In Search of the First Tea Bag Patent
By William I. Lengeman III
There is a commonly accepted tale for the origin of the tea bag, one that I’ve written about at this site and elsewhere. I’ve also seen it mentioned countless other times in many other places. I’ll kick off this article by giving a very brief version of the story. Sometime around 1904 or 1907 or perhaps even 1908, depending on who’s telling the tale, a tea merchant named Thomas Sullivan got the idea to give out samples of his wares in silk bags. Some of his customers got the notion to dip these bags in hot water and thus the humble tea bag was born – for better or worse.
The more I thought about it and dug around a bit, trying to find out more about Sullivan and his “invention,” the more it occurred to me that this seemed like...