Design Research

The exact origins of the paper cup seem to be unknown,  although there is evidence that they were used as far back as Imperial China. What is known is that around the beginning of the 1900’s, paper cups gained popularity when it was realized that sharing the same tin or ladle also meant sharing germs.

In 1907, a Boston lawyer named Lawrence Luellen, developed the “Health Kup” , which later became known as the Dixie Cup in 1919. Lawrence did this to help improve public health and hygiene due to the concerns of shared-use cups.

But Lawrence didn’t perform this mammoth task alone. He worked for the American Water Supply Company, whose founder, Hugh Moore, developed a water-vending machine with disposable cups and together Lawrence and Hugh embarked on an advertising campaign to educate the public and market the machine.

During the great American flu epidemic of 1918 paper cups rapidly grew in popularity as a way of avoiding infection.

In the century since, the paper cup has evolved from a health solution to an everyday convenience object, and arguably an object of conspicuous consumption, a status piece.