Rix Dieffenbach, headed drinking straw company

January 24, 1995|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

Rix A. Dieffenbach, retired president of a company that manufactured drinking straws, died Saturday of a stroke at his home in Spring Hill, Fla. The former Ruxton resident was 85.

Along with his father, Otto W. Dieffenbach, he founded Glassips Inc., makers of cellophane drinking straws, beverage swizzle sticks and other restaurant supplies, in 1933.

The elder Mr. Dieffenbach came up with the idea of producing straws after opening a flat tin of cigarettes and winding its cellophane -- introduced into this country in 1927 from France -- around a metal rod on his desk. He noticed, when he withdrew the rod, a perfect cylinder of cellophane that he thought would also make a perfect soda straw.

Both father and son designed and built a machine that wound a continuously fed, half-inch strip of cellophane into straws that were sealed with heat and cut to size by a circular blade. Daily output reached about a million straws.

Since the straw was clear, they decided to name the product "glassip."

They also applied the concept used in straw production to design a machine to make plastic industrial tubing that was used as insulation by battery manufacturers.

Their business, located on Susquehanna Avenue in Towson, was dissolved and sold in 1979.

"The business consumed a better part of his life and he loved the business, working with his hands and producing something. He was a gregarious man, and he enjoyed being out on the road meeting people and simply selling the straws," said a son, Edward A. Dieffenbach of Timonium.

The Cleveland native was reared in Baltimore's Guilford neighborhood and attended city schools. He graduated from Polytechnic Institute in 1927 and earned his bachelor's degree in engineering from the Johns Hopkins University in 1931.

He operated a ham radio station, W3JAS, from his Boyce Avenue home in Ruxton for many years.

He also enjoyed reading and surf fishing.

Active in the Ruxton Players, he also was the first president of the Roland Run Club and was a member of the Towson Rotary Club.

He was married in 1933 to the former Helen Elizabeth "Pat" Jones, who died in 1982.

He is survived by his second wife, the former Evelyn Hatton Miller; two other sons, Rix A. Dieffenbach Jr. of Wilmington, Del., and Louis A. Dieffenbach of Spring Hill; a brother, Otto W. Dieffenbach of Rancho Sante Fe, Calif.; a sister, Jeanne Smith of Salisbury; five grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

Interment will be private.

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