This summer you probably enjoyed a plethora of cold, refreshing drinks and a good number of them were possibly sipped through a straw while sitting by a pool (if not, we are allowed to dream!). It is a little known fact that the convenience of having the straw bend to meet one’s mouth is thanks to the creative thinking of an enterprising Jewish inventor.
Joseph B. Friedman, who was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on October 9, 1900, was a natural tinkerer. He prepared his first “marketable” product, the Pencilite (which was a “lighted pencil”) when he was 14. Eight years later, he was issued the first (of nine) U.S. patents for improvements to the fountain pen. As his early inventions and innovations were not sufficiently lucrative to support himself and his family, Friedman worked in real estate and later managed an optometry office.
The innovation that entered Friedman into popular cultural history, and made him rich, was the bend in the straw. The idea came to him when he watched his daughter Judith try to consume a milkshake through a stiff, straight straw that would not bend to accommodate her height. The actual innovation was quite simple. Friedman stuck a machine screw into the straw and then imprinted the created grooves onto the straw with dental floss. After the screw was removed, the grooves remained and the area became flexible.
Unable to find a manufacturer for his new straws, which he patented as “the drinking tube,” Friedman opened The Flexible Straw Corporation and created a special machine for the straws’ production. The company, which involved many of his extended family members either as financial backers or employees, lasted until it was sold in 1969.
Joseph B. Friedman died on June 21, 1982.
Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.