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Leaders in Innovation

Who Invented Stanley Cups? Meet NIHF Inductee William Stanley Jr.

A company founded in 1913 might seem like an unlikely source for a viral trend, but there’s no denying that Stanley’s products – and especially its 45-ounce Quencher cup – have recently reached new heights in popularity across the country. If you have a favorite Stanley cup or thermos you rely on to keep your hot drinks hot and your cold drinks cold, you have a National Inventors Hall of Fame® Inductee to thank for it! Read on to learn about William Stanley Jr., the inventor behind a trusted American company and its surprising trend.


A Transformative Electrical Engineer

Long before he created the first Stanley cup, this impactful inventor was a pioneer in safely providing electricity. Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1858, Stanley enrolled at Yale University to study law, but he soon left school to look for a job in the emerging field of electricity. He found a position with Hiram Maxim, an inventor and engineer in the electrical industry. As George Westinghouse learned of Stanley's accomplishments with Maxim, he hired him to serve as chief engineer at his Pittsburgh factory, where he began work on the transformer. Stanley later left Pittsburgh for Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

In the 1880s, every system for distributing electricity used direct current (DC), but DC transmission over long distances was impractical. Transmitting at low voltage required thick wires, while transmitting at high voltage was dangerous and could not be reduced for consumer uses such as lighting. Though it was known that alternating current (AC) voltage could be varied with the use of induction coils, no practical coil system had been invented.

Stanley changed that with his design for such a coil, or "transformer" as it is now called. His induction coil design became the prototype for all future transformers.

In 1886, Stanley demonstrated the first full AC power system by providing lighting for offices and stores on Main Street in Great Barrington. With this demonstration, Stanley proved that AC power was practical, safe and cost effective.

Following this success, the inventor founded the Stanley Electric Manufacturing Co. in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to make transformers, auxiliary electrical equipment and electrical appliances. Of course, Stanley’s innovative spirit didn’t stop here.


An Invention Goes Viral

It was in 1913 that Stanley patented the first vacuum-sealed, double-walled water bottle made of steel. In an attempt to come up with a reliable way to keep his coffee hot all day, he applied some of the lessons he’d learned when developing his many electrical inventions. Compared to other vacuum-sealed water bottles of the time, which were made with glass, Stanley’s invention was much more durable and long-lasting – perfect for workers who often carried thermoses of coffee or other hot drinks to their jobsites.

While Stanley thermoses were on the market for several decades, it wasn’t until the 2000s that the company introduced additional products, including flasks and a barware line. The now trending Quencher was first released in 2016.

Though Stanley had stopped promoting and restocking the Quencher in 2019, interest in the product grew after it was featured on a product review website called The Buy Guide. When new colors were launched in 2020, Stanley’s cups began selling out, and by 2021, as the cups became a popular product to share on social media, the company’s revenue skyrocketed and the Quencher Travel Tumbler became its bestselling product that year. The tumbler’s immense popularity continued growing as Stanley introduced upgrades and collaborated with other brands to produce limited editions.

More than 10 million Quenchers have been sold since the product’s 2016 launch. Stanley’s viral success proves that even a company of more than a century can spark the latest craze through ingenuity and innovation – and it all started with the work of a creative electrical engineer who earned more than 100 U.S. patents in his lifetime.


Meet More World-Changing Inventors

Did you know that Stanley is one of more than 600 creators, innovators and entrepreneurs who have been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame so far? It’s true – and you can learn more of these inventors’ inspiring stories by visiting our website.

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