If you live in New York City—if you’ve ever lived in New York City—then chances are you’re familiar with the Anthora. In fact, you’ve probably paid $1 to a street vendor at 8:52 in the morning and been given an Anthora filled with hot, overly sweet coffee. The blue cardboard coffee cup with the vaguely (and clearly inauthentically) Grecian design is ubiquitous in New York; it appears in countless movies and TV shows (Law & Order alone must have gone through a hundred); I’ve even seen great ceramic mugs made to look like the cups at a Williamsburg coffeeshop. We learn today the story behind the Anthora, and the story behind the man behind the Anthora, because that man died. Better learning too late than never.
Leslie Buck, who designed the Anthora in 1963 while working at the Sherri Cup Company was, as you’ve probably guessed, not Greek. He was born Laszlo Büch in modern-day Ukraine. He survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald; his parents didn’t.
Buck designed the cup to look Greek—he had precisely zero formal art training—because he knew who owned many of the city’s delis. He used Classical-esque lettering, and drew a group of lines that look like something from an ancient marble column. And he also put a picture of an amphora, a classical Greek vase, on the cup’s side. “ ‘Anthora’ comes from ‘amphora,’ as filtered through Mr. Buck’s Eastern European accent,” the article reports. That’s the kind of detail that makes my job easier.