Raise a cup for Leslie Buck

It’s easy to take things for granted. Take, for example, the quintessential coffee cup. It wasn’t always the quintessential coffee cup. Someone had to design it, and that someone was Leslie Buck. Mr. Buck died on Monday, and the New York Times has an article about Mr. Buck and his cup.

It was for decades the most enduring piece of ephemera in New York City and is still among the most recognizable. Trim, blue and white, it fits neatly in the hand, sized so its contents can be downed in a New York minute. It is as vivid an emblem of the city as the Statue of Liberty, beloved of property masters who need to evoke Gotham at a glance in films and on television.

It is, of course, the Anthora, the cardboard cup of Grecian design that has held New Yorkers’ coffee securely for nearly half a century. Introduced in the 1960s, the Anthora was long made by the hundreds of millions annually, nearly every cup destined for the New York area….

The Anthora seems to have been here forever, as if bestowed by the gods at the city’s creation. But in fact, it was created by man — one man in particular, a refugee from Nazi Europe named Leslie Buck.

Coffee is my vice, and I appreciate good design as a hobby. Naturally, I am grateful to Mr. Buck, though I had never known who made the famous cup. It’s always worth pondering that the everyday objects we use have been designed by somebody, that all these mundane objects have stories. Next time you pick up a stapler or use a parking meter or type on a QWERTY keyboard, give thanks to some unsung person’s creative work. Picasso may get the glory, but ordinary objects whose design endures for decades are masterpieces just the same.

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