Coffee Cup Lid

This is a peel type coffee cup lid. Peel type lids require the drinker to peel back a piece of the lid to create a wedge-shaped opening, revealing the top edge of the cup. Minimal writing and perforations shows a logo at the top and offers four letters or “condiment identifiers” around the edge to mark coffee options: presumably, “B,” “C,” “S,” and “C-S” stand for Black, Cream, Sugar, and Cream and Sugar. Only one horizontal line of perforation suggests a space for tearing away or bending back a piece of plastic, while the incomplete circular shape points to where one’s mouth would go.
Architects and collectors Louise Harpman and Scott Specht donated 56 plastic cup lids to the National Museum of American History in 2012. Their donation is a sample from their much larger collection of “independently patented drink-through plastic cup lids,” which they began in 1984 and discussed in a 2005 essay, “Inventory / Peel, Pucker, Pinch, Puncture,” in Cabinet Magazine: The collectors’ categorization scheme reflects the primary way the lid design functions, which helps differentiate between the varieties and styles of lids.
Plastic, disposable coffee cup lids and other single-use food packages reinforce the social acceptability of eating and drinking on the go in the United States and reflect increasing expectation for convenience products. Cup lids are also examples of how humble, and even disposable, objects are sometimes the result of meticulous engineering. Patents for lid innovations describe peel-back tabs and the pucker-type shapes that make room for mouths and noses, and describe the nuances of “heat retention,” “mouth comfort,” “splash reduction,” “friction fit,” and “one-handed activation.”
Physical Description
plastic (overall material)
white (overall color)
overall: 3/8 in x 3 3/8 in; .9525 cm x 8.5725 cm
ID Number
catalog number
nonaccession number
Credit Line
Gift of Louise Harpman and Scott Specht
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Work and Industry: Food Technology
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Food: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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