Dixie Produces Paper Cups for Coke, Tab and Sprite
The trend in soda vending machines throughout the 1960s was to serve up pre-mixed soft drinks in paper cups, rather than dispensing them in bottles or cans. Machines that dispensed soft drinks in paper cups were popular at places of business, clubs and in schools. But the original idea of a cup vendor dates back to before WWII.
In 1939 the president of the Vendo Company, E.F. Pierson, came up with the concept of a machine that became known as the “Decapper”. This machine opened a bottle of Coke and poured it into a cup before dispensing it. The customer never had to be bothered with discarding empty bottles. The complexity of the machine made it expensive and it never really caught on, resulting in only 251 of them being manufactured. Vendo’s next try at selling a cup vendor was ten years later, in 1959 with the Model V-800. This pre-mix cup-dispensing machine led the way to further advances in cup vending technology and the increased demand for them in the 1960s. Cup vendors continued to be popular into the 1970s.
Making all of the cup vendors possible, of course, was the invention of the paper cup. The onetime use paper cup was invented in 1907 by Lawrence Luellen of Boston, MA. He had taken on the task of inventing such a product after a business associate was approached by investors who expressed an interest in starting a company that could make a flat-folded paper cup. They wanted to dispense the cup from a vending machine connected to a watercooler. They hoped to address health issues arising from the practice of drinking from community water pumps and water barrels, usually using the same ladle or cup.
Luellen came up with a pleated cup made of paper treated with paraffin. He also invented a machine that dispensed water into a paper cup for the price of a penny. Remaining was the task of convincing the public that disposable cups were necessary and that reusing drinking containers could make them sick. (Up until the turn of the century most people were unaware that germs even existed.) In 1908 Luellen joined forces with a man by the name of Hugh Moore to educate the public about the health benefits of disposable cups. In 1909 they formed the Public Cup Vendor Company and named their product the Health Kup. At that time their main business was leasing their water dispensing machines to railroads and train stations. They also sold their cups in bulk to these customers.
Scientific studies of the time boosted sales of paper cups. It may be hard for us to believe it today, but schools had a single drinking vessel that was used by all of the students. Public places had common drinking cups, or the “tin-dipper”, and railroad stations supplied a shared drinking glass beside water coolers. In 1908 a biology professor published his study called “Death in School Drinking Cups”, which did wonders to eliminate the practice of sharing a glass. The flu epidemic of 1910 also greatly increased the demand for the paper cups.
In 1910 the company was incorporated as the Individual Drinking Cup Company of New York. Luellen handed over his paper cup patents to the company and received money and significant stock in the company in return.
In 1919 the cup was given a new name: Dixie. The company’s name was changed to the Dixie Cup Company and it continued to grow. In 1921 the company was moved to a newly designed and constructed plant in Easton, PA. They experienced great success throughout the course of WWII due to their watertank-cup dispensers being widely used on US military bases and factories.
Dixie’s growth continued after the war, and in 1946 they worked with The Coca-Cola Company to create a cup vendor. The evolution of the Dixie Cup included improved printing methods in the 1960s that allowed them to print company brands on them. This brochure page shows some of the Dixie paper cups made for Coca-Cola in the 1960s. In addition to the Coca-Cola flavor of soft drink cups are cups for The Coca-Cola Company’s Sprite and Tab brands.
Since 2000 Georgia-Pacific Corporation of Virginia has owned the rights to the “Dixie” name. In 2002 the Dixie division of GP and The Coca-Cola Company united once again, collaborating in a product line of plastic Coca-Cola cups to be sold at retail stores. Included in the line is a disposable greenish plastic cup, shaped in the classic fluted Coca-Cola bell-shape. At Retroplanet.com you can find a variety of similar glass versions.