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Orange and Yellow Flowers Paper Cups
When you think of a retro paper cup, what is the first image that pops into your head? For many of you, it will be the famous “Jazz” paper cup design. Introduced in 1992 by the Sweetheart Cup Company, which would be bought by Solo, they would become common throughout that decade and slowly become beloved. With its colorful abstract design, it has been reused and co-opted into modern design trends to the point where it is almost iconic.
If you read about the Jazz cup online or in a podcast, the story goes that the cup was introduced to refresh older designs. What I want to talk about is the design that for most of the eighties and a good portion of the seventies and nineties seemed to dominate soda fountains and made countless appearances in media, “Orange and Yellow Flowers.”
Orange and Yellow Flowers is not the official name for this pattern, but it is the shortest and most apt description of it. Yes, I realize that these flowers, according to the trademark, are supposed to be daffodils and irises, but Orange and Yellow Flowers is an easier way to refer to it.
The first memory I had of an encounter with an Orange and Yellow Flowers cup was at a town pool in the eighties. I had gone with some friends of the family and after a long day of swimming and getting sunburned, my neighbor’s father bought me a Coca-Cola and french fries. That Coke was cold and delicious, I can still picture it in my head. When I do, I see these bright orange and subtle yellow flowers glistening in the setting sun.
These cups would persist throughout the decade. Eventually getting replaced by Jazz cups and other designs. It happened so rapidly that I didn’t have time to mourn their demise. It was over ten years later, when I was watching an episode of Quincy ME, that I spotted one of the cups and thought, “Whatever happened to those flower cups?”
I would see them in shows from time to time and slowly became obsessed with them. Nearly falling off the couch whenever I would spot one on an old TV show or movie. At this point, I didn’t know much about them. I didn’t even know what to call them. So I started to do some searching and picking some up whenever I could. Here is what I would quickly find out.
A lot of people are confused about the origin of these cups.
Why can be summed up in two reasons:
When you look in detail at various cups, you will find different companies printed on them.
Over the years, the largest paper cup companies in the United States either merged or were acquired.
So you will see various companies mentioned in relation to Orange and Yellow Flowers, including:
Maryland Cup Company
Fort Howard Paper Company
Solo Cup Company
Imperial Cup Corporation
The cups that I have gotten my hands on never mentioned Solo, but since they would go onto acquire what became Sweetheart in 2004, I think people just assume Solo had something to do with the design. They might also do that because of Solo’s eventual connection to the more popular, and well-known, Jazz design.
Solo did make their own Orange and Yellow flower cup design that I believe ran concurrently with the Sweetheart variation. That design is a big less saturated with color with more well-defined stems on the flowers and plants. The colors are also more orange and gold rather than orange and yellow.
Imperial made a waxed paper cup with a similar orange and yellow color scheme. They are different, though. The illustration on them shows something that looks more like a long grass, maybe even wheat, rather than a flower. These cups also hit the market at some time in the 1970s and would persist well into the 1980s. If you are tying to search for them, they are often labeled with the identifying number/letter combo of “CMR 0500” and are manufactured in Kenton, Ohio.
As for Dixie, they were also well-known cup makers and since so little was known about Orange and Yellow Flowers, it makes sense that people would speculate about their involvement.
Some Company mentions on Orange and Yellow Flowers Cups and Packages
The Trademark for Orange and Yellow Flowers
In 1985, a trademark was granted for the design to the Maryland Cup Corporation. Although according to that filing, the design is much older, having been in use since 1975. Unfortunately, while we have the names of attorneys involved in the process, who I tried to contact, we do not have the name of the person who designed this memorable pattern. If anyone has any lead on who that might be, I would love to hear from you.
We can learn a lot from the trademark, besides the date. Most importantly would be the types of flowers illustrated in the design. According to the filing, as I mentioned earlier, they are daffodils and irises. We also find out that color is a major component of the trademark. It states, “The drawing is solid lined for colors yellow and orange and colors is a feature of the mark.”
I have stared at this design for hours lately, and it made me realize, I am terrible at identifying flowers. I couldn’t tell you which one was the iris or which one was the daffodil. They look more like poppies if you ask me.
I spent a lot of time trying to photograph and scan the cups under a proper light because I really wanted to get their color value. What I discovered is that, combined with the effects of aging, there was enough variation between cup types to make it challenging to identify the orange and yellow the cups are supposed to be.
Here is the closest I was able to get in their Pantone values.
A Design not just for Cups
Cups were the most memorable recipient of the design, they would range in size from small cups that one might have in a bathroom, all the way up to large soft drink cups that you would find at restaurants.
In addition to drinking cups, they also appeared on paper coffee cups with handles, bowls, and paper plates. I have heard that the design was also printed on napkins, but I have yet to see an example of that. They also came in waxed and unwaxed varieties.
This might seem odd, but as a kid, I would gnaw on wax cups after finishing my drink (usually Orange Hi-C). I am not sure what was so satisfying about it, but it took my mother about a decade to finally break me of this habit. But I am hungrily eyeing my current collection of waxed, so maybe the habit was not completely broken.
Jazz would come to dominate the paper cup scene, especially online, but two other cups have their share of fans that I wanted to mention. First is the New York City classic, the Anthora, “We are happy to serve you” coffee cup. These hot beverage cups were a staple of the area where I grew up and are beloved and iconic.
The other will look familiar, but not might be as well known. It is a gray, white and red design called “Preference.” It had overlap with Jazz and Orange and Yellow Flowers and gets overshadowed by both, but it’s a simple memorable design and its name deserves to be learned and remembered.
How long was Orange and Yellow Flowers made?
This design had more longevity than you might realize. It made its debut in 1975 and might have hit peak popularity in the eighties, but it continued on after that.
It existed alongside Jazz and would still be available well into the nineties, as evidenced by its use in shows like The X-Files and movies like The Silence of the Lambs.
The gang from Cheers likes to drink from these cups when they go bowling. Here they are in the season 4 episode, Beer to Eternity.
Here you see them on Friday the 13th: The Series in the episode Wax Magic.
They appear multiple times in the later seasons of Columbo. Here you see George Hamilton with a Hot Cup version (not using the handle), in the episode, Murder can be Hazardous to Your Health.
They even used the cup in advertising. Here you can see it featured in the long-running Orange You Smart ad campaign from the Florida Orange Growers.
Unfortunately for Orange and Yellow Flowers, time marches on, but what an incredible run it had. People were drinking their beverages out of this dazzling design for approximately two decades. Other designs would sprout up in the meantime that would try to replace it, but they would all hit up against this seemingly unstoppable masterpiece of product design.
I will not deny the magic of Jazz. It is a marvelously effective work, but its trendiness stands in the way of people appreciating a design that I believe matches if not exceeds Jazz in many ways. Sadly this means while Orange and Yellow Flowers has a few fans who have riffed on its style, it is currently nearly forgotten in the giant teal and purple shadow of Jazz.
So next time you are watching an older TV show or movie, keep your eyes peeled when people are drinking from a paper cup. You will be surprised how frequently you will spot these orange and yellow beauties. Oh, and if we ever meet up, I will be happy to serve you some Orange Hi-C in a waxed Orange and Yellow Flowers cup.