The inventor of the ubiquitous red Solo cup is dead

Image: Reuters/Fred Thornhill
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He may not have attended them all, but without a doubt Robert Hulseman brought the party.

Hulseman, the inventor of the red Solo cup that became the symbol of tailgates and college blowouts, died last week (Dec. 21) at his home in Northfield, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago. He was 84.

Hulseman’s father started the Solo Cup Company in 1936, making cone-shaped paper cups commonly found next to office water coolers. When he was 18 years old, Hulseman began working at his father’s factory and through the years worked his way up the corporate ladder, eventually becoming president and CEO, according to an obituary posted by the Donnellan Family Funeral Services.

The now-ubiquitous red Solo cup—made of polystyrene shaped to accommodate stacking and withstand drops without breaking—was created in the 1970s. In addition to becoming a signature item for drinking games like beer pong, the cups were immortalized in song by country musician Toby Keith.

Solo cups do come in blue, but company officials have said the red cups have always sold more, according to Slate. In 2009, the company redesigned the bottoms of the cups to be square instead of circular, a change that led to sales growth—and possibly less spilled beer.