There are so many modern conveniences that we take for granted – including the drinking straw. That’s probably because most of us use them for much more than drinking from a glass or container. A straw can be used to assist with the delivery of a well-aimed spitball. They also make for great chew toys when we are deep in concentration.


But have you ever thought about the actual invention of the straw? After all, someone had to come up with the design and shape of what we now know as a rainbow of different coloured straws. Some even are twisted into funny shapes but all serve the same function – to provide you with a simple way to deliver liquids to your mouth.


People were using hollow rye plant stems long before an actual patent was recorded. The plant stems worked well but would fall apart over time which ended up changing the texture and flavour of whatever was being consumed in liquid form.


Marvin Stone is created with the actual invention of the drinking straw. His paper configuration was granted a patent on January 3, 1888. Stone’s design used paper tubes that were covered in a coating of paraffin to keep them from falling apart. The first patented design of his was for a straw that measured 8.5 inches long. Clearly it was meant for use with beverages that were in bottles.


Stone went even further with the plan by inventing a machine that, in addition to making radio components, also rolled paper straws. Talk about an entrepreneur! Stone was on top of two major trends of the day bringing people together for drinking around a radio. The only thing that made Stone’s straw of then different to that of today was that it was a straight tube of paper.


Joseph Friedman saw an opportunity to make Stone’s straw invention even better and enhanced the original in 1936 with a patent application where a series of scores would be added to each straw. Those scores would make any drinking straw easier to use because they allowed the user to bend the straw.


The next time you start to chew on a plastic or paper straw or use one to drink your favourite cold beverage, think back to over one hundred years when that handy, disposable tool in your mouth was first invented.