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The History of Anthora Coffee Cups (New York Coffee Cups)

An icon of New York City, the Anthora coffee cup was the first handle-free to-go coffee cup. When Greek immigrants arrived in New York in the early part of the 20th century, they brought their coffee culture along with them. Soon New Yorkers began getting coffee from Greek diners and sidewalk pushcarts. In 1963, the Sherri Cup Company sought to produce a to-go coffee cup that would appeal to these Greek vendors. Leslie Buck, an employee in the company’s marketing department (who was an immigrant himself and a Holocaust survivor) was assigned the task. Although Buck didn’t have any formal design training, he researched Greek culture extensively and created a cup that he hoped would remind the Greek vendors of their home country. He included the blue-and-white colors of the Greek flag, a message (“WE ARE HAPPY TO SERVE YOU”) printed in Greek-style letters, and an image of a trio of mustard-yellow cups flanked by ancient Greek “Anthora” urns and framed with a Greek key pattern. The name of the iconic cups came from the depicted urns. Supposedly, they were ancient Greek Amphora urns, but in Buck’s thick accent, the pronunciation came out closer to “Anthora” and that’s what he named his cups. His design was a huge success and hundreds of millions of the cups were manufactured at Sherri’s factory in Berlin, Connecticut. In 1994, the company sold 500 million cups to business owners! The Anthora cup quickly became a quintessential symbol of New York City and has been featured in countless TV shows and movies. In the early 2000s, the Solo Company absorbed the Sherri Cup Company and eventually phased out the Anthora cups, in part because of the rise of Starbucks and in part because many Greek immigrants began leaving for the suburbs. However, the famous motif lives on in other products like ceramic mugs and coin purses. There have also been countless knockoffs that pay homage to the defunct original design, which remains an icon of New York City (and Midtown in particular) to this day. Recently, the retailer NYCoffeeCup resurrected the original design and began selling it again, continuing the humble cup's legacy.

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