With over three thousand restaurants in the city of San Francisco, and a thronging populace that enjoys going out to eat as a social and entertainment activity, it is only reasonable to assume that many of those same restaurant patrons are enjoying their beverages with the aid of native inventor John B Friedman’s bendy straw. How did this simple yet ubiquitous drinking accessory come about?
It seems that over 50 years after the inventor of the modern straw, Marvin Chester Stone found grass in his mint julep; Joseph Friedman was enjoying a soda at his brother’s milkshake establishment. While enjoying his own beverage he was touched when he noticed a small child having a very hard time with her straight straw. Granted the invention of the paper straw was a big help as it eliminated the annoying grass flavor left by other straws, the poor little child just could not get a grasp on it.
This gave Friedman an idea. Later, he took a straw back home with him and began to contemplate the design and how he could improve upon it so that small children and others who may have issues reaching the end of a straight straw could enjoy their beverages much more easily. It was a small bit of tinkering with some straw and a screw that led to the famous accordion design of the well known bendy straw. To do this he put the screw into the end of the straw and bound it up tight along the threads of the screw inside the straw, tracing the grooves of the screw. After a time he removed the thread and the screw from the straw, revealing the famous accordion shape that gives a straw its bend-ability. Thus, the bendy straw was invented.
This was the precursor to the modern bendy straw, an invention that is used in many western countries and many restaurants through out the world. In 1939 he founded a company to sell his quick and easy to produce, but invaluable to the soft drink industry, bendy straw.
By the middle of the 1940‘s Friedman was manufacturing bendy straws with his own machinery and a custom built factory. Ironically, the first sale he made was not to a restaurant as one would have assumed, but to a hospital where glass tubes still were in common use. This was because some quick witted nurses noticed that the bendy straw could help those patients that were bed ridden to drink with out being propped up. It seems that little girl’s straw problem had become a million dollar invention.
Although bendy straws are less impressive than say, Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine, they have impacted the food and beverage industry. This happened only after Friedman fought long and hard with the patent office on the importance of his invention. It is a good thing he did, considering that every time one goes to a restaurant they use his simple but vital invention. Friendman proves that no matter the simplicity of an invention, it can have massive impacts on the way people do things.
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