As we embark on 2017, it’s hard to forget the number of celebrity deaths that has followed. The creator of the Red Solo Cup, Robert Leo Hulseman, has died at the age of 84 on Wednesday, December 21. This week, America lost household names such as George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds. Hulseman may not be a household name, however, the Red Solo Cup can usually be found in many households.
Few people have so directly impacted my life at so many different key moments https://t.co/jcUWvuGy6c— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) December 29, 2016
Robert Hulseman invented the Red Solo Cup for family picnics and lived to see it embraced as the go-to drink holder at college parties and football tailgates. The famous red cup was even the inspiration for the 2011 country music party hit, “Red Solo Cup,” by Toby Keith, according to CNN.
The younger Hulseman said his father never really understood how popular the red plastic cup became in pop culture. He said the cup was intended for families, according to the Associated Press.
“That product was never intended for keggers.”
Their father was an imposing at six-foot-two-inches tall and said to be “smartly dressed.” His children bought him blue jeans one Christmas “as a joke.” His son added he took them back to the store and exchanged them for khakis.
The Solo Cup company was based in Illinois and invented the very familiar cone-shaped paper cups you can easily spot next to the office water cooler or at any college party across America. In the 1950s, as fountain sodas gained popularity, the company added wax-lined cups to its lineup.
At the young age of 18, Hulseman began working at his father’s business, Solo Cup Company. Eventually, he became president and CEO. Hulseman retired in 2015 after working for 60 years at the Solo Cup Co., according to Us Weekly.
It was in the 1970s that Hulseman created the now-ubiquitous cups. The cups are made up of a thick, molded polystyrene. And, of course, with them being fire engine red, they conceal whatever it is you’re drinking.
Hulseman’s obituary noted his innovative spirit and down-to-earth, hands-on expertise in the manufacturing industry. Hulseman was surrounded by family when he passed away peacefully, according to his obituary.
“He was known as an innovator, a hands-on manufacturing expert, and an industry pioneer; many of the products he developed are ubiquitous today, including the Red Solo Cup and the Traveller Lid… Throughout his life, Bob was a gentleman who demonstrated class at all turns and a great deal of trust in others.”
Hulseman was married to his late wife, Sheila Murphy Hulseman, for nearly six decades. The couple had a total of 10 children together. The red Solo cup creator is survived by nine of his kids, 11 nieces and nephews, and 29 grandchildren.
The red cups weren’t the only drink-related item Hulseman dreamed up during his life. He’s also the creator of the Solo Traveler coffee cup lids. This was a design the Museum of Modern Art added to its permanent collection.
The popular cups later arrived in the color blue. However, the red solo cups remained the winner and continue to this day to outsell its blue counterpart. A company executive told Slate in 2011 that the allure of the red cups are that they appeal to both sexes.
“I’ve tested this over and over. Consumers prefer red, and it’s not very close… I think for one thing it’s a neutral color that’s appealing to both men and women.”
The younger Hulseman recalled being about 10-years-old when he and his siblings helped their father choose the cup’s first colors: red, blue, yellow, and peach.
“Truth be told… Dad liked blue the best.”
[Featured Image by Melanie Maya/iStock Photo]