In 1908, Hugh Moore started the American Water Supply Company of New England to market a vending machine that for one penny would dispense a cool drink of water in an individual, clean, disposable paper cup.
Moore soon realized that his sanitary cups had greater sales potential than his water, particularly when Dr. Samuel Crumbine, a health official in Dodge City, Kansas, began crusading for a law to ban the public tin dipper. Lacking the capital to manufacture enough paper cups to abolish the tin dipper, Moore and his associate Lawrence Luellen traveled to New York City with a few handmade samples and eventually hooked up with an investment banker who invested $200,000 in the venture, incorporated as the Public Cup Vendor Company in 1909.
In 1909, Kansas passed the first state law abolishing the public dipper, and Professor Alvin Davison of Lafayette College published a study reporting the germs of communicable diseases found on public dipping tins. As state after state outlawed public drinking tins, Hugh Moore and his associates created a paper cup dispenser to be distributed for free to businesses and schools who would the buy the paper cups. By 1910, the company changed its name to the Individual Drinking Cup Company, only to change it again in 1912 to Health Kups and yet again in 1919 to Dixie Cups.
Inventor Hugh Moore's paper cup factory was located next door to the Dixie Doll Company in the same downtown loft building. The word Dixie printed on the company's door reminded Moore of the story he had heard as a boy about "dixies," the ten dollar bank notes printed with the French word dix in big letters across the face of the bill by a New Orleans bank renowned for its strong currency in the early 1800s. The "dixies," Moore decided, had the qualities he wanted people to associate with his paper cups, and with permission from his neighbor, he used the name for his cups.
In 1923, Dixie Cups produced a two-and-a-half ounce Dixie Cup for ice cream, giving the ice cream industry a way to sell individual servings of ice cream and compete with bottled soft drinks and candy bars.
Etymologists believe that the sobriquet for the southern United States, Dixie Land, originated on the Mississippi River before the Civil War by riverboat men for whom a dixie was a New Orleans bank note printed with the word dix, French for "ten."
The Dixie Cups, a popular singing trio comprised of sisters Barbara Ann Hawkins, Rosa Lee Hawkins, and their cousin Joan Marie Johnson, sang the 1964 hit song, "Chapel of Love."
While playing telephone operator Ernestine on Saturday Night Live, Lily Tomlin said, "Next time you complain about your phone service, why don't you try using two Dixie Cups with a string?"