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Fascinating facts about the invention of the Dixie Cups by inventor
Lawrence Luellen
and entrepreneur Hugh Moore in
1907.
DIXIE CUPS
The history of the Dixie Cup began when Lawrence Luellen first became interested in an individual paper drinking cup in 1907.  The object was to dispense a pure drink of water in a new, clean, and individual drinking cup. In the years leading up to the 20th century everyone drank at the public water barrel, well, pump, or spigot with a communal tin cup or common dipper. This sharing by both healthy and sick alike often was the source for spreading germs and disease.

The disposable paper cup became a popular commercial success only after the public learned that shared water glasses could carry germs. But it took years, an abundance of business panache, and many discarded designs–from cups that opened like paper bags to those that came with pleats–for the inventor of the paper cup to arrive at what we now use and toss away without so much as a thought for its fascinating history.

Lawrence Luellen, of Boston,  Massachusetts, developed a water-vending machine with disposable cups, and with another Bostonian, Hugh Moore, embarked on a public-education campaign about the health benefits of the disposable drinking cup. By 1912 the Individual Drinking Cup Company's product was called the Health Kup and the company had developed its first semi-automatic machine to produce them. The breakthrough came when the devices became standard equipment on trains.

The flu epidemic after World War I put paper cups in even higher demand. Faced with the growing number of companies entering the cup-making business each year, Hugh Moore changed the name of his product in an effort to set it apart from the competition. In 1919 the Health Kup became the Dixie Cup, named for a line of dolls made by Alfred Schindler's Dixie Doll Company in New York. Success led the company, which had existed under a variety of names, to change its name to Dixie Cup Corporation and move to Easton, Pennsylvania.

Business expanded again when Moore and Luellen discovered that the drinking cups were ideal for individual servings of ice cream and the Dixie Cup took on another meaning. About this time Luellen assigned his patents to the new company allowing it to manufacture cups. In turn, he received substantial stock in the company and cash. Hugh Moore was secretary, treasurer, general manager and finally president of the new company.

In 1957 American Can Company purchased the Dixie Cup Company. American Can was acquired by the James River Corporation of Virginia, which in 1997 changed its name to Fort James Corporation. Georgia-Pacific Corporation acquired Fort James in 2000 and is now the owner of the "Dixie" brand.  While most people now drink water from their own plastic bottles, the Dixie cup remains widely in use.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Invention of Paper Towels   from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle: And Other Surprising Stories About Inventions
by Don L. Wulffson / Paperback - 128 pages
(1999) / Puffin
Brief factual stories about how various familiar things were invented, many by accident, from animal crackers to the zipper.
Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition (September 1989) / HarperCollins
Paper TowelsDiscover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items, expressions and customs. 
Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design
by Henry Petroski / Hardcover: 304 pages / Knopf (September 16, 2003)
In this engrossing and insightful book, Petroski takes us inside the creative process by which common objects are invented and improved upon in pursuit of the ever-elusive perfect thing.

Why Didn't I Think of That?: Bizarre Origins of Ingenious Inventions We Couldn't Live Without
by Allyn Freeman, Bob Golden / Paperback - 260 pages / John Wiley & Sons; (September 1997)
Filled with wacky and fascinating facts, awe-inspiring success statistics, and rags-to-riches stories, Chronicles the odd origins behind 50 famous inventions and reveals the business side of each product's actual production, marketing, and distribution.


ON THE WEB:
Paper Cups
The company soon abandoned selling water, concentrated on selling paper cups, and gave away free dispensers
(URL: www.ipst.gatech.edu/amp/general/museum_faq.htm)

Hugh Moore Dixie Cup Company Collection

A guide to the holdings of Lafayette College, compiled by Anke Voss-Hubbard. Includes biography of Hugh Moore and information on the Dixie Cup Company and the legal fights over paper cups.
(URL: ww2.lafayette.edu/~library/special/dixie/dixie.html
)
Dixie Fun
There's lots to see and do at dixie fun. Play games, get craft ideas, color, and much more. Operated by Georgia-Pacific Dixie Cup brand..
(URL: www.dixiefun.com)
Horse Show
Is The Dixie Cup a horse show?

(URL: www.thedixiecup.com/)
Dixie Cup Company
Georgia Pacific acquired the Dixie Cup Company with its purchase of Fort James Company in 2000.
(URL: www.toiletpaperworld.com/tpw/encyclopedia/navigation/manufacturers.htm
)
Famous Faces Under The Lid
Dixie Cups were used to package ice cream from 1933 until the Fifties.
(URL: www.go-star.com/antiquing/dixiecup.htm
)
Imperfect designs, perfect products - Innovation
USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education), Dec, 2003 issue.
(URL: www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1272/is_2703_132/ai_111403479)
NASA Apollo Glossary
The nickname derives from a brand of wax-coated paper drinking cups which, like such brands as Kleenex and Xerox, became a generic name because of widespread popularity.
(URL: www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/apollo.glossary.html)
Dixie Cup Company History
In early 1908, Luellen also began work on a two-piece cup made out of a blank of paper rolled into "frusto-conical" form with a separate bottom piece. He began consultations with patent attorney, about the patentability of his invention. Luellen also enlisted the assistance of an engineer and the Taylor Machine Works at Hyde Park, who was successful in devising a machine to manufacture such cups.
(URL: ww2.lafayette.edu/~library/special/dixie/company.html)


Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised January, 2005.
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