FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000

Peel, Pinch, Puncture, Slurp

Coffee cup lids are examples of how humble objects are sometimes the result of meticulous engineering. The first lids date to the 1950s, but to-go cup-lid innovation exploded in the 1980s. Patents for lid innovations describe peel-back tabs and the pucker-type shapes that make room for mouths and noses, as well as the importance of “heat retention,” “mouth comfort,” “splash reduction,” “friction fit,” and “one-handed activation,” all enabling Americans to drink on the go.

Peel type coffee cup lid

Gift of Louise Harpman and Scott Specht. See more coffee lids in the collection.

View object record
Patent drawing, “Closure Cap for Cups and Like Containers,” 1962

Patent drawing, “Closure Cap for Cups and Like Containers,” 1962

Patent drawing, “Disposable Cup Cover,” 1980

Patent drawing, “Disposable Cup Cover,” 1980

Patent drawing, “Lid for Drinking Cup,” 1986

Patent drawing, “Lid for Drinking Cup,” 1986