McDonald's Coffee Travel Mug

Before the 1980s, when built-in cup holders were becoming standard equipment in new cars for the American market, motorists had few choices for keeping a beverage upright while driving. The plastic, window-mounted holder, purchased separately from gas stations and other retail outlets was one popular alternative that filled the need, but introduced safety concerns as drivers had to perform an awkward maneuver to reach their beverages from the driver’s side window.
In 1983, McDonald’s offered customers a plastic mug and lid with an adhesive-coated base that could be attached to the dashboard. The “Easy Rider” travel mug was McDonald’s answer to the growing popularity of refill clubs, promotional offers that encouraged customers to return to a particular fast-food restaurant or convenience store for refills of coffee, usually at a discounted price. Customers were expected to take the coffee with them in the special, branded mug as they drove, took public transport, or walked to their destination. A New York Times article from January 9, 1989 called the “plastic sloshproof wonder known as the travel coffee mug or the commuter mug . . . the most unheralded product of Americans on the run.”
Carl Fleischhauer, the donor of this mug, was an on-the-go photographer, commuter, and enthusiastic coffee drinker. In the years before he acquired a car with built-in cup holders, he either carried a thermos or used a window-mounted plastic holder. He ate on the road several times a week, and enjoyed collecting “American advertising kitsch,” including McDonald’s promotional items during the 1970s and ‘80s. This travel mug was among the items he collected but decided against using because he didn’t want to mess up his dashboard with adhesive.
date made
Physical Description
plastic (overall material)
white (overall color)
yellow (overall color)
overall: 4 1/2 in x 4 1/4 in x 3 7/8 in; 11.43 cm x 10.795 cm x 9.8425 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Carl Fleischhauer
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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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