items; they could even make more money by not paying the actors their contractually agreed upon royalties.  What could possibly go wrong by short changing the very backbone of the show that is one of the biggest money makers for Warner Bros.?

Coy and Vance!  That's what could go wrong.  Most everyone knows the story of John Schneider and Tom Wopat going on strike over the unfair payment of merchandise sales.  If you would like more background on the debacle, check out this post.  Bo and Luke were replaced by cousins Coy and Vance and it just wasn't the same.  This unfortunate turn of events happened during the peak of the Dukes popularity and Warner Bros thought no one would notice the character swap.  They even released some products with the new Dukes images on them.  One of these products was another metal lunch box.  The design is similar to the front of the standard lunch box.  Again, maybe WB was hoping no one would notice.  WE ALL NOTICED WB!  Vance and Coy are pictured with Daisy and the General Lee.  Daisy, even in cartoon likeness, sort of looks like she is rolling her eyes and doesn't want to be there.  The General Lee is even driving away as a way of saying "I'm outta here!"

Another unfortunate outcome of the Coy and Vance era was that their first episode aired in the fall of 1982.  It was settled and the real Duke Boys were back in February of '83. The Coy and Vance lunch box was dated 1983.  Bo and Luke were most likely back before this box was even in stores.  Surely no one would want a reminder of this dark time in Hazzard.  Well, I guess some people did and don't call me Shirley.  (That joke doesn't work as well in written form.)  It is a rarer item, but isn't all that hard to track down.  Fortunately three years earlier, Aladdin decided to create the thermos that only featured the General Lee, so they didn't need to produce a new Thermo Bottle and this box came with the same bottle that is included in the previous three American lunch boxes.

Oddly, two major characters weren't featured prominently on the original metal box.  That was rectified when Rosco and Enos show up on the opposite side of the Coy and Vance lunch box.  Putting Enos on there at this time is kind of odd because when Coy and Vance were behind the wheel of the Gen'ral, Enos was accompanied by Cletus.  I'm surprised they didn't put him on there as well.

The likenesses of the Hazzard County Sheriff's Department is spot on.  Another good job by the Aladdin art department.  WB and Aladdin went all in by creating another metal box for the arrival of Coy and Vance.  It's a bit surprising they didn't just print a sticker and slap them on another plastic box.  I'm thinking it was an executive order from WB as a way of showing they are fully behind the new Dukes.  That didn't last very long.

The sides of the Coy and Vance box use the same artwork as the original.  It's another stroke of luck that the side panels didn't feature Bo and Luke.  When doing research about lunch boxes before writing this post, everything I read discusses how lunch boxes were an elementary school status symbol that showed the other students who you are and what you loved.  I wonder if any kids in 1983 showed up to school with the Coy and Vance lunch box while other kids still held on to their beloved Bo and Luke lunch box and if it sparked any debate.  The Coy and Vance kid and the Bo and Luke kid could still team up and show superiority to that kid who had the Knight Rider lunch box, that's for sure. 

Most people who grew up through the '60s to the '90s have important memories of lunch boxes.  They really were a part of our childhood.  Some kids were lucky enough to carry one (or more) of these Dukes of Hazzard lunch boxes with them to school.  Did you have one or a different beloved lunch box?  Share you lunch box memories in the comments below.


  1. Hey I live in the great white north (oh yeah, we love our cheese curds* with gravy and fries -good ol' poutine lol... actually don't think i’ve heard of the pudding one, maybe it's the Canucks that live in igloos, eh lol) and I actually have been sitting on the Canadian version for quite some time... been in my memorabilia room (I'm.a thrift store kind of guy, and pretty sure i can across this at a value village or while garage sale-ing) and I was just cleaning the room and thought is search again and voila I found this blog :)

    Your blog was very informative I've always had a passion for collectibles. I’ve looked on eBay and what not for my version but couldn’t find it so I figured maybe it was a replica or something, but it’s really interesting to find out that it's actually more of the rare ones.

    I must admit your fandom for Dukes of Hazzard far surpasses mine and I would love to help you with your collection. I would definitely consider selling it for the right number. Are you still looking for that version?

  2. I have one wanted to see what its worth to a real collector . Let me know for the right price i might get rid of it.

  3. I have a collection of lunchboxes... I am wondering what they are worth.

  4. How muchbis an original 1980 lunchbox worth that has autographs by bo n luke n coy n sherrif little n cooter n enos n cletus on it? I been trying to find out...ive had my box since 1980.i was 7 years old ill be 48 in august so 41 years ive had mine n i jept it put up all this time.yes i do have pictures and the autographs are legit i got mine signed at dukefest in nashville in 2005 and at cooters place in gatlinburg over the years.so if someone has an idea of what 1 an old 1 the alkadin from 1980 is worth with yhe autographs on it.please let me know....thanks

  5. It's hard to put a value on all the autographs. Are you ever going to sell it? It seems that would be a special piece and something you would want to keep.

  6. I have the 1980 lunch box with Thermus but it does not have the Thermus outline on the inside of the box? Is it a knock off?