The History of Drinking Straws

Drinking straws represent one of the oldest eating utensils ever made, but its popularity only came with the industrial revolution of 1800s, introduction of rye grass straw, and later industrial produced paper straws. Its ability to transfer a beverage from its container, via short tube to the user's mouth provided some clear benefits in some cases when drinking directly from containers is not desirable or effective. Also, one of the most deciding factors that gave the drinking straw the popularity that it has today was fashion and eating tradition that came in 19th century Europe and United States.

Drinking Straws

If we look back in history we can find out that some of the earliest drinking straws were created over 5000 years ago! In the ruins of the Sumerian cities and tombs, archeologist managed to find straws made from gold and the precious stone lapis lazuli. These expensive 3000 BC artifacts can give us the proof that the more simple designs were used far earlier than that, most probably created from carved wood or natural hollow plants. According to scientist, Sumerian used straws to drink their beer which was prepared in very simple fermentation cases that forced the solid byproducts to sink to the bottom, and leave drinkable fluid on top. On the other side of the world, in Argentina, natives used drinking straws for several thousand years. Their simple wooden designs were later on adapted in metallic device called "bombilla" which serves as both straw and sieve for drinking tea.

In the 1800s fashion of drinking from cheap and easily created rye grass straws came into popularity, but their weak structure prevented them to be used in prolonged sessions (water would quickly turned them to mush). Dissatisfied with the current state of drinking straws, American inventor Marvin C. Stone created first model of modern drinking straw in 1888. Coming from the industry of cigar making he came to idea to wrap the paper around the pencil and applied thin layer of glue. Soon he refined his manufacturing process by creating automated machine that produced straws that wouldn't lose their glue even in stronger alcoholic beverages.

From that point on drinking straw remained in constant popularity (especially after the Joseph Friedman's invention of bendy straw in 1937), and many interesting designs were created during last 50 years. This trend started during 1960s when plastic enabled fast and cheap creation of drinking straws. Even though plastic straws can be reused, this was not practiced much and large quantities of non-biodegradable waste materials today can produce great impact to our environment. Because of this, many international companies are starting manufacture of biodegradable drinking straws.