It was for decades the most enduring piece of ephemera in New York City and is still among the most recognizable. Trim, blue and white, it fits neatly in the hand, sized so its contents can be downed in a New York minute. It is as vivid an emblem of the city as the Statue of Liberty, beloved of property masters who need to evoke Gotham at a glance in films and on television.
It is, of course, the Anthora, the cardboard cup of Grecian design that has held New Yorkers’ coffee securely for nearly half a century. Introduced in the 1960s, the Anthora was long made by the hundreds of millions annually, nearly every cup destined for the New York area.
A pop-cultural totem, the Anthora has been enshrined in museums; its likeness has adorned tourist memorabilia like T-shirts and ceramic mugs. Like many once-celebrated artifacts, though, the cup may now be endangered, the victim of urban gentrification.
The Anthora seems to have been here forever, as if bestowed by the gods at the city’s creation. But in fact, it was created by man — one man in particular, a refugee from Nazi Europe named Leslie Buck.
Buck, a retired paper-cup company executive, died on Monday, at 87, at his home on Long Island, in Glen Cove. The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, his son, Robert, said. Buck, previously a longtime resident of Syosset, N.Y., also had a home in Delray Beach, Fla.
The Anthora has spawned a flock of imitations by competitors over the years, but it was first designed by Buck for the Sherri Cup Co. in Kensington, Conn.
Buck’s cup was blue, with a white meander ringing the top and bottom; down each side was a drawing of the Greek vase known as an amphora. Some later imitators depict fluted white columns; others show a discus thrower.
Though the Anthora no longer dominates the urban landscape as it once did, it can still be found at diners, delis and food carts citywide, a squat, stalwart island in a sea of tall, grande and venti. On the street, it warms the harried hands of pedestrians. Without the Anthora, “Law & Order” could scarcely exist.
But given the tenacious traditionalism of many locals, it is safe to assume that the Anthora and its heirs will endure, at least for a while, in the city’s steadfast precincts. For some time to come, on any given day, somewhere a New Yorker will be cradling the cup, with its crisp design and snug white lid, the stuff of life inside.