Sucking up your fav beverage through a straw, you may have asked yourself the very important question, “Hey, what’s the story behind this straw?” If so, you’ve come to the right place to find the answer. We’re here to break down the history of the drinking straw for you!
Early history of the drinking straw
3000 B.C. It’s impossible to say with certainty when the first time people sipped liquid through a tube, but the earliest evidence archeologists have found dates back to around 3000 B.C. Some Sumerian tombstone drawings depicting men who appear to be drinking through a straw or straw-like tool were unearthed. And thus, begins what we know about the history of the drinking straw.
More recent history of the drinking straw
Between the time of those drawings and the 1800s, there’s not much to say about the straw (yeah, we’re just glazing over a couple thousand years of history – no biggie!).
Recorded history of the straw starts up again in the mid-late 1800s, when it was cool (and tasty!) for men to use natural rye “straws” to drink their whisky. This was literally a stalk of rye grass. One man by the name of Marvin Stone wasn’t a fan of the natural straw because it altered the taste of the alcohol.
Determined to fix this problem, Mr. Stone got to work. After a few tries, he realized he could simply wrap paper around a pencil to make a tube and add glue. Voila! The straw was born.
However, Stone didn’t stop there. As you can probably guess, paper straws don’t hold up all that well in water. He added wax to the paper to make it more water resistant. By 1888, he was ready to patent his design and set up shop.
It wasn’t until 40 years later that another man scratched his head and questioned the ergonomic design of the straw as he watched his little girl try attempt to suck a milkshake up that unforgiving straight straw. Joseph B. Friedman decided it was time to reinvent the straw. In 1937, he had invented the “bendy straw” and patented it.
Friedman’s modification proved most useful for hospitals full of bedridden patients who could not lift their heads. The bendy straw made it possible for them to suck up their drinks without making an utter mess. Nurses everywhere secretly hailed Friedman a revolutionary (okay, we added that bit, but we’re sure they did!).
By the 1960s, plastic straws were a regular thing you could find in soda shops. With each passing year, their popularity and prevalence increased. At the time, consumers didn’t know much about the damage a single-use straw could do to the ocean and the environment.
Slowly through the 90s, and early 2000s, people began to consider the environmental damage done by single-use plastics, and in particular, straws. But still, Americans reached an all-time high plastic straw consumption: 500 million plastic straws per day!
By 2017, innovative companies committed to end single-use plastic straw use by replacing them with reusable straws.
And today? Well, today is the day you commit to end single use plastic straws – and encourage your friends to do the same!
Now that we’ve finished the history of the drinking straw…let’s make single-use plastic straws history!