Marvin Stone

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Stone during the Civil War

Marvin Chester Stone (April 4, 1842 – May 17, 1899)[1] was an American inventor. He is best known for inventing the modern drinking straw.

Early life[edit]

Stone was born in Portage County, Ohio in 1842. The son of an inventor, Stone made many useful articles in his boyhood. He was a graduate of Oberlin College, although his course of study was interrupted by his service in the Civil War.[2] During the Civil War, Stone served in the 7th Ohio Regiment.[3] He was injured in the Battle of Lookout Mountain, and sent to Washington D.C. on special duty with the Veteran Reserve Corps.[3]

After college, Stone began a theological course, but abandoned it to go to Washington, D.C. where he was employed as a newspaper correspondent for several years.[2]


1895 advertisement for Stone's paper straws

Stone began his career as an inventor by creating a machine to make paper cigarette holders. Stone secured a contract with the W. Duke Sons & Co. and opened a factory in Washington, D.C.[4] to produce cigarette holders for the company's Cameo brand of cigarettes.[5]

Later, Stone developed the modern drinking straw.[2] Prior to Stone's invention, people used natural rye grass straws, which imparted an undesirable grassy flavor in beverages.[6] To combat the problem, Stone made the first drinking straw prototypes by spiraling a strip of paper around a pencil and gluing it at the ends.[7] Next he experimented with paraffin wax-coated manila paper, so that the straw would not get soggy when used. Stone's straws were 8 1/2 inches long[8] and had a diameter just wide enough to prevent things like fruit pips from getting lodged in the tube.[9]

Stone received the patent of the "artificial straw" on January 3, 1888. It was made out of paper.[9][10] By 1890, Stone's factory was producing more drinking straws than cigarette holders.[7]

Stone invented a number of other items during his career, including a kind of fountain pen[3] and an umbrella.[11]

Later life and death[edit]

Stone used the newfound wealth from his straw business for a variety of philanthropic causes.[9] He furnished lodging for his female employees, including a large library, music room, meeting room, and dancing floor.[2] In addition, he and several others built two blocks of tenement houses for African American residents of Washington, D.C.[9]

Stone died in his home in Columbia Road, Washington, D.C., on May 17, 1899 after a long illness.[2] He was survived by his wife, Jane "Jennie" Platt.[10] Stone is buried at Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland.[12]


  1. ^ Wilson, Lawrence (1907). Itinerary of the Seventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1864: With Roster, Portraits and Biographies. New York and Washington: Neale Publishing Company. pp. 440–441.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Obituary, Marvin Chester Stone". Home Furnishing Review, Volume 15. 1899: 323. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ a b c "Death of Marvin C. Stone". Evening Star. Washington, D.C. May 18, 1899. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  4. ^ "Untitled Article". Washington, D.C.: National Republican. September 11, 1886. Retrieved July 23, 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ "A Cigarette Holder Factory". The Weekly Sentinel (Winston-Salem, N.C.). October 21, 1886. Retrieved July 23, 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Thompson, Derek (November 22, 2011). "The Amazing History and the Strange Invention of the Bendy Straw". The Atlantic.
  7. ^ a b Broda-Bahm, Chris. "The Straight Truth About the Flexible Drinking Straw". Smithsonian Museum of American History, Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  8. ^ Madrigal, Alexis (June 21, 2018). "Disposable America". The Atlantic.
  9. ^ a b c d Bisset, Colin (September 30, 2013). "How the drinking straw created a fairer America". Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  10. ^ a b "What Once Was Washington DC, Center of Manufacturing". TheInTowner. July 18, 2015. Retrieved August 8, 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ "Patents Issued". Washington, D.C.: Evening Star. January 1, 1884. Retrieved July 23, 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ "Marvin Chester Stone". Find a Grave. Retrieved August 8, 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) Memorial ID 35496022.