Paper drinking straws were patented by Marvin C. Stone of Washington DC on 3 January 1888. The ideal straw, in his opinion, was 8.5in long, with a diameter just narrow enough to stop lemon pips being sucked up. Before Marvin Stone's invention, people used to suck up drinks through blades of rye grass. The Sumerians drank beer through natural straws more than 5,000 years ago. Stone experimented with tubes of paper wrapped round a pencil, then perfected his invention by using paraffin-coated manila paper.
According to Stone, the perfect straw is 8.5in long and narrow enough to keep out lemon pips. Marvin Stone's father, Chester Stone, was also an inventor, holding patents for a 'self-acting cheese press' and a clothes rack. The first paper straws were made by Marvin Stone's company, which had previously made paper cigarette holders.
Stone's patent for spiral-wound tubing was later employed on non-paper products including the first mass-produced radios. The flexible drinking straw was invented by Joseph B Friedman in 1937.
Research in 2005 reported that drinking fizzy drinks through a straw can reduce tooth decay.