Sometime during the 1930s, tinkerer Joseph B. Friedman watched his young daughter struggle to drink a milkshake from a high counter at a soda shop. There had to be a way to improve the design to make it flexible. Here's what he did:
Friedman inserted a screw into the straw toward the top (see image). Then he wrapped dental floss around the paper, tracing grooves made by the inserted screw. Finally, he removed the screw, leaving a accordion-like ridge in the middle of the once-straight straw. Voila! he had created a straw that could bend around its grooves to reach a child's face over the edge of a glass.
The modern bendy straw was born. The plastic would come later. The "crazy" straw -- you know, the one that lets you watch the liquid ride a small roller coaster in plastic before reaching your mouth -- would come later, too. But the the game-changing invention had been made. In 1939, Friedman founded Flex-Straw Company. By the 1940s, he was manufacturing flex-straws with his own custom-built machines. His first sale didn't go to a restaurant, but rather to a hospital, where glass tubes still ruled. Nurses realized that bendy straws could help bed-ridden patients drink while lying down.
Link | Photo: Flickr user matsber