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Object #1: The Greek Coffee Cup

Friday, March 16, 2012 - 04:50 PM

The top object in our countdown is perhaps the most accidental of New York icons. In its heyday the Anthora cup, with its crisp blue and white Greco design, was the way you drank hot beverages on the go. But, as Leonard pointed out, sometimes the coffee itself wasn’t always that great. Oh, the power of nostalgia. (continue reading)

In the middle of the 20th century the diner and corner vendor business in New York City was dominated by Greek immigrants. Leslie Buck, a marketer for the Sherri Cup Company, saw a business opportunity and set out to design a coffee cup that referenced Greek imagery. Despite having no design experience and not being Greek, Mr. Buck’s cup was an instant success.  Dr. Sarah Henry of the Museum of the City of New York told us that “Even after the ethnic succession really was underway and new immigrants were running both the diners and the corner delis, they kept buying the [Anthora] coffee cup and they kept buying it because it was the symbol of New York.”

The Anthora cup’s success spawned a multitude of imitators. You can check out a 2005 New York Times Slideshow showing the various incarnations of the cup here. The Museum of Modern Art even started selling ceramic mug versions of the iconic paper cup. While the Anthora cup’s popularity has declined in recent years, it has managed to endure the Starbuckification of the five boroughs and will likely provide caffeine for the city that never sleeps for years to come.

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