While you might think of paper Dixie Cups as things you keep refilling — and then use to practice your trash can jump shot with — while waiting for your oil to be changed or your kid to get their school physical. But the disposable vessels were originally marketed as a way to stop the spread of disease.
The Smithsonian has an interesting blog post on the history of the Dixie, which was first sold as a container for 5 oz. single servings of clean water. The creators initially charged a penny for each drink.
Before the cup — patented in 1912 — was known as a “Dixie,” it was called the Health Kup, and was touted as a replacement for pathogen-carrying communal tin cups found in schools and other public buildings.
But it wasn’t the life-saving aspects of Dixies that made them a staple of consumers’ pantries, writes the Smithsonian:
The cup’s reputation was further cemented when soda fountains introduced an automatic machine to that could fill a cup with two flavors of ice cream at the same time, ushering in paper-wrapped wooden scoops and disposable cups known as Ice Cream Dixies.
The Unnatural History of the Dixie Cup [SmithsonianMag.com]