History of the Paper Cup

The exact origins of the paper cup seem to be unknown, therefore the inventor of the handy disposable beverage holder may never be known, 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 people began to realise that sharing the same tin or ladle, to drink from water barrels, 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 simply a health solution to an everyday convenience object. Each day, millions of paper cups are used so that people can take their drinks with them whilst they go, something that is necessary in today’s busy world. Another great use of the paper cup is at large events, for example festivals and concerts due to the fact that they can just be recycled at the end of the day instead of 1000’s of cups having to be washed.

Types of Paper Cups 

There are two main types of cups, hot and cold, both of their uses are pretty self-explanatory.

Cold cups often have a waxy coating inside to keep the paper from becoming wet and collapsing from the absorption of liquid. Cold paper cups also come in several sizes and designs. From tiny Dixie Cups to large 20/24oz cups used for fizzy drinks in cinemas. The designs can vary from stock to bespoke and if you order with us you get free graphic design included in the price. The choices for these vary and can be used for children’s birthday parties, coffee shop logos and everyday use. The variety is truly endless.

Hot cups are much the same as the cold including the variety of designs and sizes, the main difference is that they’re specially made to withstand the heat that cold cups cannot. A recent development for hot cups has been the hot paper cup sleeve. This sleeve is placed over the cup to help prevent fingers from getting burnt by the drink.

History of Paper Cups

  • 1910 - Individual Drinking Cup Company of New York was formed by Hugh Moore.
    1919 - The Health Kup was renamed Dixie Cup.
  • 1930’s - The Gee Manufacturing Company which was known as GeeManCo started manufacturing paper cups.
  • 1936 - Leo J. Hulseman established the Paper Container Manufacturing Company in Chicago (Later to become Solo)
  • 1940 - Paper Container Manufacturing Company began manufacturing a paper cone cup known as the Solo Cup, for which the company was renamed.
  • 1950s - Solo introduced a two-piece wax-lined cold cup used for serving cold drinks.
  • 1955 - GeeManCo taken over by E.S. and A. Robinson (Holdings) Ltd
  • 1957 - Robinsons set up new company Lily Cups and Containers (England) Ltd. Lily cups enter into licence agreement with Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation of America
  • 1972 - Lily Cups and Containers (England) Ltd changes name to DRG Cups Ltd ( DRG is Dickenson Robinson Group)
  • Late 1970's - Polarcup of Finland (Huhtamaki) established a wholesale operation in UK with Key Catering Disposables acting as warehouse and distributor.
  • 1980 - Benders enters Cup production (Benders were a major manufacturer of paper tableware)
  • 1983 - Dickenson Robinson Group of Bristol decides to close all production at DRG Cups Liverpool, as cost base was too high to maintain competitive position. Paper cup machines (PMC) were sold to Polarcup Finland
  • 1983 - To protect General Foods account, with UK production, Polarcup established a factory at Devizes, Wiltshire, using some of the PMC machines purchased from DRG. The agreement with Keycatering was ended.
  • 1981 - Seda starts UK production of paper cups
  • 1984 - DRG machines purchased by Polarcup a Finnish company (Huhtamaki) UK production set up at Devizes, Wiltshire, England
  • 1992 - Polarcup purchased Sweetheart Europe, and merged both operations into Sweethearts factory at Gosport Hampshire
  • 1995 - Cross paper ware sold to Duni, and ceases production of paper cups
  • 2001 - Solo purchases Insulpak and sets up UK manufacture of Solo paper cups on the Insulpak site at Huntingdon
  • 2004 - Solo Purchase Sweetheart (USA)
  • 2006 - Wax paper cups discontinued in the UK and replaced with PE Coated cups
  • 2008 - Polarcup changes name to Huhtamaki
  • 2011 - Solo closes plant at Springfield
  • 2012 - Solo is bought by Dart Containers

If you have any further questions please feel free to email Eleanor.Spensley@thepapercupcompany.co.uk who will be glad to help.