Hard as it may be to believe, those little paper cups that you drink water from have only been around for a hundred years. Prior to the invention of the paper cup, often known by the most famous brand name Dixie Cup, people who wanted a drink of water from an establishment drank from something called a sipper. A sipper was an object similar to one of those tins in which chewing tobacco is sold today. It was very small and could held be held in the hand. The problem was that these sippers were rarely, if ever, washed sterilized in between use. In other words, the sipper that your grandparent or great-grandparent might have drunk water from could have been used ten minutes earlier by someone with TB or the flu. At that time the scientific knowledge of how diseases were passed from one person to the next was still in its infancy and it wasn’t fully understood or believed that merely drinking water from the same sipper could be a contributor to epidemics.
A doctor named Samuel Crumbine led a crusade against the sippers because he knew better, but the general public refused to believe that diseases could be passed along simply from sharing sippers or glasses or goblets. At the same time an inventor named Hugh Moore was hoping to make a killing by creating a new product from which people could buy water and drink from them using disposable paper cups. The invention was the object that contained the water; the cups were merely a cheap means by which to transport water to the lips. Moore’s invention looked similar to an old-fashioned office water cooler, but few people were prepared to pay a penny simply for a drink of water when they could get one for few inside a bar or restaurant of drug store using the tin sipper. Dr. Crumbine saw magic where Moore saw just a tangential element. It was the paper cup that was the real money-maker. Crumbine continued on his crusade to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking from sippers, and the twain met in the form of one person of means who believed Crumbine hook, line and sinker.
A wealthy New York banker who was also a hypochondriac decided to back Moore’s paper cup invention and invested $20,000 in the business. Soon enough the American Water Supply Company of New England was transformed into the Public Cup Vendor Company. It was also a case of the greatest timing in the world. The very same year Kansas politicians became the first in the state to ban the tin sipper up a scientific finding that diseases like tuberculosis were found to pass from one person partaking of the sipper to the next. Even better were the publications of a series of reports showing that under a microscope were discovered an extraordinary number of bacteria and germs swimming around on the bottom surface of those tin sipper. As it became more and more obvious that drinking from tin sippers was not only unsanitary, but also quite dangerous, more companies began buying Moore’s paper cups. Soon enough paper cups became a mainstay in schools, office buildings and on passenger trains.