Dixie Cups

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Dixie Cups

The paper cup emerged in the early twentieth century as part of the battle to fight the spread of disease. Before the invention of the paper cup, individuals would often use a common drinking cup placed next to a sink in a school, in a courthouse, or on a train. Legend has it that Kansas doctor Samuel Crumbine (1862–1954) saw a girl with tuberculosis (a contagious disease affecting the lungs) drinking from such a cup and called for the invention of disposable drinking cups. The first such cup was invented in 1904. The disposable drinking cup was perfected in 1908 by Lawrence Luellen, who marketed the "Luellen Cup & Water Vendor," which sold a cup of cold water for a penny.

Luellen's breakthrough invention fused two pieces of paper together with wax, which kept the water from ruining the paper. His water-vending units, soon sold in public places around the United States, were widely hailed for reducing or halting the spread of disease. Luellen's invention was marketed most famously beginning in 1912 by the Health Kup Company, which changed its product name to the Dixie cup in 1919. Like Kleenex and the Xerox copier (see entry under 1960s—Commerce in volume 4), the Dixie brand name soon came to stand for the product itself. Dixie advertised and marketed its name widely. Although owned by different corporations through the twentieth century, Dixie was consistently the leading brand of paper cups.

—Tom Pendergast

For More Information

King, Norman. "Dixie Cup." The Almanac of Fascinating Beginnings. New York: Citadel Press, 1994.

Lafayette College Libraries. "Dixie Cup Company History." Hugh Moore Dixie Cup Company Collection, 1905–1986. [Online] http://ww2.lafayette.edu/~library/special/dixie/company.html (accessed January 2, 2002).