History Of The Drinking Straw

Dec
2013
31

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Arguably the greatest invention since sliced bread, Marvin Chester Stone patented the first straw on 3rd January 1888 in Washington DC. That first straw measured 8.5 inches (21.59cm) and was designed to be narrow enough to leave lemon seeds behind.

Original patent sketch for drinking straw Marvin Chester Stone

Courtesy of Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center

The original drinking straw was made out of dry, hollow rye grass, but Marvin grew tired of tasting grass whilst drinking his Mint Julep. He decided to wrap a piece of cigarette paper around a pencil and glue each layer. He liked the idea so much that he then coated it with paraffin wax to waterproof it. A million dollar idea was born!

Hollow Rye Straws

It’s been exactly 126 years, and much has changed since that humble creation. Today we have glass straws, plastic straws, smoothie straws, slurpee straws, stainless steel straws & bendy straws in a variety of shapes colours and sizes.

Oldest known Sumerian Straw dating 3,000 BC

Oldest known Sumerian Straw dating 3,000 BC

Gold Sumerican Cup Straw

Gold Sumerican Cup Straw

Whilst Marvin has been credited with creating the straw, historians tell a different story. Drinking straws have been traced back to around 3000BC with Sumerians using straws made from gold and lapiz lazuli to drink beer. Legend has it that the straws helped them from drinking the sediment that was common at the time, when fermenting their beer, but no evidence has been found to corroborate this. According to ancient Sumerian tablet, communal drinks were sipped through a reed straw, whilst royalty sipped beer through a golden straw cup or a gold and lapis lazuli straw.

Joseph Friedman sketch

Original Sketch by Joseph Friedman

Almost 50 years later in San Fransisco Joseph Friedman was sitting in his brothers Sweet + Fountain Parlor, watching his Daughter struggle to drink her milkshake through a paper straw. A keen and curious inventor, Joseph came up with the idea for the flexible straw in the late 1930s by inserting a screw into the paper straw, then wrapping dental floss around the paper into the screw threads to create corrugation. After removing the screw, the straw creases allowed the straw to bend easily over the edge of the glass. The flexible straw became popular in hospitals, where patients could easily sip from the straw while lying down.

Bendy straw sketch

On September 28, 1937, Friedman was issued a patent for the Drinking Tube (U.S. patent 2,094,268). He later called his invention the FlexStraw. In 1939, he created the FlexStraw Corporation and began to market his invention. He first sold the staws to doctors and later to families.

Advert for Joseph's invention

Advert for Joseph’s invention

Somewhere in the late 60’s glass drinking straws emerged, but didn’t become mainstream like the popular (and destructive) plastic straws.

Modern day eco-sexy eco-glam glass straws.

Modern day eco-sexy eco-glam glass straws.

Fast forward to 2013 and there is a massive resurgence for old school eco-friendly glamour. Glass straws are now available in bent + straight styles. In a range of colours, styles and sizes.

Glass straws are the obvious alternative to our ever growing earth destorying problem of landfill.

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