50 Surprising Facts About Bubble Wrap

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iStock.com/kutaytanir

Outside of cats making their home in empty shipping boxes, no packaging tool has brought more joy to consumers than Bubble Wrap, which has been protecting fragile goods—and relieving stress—with its air-filled chambers since 1960. Here are 50 things you might not know about this shipping institution.

1. It was originally supposed to be wallpaper.

Bubble Wrap on a ceiling with blue lighting.
Mr. Michael Phams, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Wallpaper may have lost some of cachet (though it's making a comeback), but in the 1950s, gluing patterned rolls to your living room was a decorating win. In 1957, an engineer named Al Fielding and a Swiss inventor named Marc Chavannes wanted to bring a wallpaper to market with a raised texture. As an experiment, they glued two shower curtains together, sealing them so tightly that air bubbles were created. But few consumers wanted to cocoon themselves in a padded room, and the wrap-as-wallpaper idea never took off.

2. It was used as greenhouse insulation.

Boxes of plants near a wall of Bubble Wrap.
iStock

With their wallpaper dreams dashed, Fielding and Chavannes decided to take their glued-curtain idea and transfer it to greenhouses, where the material could be used to insulate buildings and retain heat. This worked, but it was still hard to convince buyers to enclose their environment in plastic. For a time, it seemed like Bubble Wrap would remain a good idea without much of a purpose.

3. IBM changed everything.

Vintage IBM 1401 computers from the Computer History Museum.
Sandy Kemsley, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By 1959, Fielding and Chavannes had incorporated Sealed Air, a business umbrella for marketing their Bubble Wrap product. Their marketing expert, Frederick W. Bowers, learned that IBM was preparing to ship their 1401 decimal computer to buyers. Realizing the item was both expensive and fragile, Bowers pitched the company on the idea of shipping them wrapped in Sealed Air’s trademark product. (Previously, shippers used newspaper, sawdust, or horse hair to protect delicate items.) Impressed, IBM soon began using Bubble Wrap to protect delicate electronics from damage during transit. By the mid-1960s, Bubble Wrap had become a shipping institution.

4. "Bubble wrap" is trademarked.

Close-up of Bubble Wrap
iStock

Like Xerox, Kleenex, Coke, and other brand names that became so ubiquitous that they began to slip into day-to-day vocabularies, Bubble Wrap is actually a trademarked product of Sealed Air. No competing air-cushioning company can use the term.

5. Bubble Wrap comes in handy on film sets.

Three women wearing backpacks.
iStock

The next time you watch a movie or television show set in a high school, it's possible you’re looking at a bunch of extras toting Bubble Wrap around campus. Actors sometimes carry backpacks stuffed with the product so they're not forced to lug around heavy books during a long shooting day.

6. Bubble Wrap could (maybe) save your life.

Feet on the edge of a building.
iStock

Could Bubble Wrap cushion a fall? While we would never recommend you put it to the test, one theory says maybe. In 2011, WIRED contributor Rhett Allain crunched the numbers and estimated that one might need 39 layers of Bubble Wrap in order to survive a fall out of a sixth-story window.

7. An air force base once mistook its pops for gunshots.

Bubble wrap with a blue tint.
iStock

In December 2015, security officials were called to the Kirtland Air Force base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after reports of gunshots were heard. High-powered weapons and Humvees were assembled before officials determined that the “threat” had been someone on base popping Bubble Wrap.

8. The boy scouts set a popping world record.

Close-up of a Boy Scout uniform.
iStock

In 2015, Boy Scouts in Elbert, Colorado succeeded in setting a Guinness World Record for the most number of people popping Bubble Wrap simultaneously: 2681 Scouts participated.

9. An artist uses bubble wrap to create "pop art."

Artist Bradley Hart attends the opening reception for The Masters Interpreted at Cavalier Gallery on May 7, 2014 in New York City.
Andrew Toth, Getty Images

Artist Bradley Hart has a unique approach to modern art. Using a syringe, he injects paint into individual air cylinders of Bubble Wrap, creating pixelated-looking landscapes and portraits. Hart also displays the reverse side of these works, which feature running paint from the injections and serve as a counterpoint to the more disciplined image on the front.

10. Some bubble wrap doesn't pop.

Rolls of bubble wrap and shipping boxes.
iStock

Sacrificing fun for practicality, in 2015 Sealed Air began offering iBubble Wrap, a product that ships flat and uninflated so it takes up less space in warehouses. (Customers can inflate it when it’s ready to be used.) It's as effective as regular Bubble Wrap, with one caveat: once filled, it doesn't make any satisfying noise when popped.

11. Bubble Wrap once kept a giant pumpkin from disaster.

Close-up of a giant pumpkin.
iStock

What happens when you drop an 815-pound pumpkin from a 35-foot crane? Normally, a crime scene. But in October 2000, a pumpkin-dropping contest in Iowa decided to see if a Bubble Wrap landing pad could protect "Gourdzilla" from harm [PDF]. Landing on the product, the mammoth squash was completely intact.

12. Popping Bubble Wrap may have health benefits.

Woman popping Bubble Wrap on a table with coffee nearby.
iStock

Popping Bubble Wrap ranks among life’s greatest small pleasures. Some have theorized it may have to do with our ancestral habit of crushing ticks or other insects that plagued us—although the truth may be a little less morbid. In 1992, psychology professor Kathleen Dillon conducted a study in which she found that subjects were more relaxed and less tired after a popping session. One possible reason: Humans are soothed by tactile sensations of touch, which is why some cultures favor smooth stones or "worry beads" to manipulate for comfort. That might explain why virtual popping on cell phones or screens doesn't have quite the same effect.

13. Bubble Wrap was a Toy Hall of Fame finalist in 2016.

Child popping Bubble Wrap.
iStock

Popping Bubble Wrap has become such a beloved pastime that the National Toy Hall of Fame once considered it for inclusion. In 2016, the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York nominated Bubble Wrap along with Care Bears, Dungeons & Dragons, and other playthings for induction. Bubble Wrap didn't make the cut, but for a "toy" that is essentially nothing but air, it must have been an honor just to be considered.

14. You can opt for fancy versions of Bubble Wrap.

Bubble Wrap with heart shapes.
Aimee Ray, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bored with conventional Bubble Wrap? Sealed Air also manufactures sheets with air cushions shaped like letters that spell out "happy holidays" and chambers shaped like hearts or smiley faces.

15. Sealed air once made golden wrap.

Gold Bubble Wrap.
Delyth Angharad, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Bubble Wrap's debut as a shipping staple, Sealed Air released a special commemorative golden Bubble Wrap in 2010.

16. One bride wore a bubble wrap wedding dress.

Woman laying down, wearing bubble wrap.
Felipe Neves, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

With an eye on a sustainable gown for her wedding, England native Rachael Robinson decided to opt for a Bubble Wrap-crafted dress in May 2010. The dress was made at the school Robinson taught at for a fashion show of recyclable materials. It featured a three-foot Bubble Wrap train. (She wore a more conventional dress at a second ceremony.)

17. Norway uses Bubble Wrap to prevent hypothermia.

Emergency responders carrying a stretcher in the snow.
iStock

When transporting critically ill patients, Norwegian emergency medicine technicians sometimes use Bubble Wrap to prevent hypothermia in the frigid climate. In 2009, a study was conducted to determine Bubble Wrap's efficacy in heat retention in mannequins. It was found to be only 69 percent as effective as blankets, or about the equivalent of a sleeping bag.

18. Bubble Wrap made the cover of Playboy in 1997.

Portrait of Farrah Fawcett.
Frank Micelotta, Getty Images

Proving that Bubble Wrap has unlimited uses, actress Farrah Fawcett posed wearing only a run of the see-through material for a 1997 Playboy cover and interior photo spread. Because the Wrap left nothing to the imagination, Fawcett's cover was shipped only to subscribers.

19. The Bubble Wrap factory is like an oven.

Sheet of Bubble Wrap
iStock

To churn out the miles of Bubble Wrap produced yearly, Sealed Air’s factory in Elmwood Park, New Jersey can be a bit stifling. The machines use resin to create the sheets at temperatures of 560 degrees, making the air around it "sweat-inducing."

20. Bubble Wrap is in the Museum Of Modern Art.

Close-up of Bubble Wrap.
iStock

In 2004, the Museum of Modern Art accepted a donation from Sealed Air of a nearly 12-inch by 12-inch square of Bubble Wrap into their Architecture and Design collection. It went on display as part of their Humble Masterpieces collection, which also featured chopsticks and the Band-Aid.

21. Amazon may ship your bubble wrap in protective packaging.

Curl of brown paper over Bubble Wrap.
iStock

A bizarre photo of a Bubble Wrap order covered in shipping paper made the viral rounds in 2015, with people puzzled why Amazon would need to protect protective packaging material. One possible answer: because the roll didn't take up the entire box, shippers reinforced the empty space with additional packing material so the cardboard wouldn't collapse and send stacked boxes above it tumbling.

22. Bubble Wrap has inspired young inventors.

Young girl with a
iStock

Back in 2007, Sealed Air sponsored a Bubble Wrap Competition for Young Inventors, encouraging grade school students to find alternative uses for their celebrated product. Among the ideas: using a layer of Wrap as a building material to absorb shock on floors; as a rest pad for carpal tunnel sufferers; and as a wallpaper designed to stimulate children with autism. The annual contest ran through 2010.

23. Bubble Wrap inspired a book.

Published in the 1998, The Bubble Wrap Book took a novel look at alternative uses for Bubble Wrap. Some were clearly intended for satirical purposes—like stuffing your wallet with the stuff to impress dates—while others may find some practical use. Making a mat out of Bubble Wrap could, in theory, alert you to a burglar.

24. You can buy a Bubble Wrap calendar.

Bored with marking off days with a big red X? Sealed Air licenses day calendars that allow consumers to punctuate dates by popping a giant bubble instead.

25. You can still use Bubble Wrap as insulation.

Globe wrapped in Bubble Wrap.
iStock

Sealed Air doesn't officially endorse its use as insulation, but Bubble Wrap can indeed do what its inventors aspired toward back in the 1950s. Using the packaging material around windows can help retain heat indoors and help keep homes cool during summer, with the trapped air in the bubbles having a thermal retention effect. This assumes you can keep from popping them.

26. Bubble Wrap appreciation day comes every january.

A man and a woman jump on a pile of Bubble Wrap in their living room
Paul Bradbury iStock via Getty Images

Mark it on your Bubble Wrap calendar. The “holiday” was invented by an Indiana radio station that inadvertently broadcast ASMR-like sounds when they opened a shipment of new microphones wrapped in the stuff.

27. Bubble Wrap had a noisy cameo in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective ...

28. ... a Touching cameo in WALL·E ...

29. ... and a hilarious cameo in Naked Gun 33 1/3.

30. Bubble Wrap goes great with chocolate.

Bars of chocolate piled on a gray table.
serezniy iStock via Getty Images

Spreading melted chocolate on a piece of Bubble Wrap and letting it harden creates a honeycomb-like pattern when the wrap is peeled off. Chocolatiers and bakers use this technique to create luxurious and impressive-looking treats and garnishes with very little time and effort.

31. Not all Bubble Wrap is created equally.

A swirl of colored light behind Bubble Wrap.
Helen Davies iStock via Getty Images

It comes in bubble sizes that range from 1/8” to 3/16”. When it comes to shipping, smaller bubbles keep items protected from scratches and scrapes, while larger bubbles are more effective for preventing damage from impact.

32. Bubble Wrap is made in 52 countries, and there's a lot of it.

Rolls of Bubble Wrap stacked
Valerii Maksimov iStock via Getty Images

Bubble Wrap is made in 52 countries. Every year, enough of the poppable stuff is made that it could wrap around the equator 10 times, or make it to the moon and back.

33. Bubble Wrap is hardly the only product that Sealed Air makes.

Bubble Wrap sheet in front of a black background
Kichigin iStock via Getty Images

Still, today, Bubble Wrap makes up just 2 percent of the Sealed Air’s sales. They’ve diversified their portfolio to include products like medical packaging solutions and a diverse array of food packaging products.

34. Bubble Wrap is Cryovac's cousin.

Yellow containers in front of an industrial machine for sealing things in plastic
sergeyryzhov iStock via Getty Images

Among other things, the Sealed Air company also owns Cryovac, a thin plastic that is shrink-wrapped around food and other items. They claim to be the company that invented vacuum sealing.

35. Bubble Wrap might be as good as a massage.

A woman with her eyes closed getting a neck massage.
Prostock-Studio iStock via Getty Images

You’re not imagining the psychological, stress-relieving benefits that come with popping Bubble Wrap. In 2012, the Bubble Wrap® Brand “Pop” Poll surveyed respondents and found that one minute of bubble-popping provides the stress relief equivalent to a 33-minute massage.

36. There are Bubble Wrap apps.

A man touches his finger to his smart phone screen.
Chainarong Prasertthai iStock via Getty Images

Both iPhone and Android offer Bubble Wrap apps. (No, they’re not as good as the real thing.)

37. The inventor's son was the first non-adult to pop it.

A teen girl in a yellow shirt pops Bubble Wrap
Maria Casinos iStock via Getty Images

The first person to pop bubble wrap: Howard Fielding, the inventor’s son. OK, maybe not, but he was close. “I remember looking at the stuff and my instinct was to squeeze it,” Fielding told Smithsonian Magazine. “I say I’m the first person to pop Bubble Wrap, but I’m sure it’s not true. The adults at my father’s firm likely did so for quality assurance. But I was probably the first kid. The bubbles were a lot bigger then, so they made a loud noise.”

38. Bubble Wrap popped big in the 1970s.

A pink piggy bank wrapped in Bubble Wrap
sqback iStock via Getty Images

Until 1971, Sealed Air was a relatively modest company, turning a profit of just $5 million. That’s when T.J. Dermot Dunphy was named CEO, and under his direction, the firm grew to $3 billion in sales by the time he left in 2000.

39. Bubble Wrap's inventors are in the New Jersey inventors Hall of Fame.

A man in suspenders and a hat writing the solution to a complex math problem on a large chalkboard.
francescoch iStock via Getty Images

In 1993, inventors Marc Chavannes and Alfred Fielding received a coveted spot in the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame for their Bubble Wrap contributions. Other honorees include Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein.

40. Sealed Air employees know the value of Bubble Wrap's stress relief.

A man holds a sheet of Bubble Wrap tightly.
dekru iStock via Getty Images

According to The New York Times, at one point, employees at Sealed Air each received a small box of individual squares of Bubble Wrap to keep at their desks for emergency stress relief. (No word on whether this is still standard practice.)

41. Higher learning institutions recognize Bubble Wrap's mental health benefits, too.

Hands pop Bubble Wrap at a table with coffee.
alexeys iStock via Getty Images

The Bubble Wrap manufacturer isn’t the only organization to see the value in stress-popping. In 2019, The University of Bristol in England provided students with squares of Bubble Wrap to help relieve anxiety. In response to concerns about sustainability, the university issued a statement saying that the stunt was a clever way to reuse packing material that university furniture had come in.

42. Bubble Wrap has a massive online following.

A woman pops Bubble Wrap in front of her laptop computer.
IPGGutenbergUKLtd iStock via Getty Images

The “Popping Bubble Wrap” Facebook group has 460,000 members.

43. There's (fictional) lethal bubble wrap.

'Kerblam!' episode of 'Doctor Who'
BBC America

Kerblam!,” an episode of Doctor Who that aired in November 2018, introduced viewers to lethal Bubble Wrap.

44. Bubble Wrap has been used as a murder weapon.

The end of a sheet of Bubble Wrap
Paket iStock via Getty Images

But seriously, it really can kill. In 2017, a South Carolina man used Bubble Wrap as a murder weapon. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

45. You can buy a Bubble Wrap suit

A mother putting a helmet on a young son who is wrapped in Bubble Wrap.
D. Anschutz iStock via Getty Images

You can purchase a “bubble wrap suit.” After Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott donned bubble wrap suits in the cult movie Dude, Where’s My Car?, demand for bubble wrap suits skyrocketed. (Or at least, demand for bubble wrap suits suddenly existed.) If you can’t live without one, you can purchase the poppable attire for the surprisingly affordable price of $24.99.

46. You can make JELL-O shots with it.

If you’re very patient. Morena DIY uses a syringe to inject liquid Jell-O into a piece of Bubble Wrap with a large bubble size. After the dessert has set, she pops each one out of the makeshift mold to create dozens of dome-shaped shots.

47. Some people use Bubble Wrap to play Twister

Hands on a Twister game mat.
LIgorko iStock via Getty Images

Place some Bubble Wrap under your Twister mat for an added dimension to the party game

48. You can use Bubble Wrap to keep your pet warm.

Do not wrap your dog or cat in Bubble Wrap! But you can install it into an outdoor pet home to keep out the cold. You'll just want to keep it behind the paneling so your pooch doesn't pop it all.

49. Elon Musk thinks non-poppable Bubble Wrap is a sign of the end times.

Elon Musk called non-poppable Bubble Wrap “Clearly a sign of the apocalypse!” In 2019, four years after Sealed Air announced their non-poppable packing product iBubble, the news cycle once again picked up the story. Upon seeing the news of non-poppable Bubble Wrap on Twitter, Elon Musk professed his horror by announcing that it must be a bad omen. Fortunately for Musk and other stress poppers out there, Sealed Air continues to make traditional Bubble Wrap in addition to iBubble.

50. Bubble Wrap can help your freezer work better.

Bubble Wrap can be used to improve freezer efficiency. By filling any unused freezer space with wads of Bubble Wrap, you’ll prevent warm air from circulating, which makes your freezer work harder.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

10 Fascinating Facts About Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac reading poetry.
Jack Kerouac reading poetry.
Phillip Harrington // Alamy Stock Photo

Around midnight one September evening in 1957, Jack Kerouac and his girlfriend, Joyce Glassman, went to the local newsstand. They were looking for the morning issue of The New York Times and its review of Kerouac’s new book, On the Road. There it was, on page 27: a rave review by critic Gilbert Millstein, who declared that “Its publication is a historical occasion.”

That one review changed Kerouac’s life, making him the most famous Beat Generation member and allowing him to publish numerous novels—many of which would draw from his own life.

1. Jack Kerouac’s childhood nickname was “Memory Babe.”

Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac was born on March 12, 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts. His father, Leo, was an insurance salesman and later owned a print shop; his mother, Gabrielle, was a homemaker. French, not English, was his first language, and throughout his life, he felt a cultural estrangement as a French-speaker in the United States.

As a child, Kerouac had an astounding memory: He could accurately remember scenes and conversations from the past, which caused his friends to call him “Memory Babe.” He would use this talent in his novel The Town and the City to describe the typical New England family life. According to biographer Ann Charters, since his boyhood life wasn’t as idyllic as the story required, he combined elements of his own childhood alongside memories of his friends’ lives.

2. A friend inspired Jack Kerouac to be a writer.

After skipping the sixth grade, Kerouac attended Bartlett Junior High School, where he met Sebastian Sampas. The two shared a love of theater and literature and formed a deep friendship. Thanks to Sampas’s influence, Kerouac joined the school’s Scribbler’s Club. In his Lonesome Traveler, published in 1960, Kerouac wrote, “Decided to become a writer at age 17 under influence of Sebastian Sampas, local young poet who later died at Anzio beach head” in World War II. Kerouac married Sampas’s sister, Stella, in 1966.

3. Jack Kerouac’s poems were influenced by a Japanese poet.

Seventeenth-century Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō used Buddhist themes like nature, enlightenment, and the cycle of life, along with plain language, when writing haiku poems. Kerouac loved haiku, writing copious amounts of it and incorporating it into his novels—though he disregarded the syllable count many associate with the form, saying instead that “Pop———American (non-Japanese) Haikus” were “short 3-line poems, or ‘pomes,’ rhyming or non-rhyming, delineating ‘little Samadhis’ if possible, usually of a Buddhist connotation, aiming towards enlightenment.” A sample of his Bashō-inspired work:

In my medicine cabinet
the winter fly
Has died of old age

—Kerouac

As the author’s friend, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, would say, “He’s the only one in the United States who knows how to write haiku… [he] talks that way, thinks that way.”

4. Jack Kerouac got married to escape jail.

In 1944, future Beat writer Lucien Carr murdered his friend David Kammerer. Carr claimed that Kammerer was gay and had been stalking him; Carr also said that Kammerer was continuously making advances at him, even though Carr turned him down. Carr claimed that, to protect himself, he had stabbed Kammerer to death with his Boy Scout knife. (This type of excuse for murder would later come to be known as the “gay panic defense.”) After filling Kammerer’s pockets with rocks, Carr dumped his body into the Hudson River. He then went to see his friends Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs; Carr said he and Kerouac went to a nearby park to dispose of the evidence. Later, Kerouac was arrested and jailed as a material witness to the crime.

Kerouac couldn’t post bail, so he asked his girlfriend, Edie Parker, to borrow the money from her parents. Edie, however, wouldn’t do it unless he promised to marry her, which he did. Kerouac also said they would move to Grosse Pointe, Michigan, where he’d get a job to repay the loan. On August 22, Kerouac married Edie Parker and was soon released. He made good on his promises, but their marriage would soon go downhill and was eventually annulled.

Kerouac later referenced Kammerer’s murder in his autobiographical novel Vanity of Duluoz, writing that he had told the character based on Kammerer where the character based on Carr was going on the night of the murder and had watched “him rush off to his death.”

5. Jack Kerouac didn’t take care of his daughter.

In late 1950, Kerouac married Joan Haverty, and in February 1952, Haverty gave birth to their daughter, Janet Michelle. But the couple separated before Janet was born, and Kerouac denied paternity, refusing to make child support payments.

6. Jack Kerouac and Gore Vidal slept together.

Author Gore Vidal first met Kerouac in 1949 at the Metropolitan Opera, but beyond a little flirting, nothing happened. That would change in 1953, when Kerouac and Vidal met again at New York City's San Remo Cafe. Kerouac had intended to introduce Vidal to Burroughs, but Kerouac flirted relentlessly with Vidal, and Burroughs eventually left. After that, according to Vidal, he and Kerouac went to the nearby Chelsea Hotel, where they had sex. Later, Kerouac would write a fictionalized account of the encounter in The Subterraneans: “[He] is a well-known and perfectly obvious homosexual of the first water, my roaring brain---we go to his suite in some hotel--I wake up in the morning on the couch, filled with the horrible recognition, ‘I didn’t go back to Mardou’s at all.’”

7. Alan Watts wasn’t a fan of Jack Kerouac’s interpretation of Buddhism.

Kerouac published his novel The Dharma Bums, which portrayed his fictional alter ego learning Buddhism, in 1958. Kerouac’s portrayal of Buddhism was popular among the youth of the day, but famous Zen teacher Alan Watts wasn’t a fan.

“Beat Zen is a complex phenomenon,” Watts wrote. “It ranges from a use of Zen for justifying sheer caprice in art, literature, and life to a very forceful social criticism and ‘digging of the universe’ such as one may find in the poetry of Ginsberg and Snyder, and, rather unevenly, in Kerouac. But, as I know it, it is always a shade too self-conscious, too subjective, and too strident to have the flavor of Zen.”

Watts would publish his famous written work, Beat Zen, Square Zen, and Zen to distinguish between formal Zen and the Beat’s style of Zen. To Watts, formal Zen was liberation from conventional thought, while the Beat’s style of Zen was simply a revolt against culture or social order.

8. Jack Kerouac has been accused of anti-Semitism.

When Kerouac sat down for an interview at New York’s Northport Public Library in 1964, he talked about a wide range of subjects, among them his friend Allen Ginsberg, religion, and race relations. He also discussed his views of Jewish people. According to Paul Maher in Kerouac: The Definitive Biography, the author had a theory “that the strife over civil rights for African Americans was initiated by an ‘invasion’ of Russian Jews into America.” Kerouac reportedly stated, “After they [Jewish people] had established themselves here, they then took the Negro out and flung him at America and hide behind his skirts so that we will forget about anti-Semitism because we’re worried about Negroes now.” These statements led to Kerouac being accused of anti-Semitism—which he vehemently denied.

9. Jack Kerouac liked to paint.

Writing wasn’t Kerouac’s only talent: The author was also an artist. He drew his first self-portrait when he was 9, and created vast amounts of artwork—working in everything from pencil to oils to watercolors—as an adult. Like the characters in his novels, Kerouac often based his artworks on people he met.

10. Jack Kerouac was an influence on Hunter S. Thompson.

As a 21-year-old, future Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson did not have kind words for Kerouac or his work, writing in a letter that “The man is an ass, a mystic boob with intellectual myopia. The Dharma thing was quite as bad as The Subterraneans and they're both withered appendages to On The Road—which isn't even a novel in the first place.” A few years later, Thompson called Kerouac’s Big Sur a “stupid, sh**ty book.” But his opinion seemed to have mellowed with age: In 1994, he reportedly said he “never would have become a writer were it not for On the Road,” and acknowledged four years later that Kerouac “was a great influence on me.”