In honor of our second annual Father's Day Design a Mug contest, we're taking at look the story behind the everyday cup. So, before you take another sip, read on to discover the illustrious history behind the mug in your hand.
Our predecessors probably probably drank out of mugs tediously carved from bone or wood. The oldest mugs discovered by archeologists date back to the Neolithic Stone Age, some 10,000 years B.C. These drinking vessels, found in China and Japan, were durable yet lacked handles.
Eventually, bone and wood gave way to pottery and handles came about. Until the invention of the pottery wheel, clay mugs were made and decorated by hand. As with most ancient pottery, these clay cups had thick walls that made them cumbersome and difficult to drink out of.
By 2000 BCE, metal mugs made of gold, silver, bronze, and lead became popular. Aside from the obvious dangers posed by a lead cup, these mugs made drinking hot beverages particularly painful.
It wasn't until 600 CE, when porcelain was invented in China, that the world finally got a mug that was "just right." Well suited to hot and cold drinks, porcelain mugs are also relatively thin and lightweight. Til this day, they remain a coffee lover's favorite.
If you're an espresso drinker, you may be surprised to learn that up until 1992, espresso cups were only available in plain white. At most, some featured a logo for decoration. According to American Chronicle, Illy was the first company to marry art and espresso. Its groundbreaking decision to commission architect and designer Matteo Thun to reimagine the espresso cup lead to the creation of Illy's Art Collection sets, which many credit with ushering in the collector's cup era.
That mug you're holding has come a long way, baby.