Dixie Cups Originally Marketed As Life-Saving Technology

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]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Mackinstyle1 says:

    “DIXIE CUP’S” confuses me. There’s no way they missed a typo like that, so am I stupid and it’s correct or were things different back then?

    • Here to ruin your groove says:

      Dixie Cup’s “They-Go-Together” Contest

    • Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

      I think it’s referring to Dixie Cup’s “They-go-together contest”.

      • iblamehistory says:

        Yeah, it took me a second, but it’s referring to how [the] Dixie Cup [company] possesses the contest.

  2. Here to ruin your groove says:

    I like this article. Never knew that about Dixie cups.

  3. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    That’s from back in the days when kids went to school with colds (none of this Johnny has a sniffle and will stay home crap) and a soggy and crusty cloth handkerchief in their pocket. Always a challenge to find the remaining so-so spot for that next nose blow and then feeling the dampness on your thigh when the hankie went back in your pocket.

  4. Blueskylaw says:

    Speaking of another cool product, duct tape (back then known as “duck” tape because the water rooled off of it like on a ducks back) was created during WW11 to seal ammunition boxes from salt water.

  5. jeffpiatt says:

    as some one who lives near where dixie was based i live in allentown,PA dixie used to be out of Easton, PA. the company name was Dixie Cup Corporation and the intent of the paper cup was for health reasons replacing the old public glass where if you asked for an drink of water they brought you an communal glass the health research was done in Easton public schools. the old dixie plant is an cool building it still has the huge cup on the roof witch acts as an water tower.

  6. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    why does this ice cream option not still exist?
    i remember reading about communal tin cups in the little house on the prairie books and thinking that was pretty gross. which is clearly brainwashing marketing from disposable cup companies

  7. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    True Fact: Dixie cups were also safer because you were less likely to choke on a paper cup if you swallowed it as opposed to swallowing a ceramic mug or glass tumbler.

  8. 2 Replies says:

    So when some dirty hippie tries to convince you that you should be using a “bpa free” reusable water bottle, crumple your Dixie cup and throw it in their face.

    • 2 Replies says:

      throw it in their diseased face.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      or recycle it into a firestarter by pouring in melted drippings off an old candle and some sawdust or dryer lint. they make excellent firestarters.

  9. 2 Replies says:

    “when soda fountains introduced an automatic machine to that could fill a cup with two flavors of ice cream at the same time”

    What… the… fuck.
    Is proof-reading REALLY that hard?

  10. akieran says:

    Here’s a not-so-fun fact about Dixie Cups. The brand is owned by the Koch brothers (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129425186) who are using their multibillion dollar wealth to eliminate environmental regulation, strip collective bargaining rights, roll back progressive taxation policies, and ensure a permanent Republican majority in Congress and a Republican in the White House.

    The most important thing to know about Dixie Cups is to NOT buy them. Boycott Dixie Cups, Brawny paper towels, StainMaster carpets, Quilted Northern, and Angel Soft toilet paper, and anything else these creeps sell.

    • shepd says:

      Yes, they’re the exact opposite of capitalism.

      No, seriously, please remember that next time someone says capitalism is bad. Capitalism is about eliminating competition through better products, not through socialist government policies.

  11. KFW says:

    That first sentence is a real doozie — besides a run-on, it makes absolutely no sense structurally.

  12. krom says:

    Which was very confusing when I moved out west when people were saying “dixie cup” and meaning not Dixie Cups, but ice cream cups.

    Which where I’m from are called Hoodsies and are made with strawberry, not orange.

  13. sir_eccles says:

    Surprised some anti-vax nut hasn’t jumped on this.

  14. gman863 says:

    I thought Dixie and other paper/plastic cups were invented so drunken frat boys wouldn’t cut themselves with broken glass during kegger parties.

  15. teqjack says:

    And peripherally related, if you need to measure amounts smaller than the usual grab a Solo® as they have markers (meant for alcohol measures, but useful for others) –