Obituaries

Coffee cup designer Leslie Buck, 87; economist Angus Maddison, 83; singer Susan Reed, 84

Leslie Buck's Anthora cups became standard props in films and TV series set in New York.
Leslie Buck's Anthora cups became standard props in films and TV series set in New York. (Frank Franklin Ii/associated Press)
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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Leslie Buck Coffee Cup Designer

Countless New Yorkers and visitors have warmed their hands on it -- a blue-white-and-gold cardboard cup with an ancient Grecian design, steaming with coffee or tea. This pop-culture emblem of New York is slowly disappearing. And now the man who created it is gone.

Leslie Buck, 87, died April 26 on Long Island of complications of Parkinson's disease. The Holocaust survivor from Eastern Europe decorated his creation with Greek urns, steaming coffee cups and the phrase "We Are Happy To Serve You."

Mr. Buck designed the cup while working for the Sherri Cup Co. in Kensington, Conn., which aimed the product at urban diners owned by Greek immigrants who were, in fact, happy to serve customers sipping from hundreds of millions of the cups over the decades.

The design soon spilled into the streets, used by vendors peddling coffee on chilly days.

Mr. Buck called it the "Anthora" -- unable to quite pronounce "amphora" (or urn) in his accented English.

He was born Laszlo Buch in Khust, Czechoslovakia -- now part of Ukraine. He survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald, leaving Europe after his parents died in the Holocaust. In New York, with an Americanized name -- Leslie Buck -- he went into business, starting a paper-cup manufacturing company called Premier Cup in Mount Vernon, N.Y.

In the 1960s, Mr. Buck joined Sherri, which by the early 1990s was selling 30 million pieces a year of the cup designed by the artistically untrained immigrant, said his son Robert Buck.

They became standard props in films set in New York and on television shows such as "Law & Order." Imitators followed, adding variations such as columns and discus throwers.

Then came Starbucks and other gourmet shops, sipping away at the ordinary American coffee market, "and they had their own fancy cups," said Robert Buck. "And now, it's not as big a thing as it used to be."

Angus Maddison Economist

Angus Maddison, 83, an economist whose research revealed the causes of wealth differences between nations, died April 24 in Thourotte, France. No cause of death was reported.

Mr. Maddison was a "pioneer" in the construction of national accounts, according to a statement on the Web site of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, where he was professor emeritus of economic sociology.

Mr. Maddison's research quantified national growth for long time spans, in some cases dating from A.D. 1. His macroeconomic history of China, published in 1998, was one of the first comprehensive quantitative studies of the nation.


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