The Dixie Cup Was Never Built To Last

Dixie Cup patent

Photo: Lawrence W. Luellen, 1912. Drinking Cup. Us Patent 1032557

We live in a disposable society where single-serve food pouches and bottles of water reign supreme. But some things were never built to last—like the Dixie Cup. Smithsonian’s Peter Smith recently took a look at the fascinating origins of the “Kleenex of paper cups.” Turns out they were actually made to ward off disease, not as a cheap alternative to pricy glassware. 

Boston inventor Lawrence Luellen wanted to do away with the ubiquitous “tin dippers” he saw in public buildings and railway stations.

realising all that sharing might be transferring disease, he decided to take out a patent and create a new, clean and individual drinking cup, according to the Academic Museum of Lafayette

Not long after the cups went into production, a biologist wrote “Death in School Drinking Cups,” an article highlighting exactly what Luellen had known all along. The paper cup business instantly rose to stardom, and became a mainstay on grocery store shelves, doctor’s offices, and office water coolers everywhere. 

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