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National Drinking Straw Day: 125 Years of Sipping and Slurping

Now that the holiday craze has come to a close and everyone has rang in the New Year, it’s time to celebrate the real main event in January: the 125th anniversary of the drinking straw patent! Thanks to Marvin Stone, the drinking straw was patented on January 3rd, 1888.

Where would we be without the drinking straw? Drinking our ice cold beverages straight from the glass like cave men?!  You may not think about it often, but most people probably encounter or use a drinking straw at least once every day. Straws directly influence how we enjoy our beverages whether at a restaurant, in the movie theater, or from a crazy cup while lounging at a tropical resort.

tropical drinking straws

So how did drinking straws as we know them come to be? It all started in 1888. Before we had the plastic straws of today there were paper straws, and before that beverages were sipped via a tube of natural rye grass. Marvin Stone was tired of all of his drinks tasting of grass, so he put his thinking cap on and came up with a solution: paper straws. He wrapped a piece of paper around a pencil to create a tube, removed the pencil, and then glued the tube together.

Stone owned a paper cigarette holder company, which surely helped lead to his innovation of the straw. Once the paper straw tested well with local drinking establishments Stone upgraded his technique. He began wrapping manila paper into a tube and then coating it with paraffin wax, creating a much stronger straw than the original paper and glue. This model was patented on January 3rd, 1888. Two years later Stone was selling more straws than cigarette holders. In 1906 a machine was invented to roll the straws instead of rolling them all by hand, and the rest is history.

Drinking straws

Sure, before 1888 there were primitive drinking straws, but this article published on The Atlantic states, “The drinking tube is practically as old as history. But only in the last century-and-a-half did two tweaks lead us to the simple stick of bendy plastic you unwrap every time you grab a seat at a diner. The smallest features of modern life are stealth inventions. Their ingenuity is quiet. Their advantages are imperceptible. But they are inventions.”

We’ve covered the first tweak, but the second tweak came a few decades later, courtesy of Joseph Friedman. The straight drinking straw was great and all, but just that – straight. Friedman watched his daughter struggle to slurp a milkshake, and thus the idea for the bendy straw was born. Friedman came up with a design that allowed the straw to conveniently bend toward the drinker’s mouth hole. He patented his bendy straw in 1936.

Couple using drinking straws

It all started with Marvin Stone, and then Joseph Friedman, and from there now we’ve got crazy straws, Slurpee straws, spoon straws, edible straws … the list goes on and on.

Can you even imagine a world without drinking straws? Just think about all of the cool products we offer that wouldn’t exist without Stone’s invention. Acrylic tumblers and sports bottles might as well kiss the world goodbye. Without the drinking straw we wouldn’t have any of these products:

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So thanks, Marvin and Joseph, for helping us enjoy delicious beverages with more convenience! We salute you! And now, let’s all join in a toast to the invention, patent, and evolution of the drinking straw. CHEERS!

Have you enjoyed a delicious beverage with a drinking straw today? What’s your favorite beverage to drink with a straw? Sound off in the comments section below!

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Header image courtesy of Horia Varlan.


Jenna Markowski

Jenna has a much easier time writing about the media and pop culture than she does writing about herself. She enjoys the simple things in life, like puns and typography. She is an avid fan of pop-punk, Halo 3, Spider-Man and origami, with a slight Taco Bell obsession. Her spirit animal is either a bulldog or a panda bear. You can also connect with Jenna on Google+ and Twitter.

Comments

  1. Amy Swanson

    I’m honestly surprised the drinking straw is as old as it is! I thought they were maybe only around starting in the 1920′s with soda shops and all that jazz (a-ha, see what I did there? ;) ) What I do know for sure is that I’d be lost without them. I hate drinking directly out of glasses at restaurants for some reason, grosses me out.

    Fun post, Jenna!

  2. Amanda

    Hmm history of drinking straws–neat topic.

    I never used to care if I had a straw or not. I’d just drink out of the glass. But, since I’ve started using a tumbler, I love having a straw! It makes it easier to have a large glass of water with me at most times, and since it has a lid and straw, if it tips over, it hardly spills. =) PS bendy straws, especially colored ones, are so much fun to use!!

  3. Wash

    I wonder if people used to hold onto their straws for multiple uses back when they weren’t as ubiquitous as they are today? I would guess so! I doubt that ol’ paper and glue straw held up for too long, though…

  4. Eric

    Maybe I’m starting to inadvertently show my age, or maybe serendipity had me happen into a place where they used them…but I not only remember paper straws, but I’ve used them myself. Even if they aren’t recyclable, I imagine they’d be biodegradable (provided the glue used was, too). PAPER STRAWS REPRESENT!

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