Bendy Straw

PICTURE: Thomas Vimare/Unsplash

It was about 80 years ago that American inventor Joseph B Friedman came up with an idea for the now ubiquitous 'bendy straw'.

Friedman was apparently at his brother's soda fountain parlour, the Varsity Sweet Shop, in San Francisco watching his daughter Judith as she tried to drink a milkshake using a straight paper straw which had been patented by another American, Marvin Chester Stone, in 1888 (an improvement on the straws made of rye which were used prior).

It was shortly after that inspiration struck and Friedman, who had taken a straw home to tinker with, used a screw and some dental floss to create accordian-like ridges in the straw near with the top which could be bent to make for easier drinking.

Friedman patented the idea under the title 'Drinking Tube' on 28th September, 1937, and in 1939 he founded the Flexible Straw Corporation (later known as the Flex-Straw Company) to sell his invention and by the 1940s was manufacturing the new flexible straws. Interestingly, his first sale in 1947 wasn't to a restaurant but to a hospital after nurses realised the value of having bendy straws to help bed-ridden patients sip at a drink (the straight glass tubes they'd used previously apparently broke easily).

The idea obviously caught on and plastic straws were to follow as were the many different types of crazy straws now available.