Birth of the cup-holder, 1950

The November, 1950 issue of Popular Mechanics details the birth of the cup-holder in all its miraculous, futuristic convenience:

Travel snacks can be enjoyed while the car is in motion with a dashboard tray which prevents cold drinks or water glasses from tipping over. The tray hangs from two cords which are held on the dashboard by suction cups. Bottles or glasses rest on two disks which are suspended below the tray on chains. When not in use, the tray can be folded into small space for storage in the glove compartment.


  1. Yum – bottled Coke with sucrose, as God intended!

    I’m just recoiling at the notion of the suction cups — when they pop off, somebody’s getting a lap full of sugary Coke. Undoubtedly why they stopped using that in the first place…

  2. #1: I’m just recoiling at the notion of the suction cups — when they pop off, somebody’s getting a lap full of sugary Coke.

    My first thought, too. Suction cups are just a practical joke cooked up by engineers.

  3. if someone says something to the effect of “blahblah this is why we have fat americans” I’ll punch you in the face

  4. Oddly enough, the thing about this illustration that struck me as most incongruous or retro is a water glass. A water glass? You’d have a glass? An actual made-out-of-melted-sand GLASS in the car?

    Growing up in an age where paper or styrofoam cups were simply a given, a water glass is far more of a head-scratcher than a glass bottle or suction cups.

  5. Lectroid,

    Growing up in the 60s, we all used a glass in the bathroom to brush our teeth. One glass, multiple people. Got washed…occasionally. Dixie cups were a big innovation which caught on immediately after they ran a TV ad chronicling the use of a filthy glass by multiple family members over the course of a day.

    We also recycled paper, glass and cans and collected wet garbage for composting or feed. Even now, in India, if you buy a Campa Cola or a Bubble-Up, you have to drink it there and hand the glass back in to be washed and reused. Disposability is a very recent concept.

  6. Despite the suction cups, that looks like a pretty sweet little invention. I mean it’s a whole little tray where you can put your sandwiches and stuff! I wish my car had that, It’d be very nice to have when stopping by a drive-thru on road-trips.

  7. Not true! The very first were the circular depressions on the inside of the glove compartment lids! Of course I’m showing my age a bit, but Jeez-o-Pete, get your referentials right. Or at the least, go to

  8. Lamarlowe, you beat me to it. I remember how awesome I thought those indentations were on our Oldsmobile when I was a kid. I mean, they were just begging for a drink to be set there!

  9. wow james lileks, thanx lamarlowe. i remember his gallery of regrettable food from back in the 90’s. great stuff, ya?

  10. Vintage Popular Mechanics at its best.

    “The Boy Mechanic” is a BRILLIANT 4 book series full of this type stuff. However, ~ 60% of it is impossible today, can’t buy the chemicals, or can’t find “barrel staves from the home spares pile”

    You can surf eBay till you are blue in the face looking for this set, or you can download the first one as PDF from Gutenberg

    (some unscrupulous BASTARDS also sell the exact same PDF on eBay.)

    And if you like it, the whole set is sold through Lee Valley Tools here:,46096,46100

  11. I’m with Oskar, I want one of these. Hell I’ll even hard-mount the hooks to be used instead of suction cups…

  12. the problem with the indentations on the inside of the glove compartment door is the height was often too limited. there was barely enough headroom for my martini, and i had to be careful how i parked the beer…

  13. If you got in an accident in this car I’d say your bigger worries would probably be the combination of no seat belts, no safety glass in the windshield, and an all-metal unpadded dashboard…

  14. I don’t believe the cars in 1950 had the circular depressions in the glove box. Even if they did, those never really qualified as cup holders as any kid that tried leaving their drink there when the car was in motion could attest to. It’s sort of like calling the spot on a pool table a ball holder. It doesn’t keep anything in place – it just says “put a drink here so it’s in your lap once your mom hits the gas!”

    (‘course, our car was a ’66 Mustang with the v8 so.. maybe my mom was more leadfooted than most?)

  15. actually no, the reason why they have fat Americans is that the 10 ounce bottle has grown to a 5 gallon drum.

  16. Umm, cup holders are largely a symptom of being forced to rush around rather than relax and enjoy themselves, while they recover from car accidents caused partly by primitive safety gear.

    It’s not like cup holders require much technology or anything. They may have existed centuries before, awaiting automobiles and impatience to come into their own.

    It’s also not really true; because many, many old cars have circular indentations in the glove box door for this very purpose. (It’s called a glove box, and it matters not that you never have gloves in it.)

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