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Paper cups have been documented in imperial China, where paper was invented by 2nd century BC. Paper cups were known as chih pei and were used for the serving of tea. They were constructed in different sizes and colors, and were adorned with decorative designs. Textual evidence of paper cups appears in a description of the possessions of the Yu family, from the city of Hangzhou.
The modern paper cup was developed in the 20th century. In the early 20th century, it was common to have shared glasses or dippers at water sources such as school faucets or water barrels in trains. This shared use caused public health concerns. One notable investigation into their use was the study by Alvin Davison, biology professor at Lafayette College, published with the sensational title “Death in School Drinking Cups” in Technical World Magazine in August 1908, based on research carried out in Easton, Pennsylvania’s public schools. The article was reprinted and distributed by the Massachusetts State Board of Health in November 1909.
Based on these concerns, and as paper goods (especially after the 1908 invention of the Dixie Cup) became cheaply and cleanly available, local bans were passed on the shared-use cup. One of the first railway companies to use disposable paper cups was the Lackawanna Railroad, which began using them in 1909. By 1917, the public glass had disappeared from railway carriages, replaced by paper cups even in jurisdictions where public glasses had yet to be banned.
Paper cups are also employed in hospitals for health reasons. In 1942 the Massachusetts State College found in one study that the cost of using washable glasses, re-used after being sanitized, was 1.6 times the cost of using single-service paper cups.These studies, as well as the reduction in the risk of cross-infection, encouraged the use of paper cups in hospitals.
“Dixie cup” redirects here. For the type of naval headgear, see Sailor cap.
Dixie Cup is the brand name for a line of disposable paper cups that were first developed in the United States in 1907 by Lawrence Luellen, a lawyer in Boston, Massachusetts, who was concerned about germs being spread by people sharing glasses or dippers at public supplies of drinking water. Luellen developed an ice-cooled water-vending machine with disposable cups, and with another Bostonian, Hugh Moore, embarked on an advertising campaign to educate the public and to market his machine, principally to railroad companies. Professor Davison’s study was instrumental in abolishing the public glass and opening the door for the paper cup. Soon, the devices, which would dispense cool water for one cent, became standard equipment on trains.
The Dixie Cup was first called “Health Kup”, but from 1919 it was named after a line of dolls made by Alfred Schindler’s Dixie Doll Company in New York. Success led the company, which had existed under a variety of names, to call itself the Dixie Cup Corporation and move to a factory in Wilson, Pennsylvania. Atop the factory was a large water tank in the shape of a cup.
In 1957, Dixie merged with the American Can Company. The James River Corporation purchased American Can’s paper business in 1982. The assets of James River are now part of Georgia-Pacific, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, the second largest privately owned company in the United States. In 1983, production moved to a modern factory in Forks, Pennsylvania. The original factory in Wilson has sat vacant ever since. The closing of the factory also prompted Conrail to abandon the Easton & Northern railroad branch, of which Dixie Cups was the last major customer.
In 1969, the Dixie Cup logo was created by Saul Bass, a graphic designer known for his motion picture title sequences.