As early as 1770, equipment was invented by a chemist (Bergman) and a scientist (Priestly) which saturated water with carbon dioxide. The result was called ‘soda water’; a term coined in 1798, regardless of the fact that the beverage was sans soda. It was marketed as mineral water and it’s benefits were glorified. It was supposed to have healing properties, just like it’s natural counterpart. There is conflicting information regarding the inception of the term ‘soda pop’, but it would seem that somewhere between 1840 and 1861, when flavors were added to seltzer water (another term for soda water), the two words were combined. These beverages were also referred to as ‘soft drinks’ as opposed to hard, which contained liquor.
The first British patent for the method of infusing water with Co2, was given to Henry Thompson in 1807. The first soda fountain was established in 1819 in Europe, but was much more of a success in America. In the halcyon days of soda fountains, soda jerks were popular guys in town. They got their name because they had to jerk the handle that released the carbonated water into the now-iconic ice cream soda, which was sold for the first time in 1874. In the early part of the twentieth century, soda fountains were staples in drug stores, department stores, five and dimes, and train stations. The soda fountain reached it’s pinnacle in the 1940’s and ’50’s.
In the roaring twenties when all things automatic were en-vogue, a vending machine was produced which would automatically dispense soda pop into cups. In 1923 Hom Paks were distributed; a six pack of soda in cartons; this was great for flappers-on-the-go.
The first aluminum cans were used in 1957 and it took forty-two years for the vending machine to evolve from cups to cans (1965). Until 1962, the only way to drink your soda was with the aide of a can opener; it was then that the pull-ring tab was marketed through the Pittsburgh Brewing Company. Ten years later, the stay-on tab was invented.
Seemingly, 1981 is the year of the last big inventions in the soda business. Some forward thinking yuppies decided to create the talking vending machine; this was two-hundred and eleven years after the invention of carbonated water.
As for specific types of soft drinks, the oldest one is ginger ale which was created in Ireland in 1851. The well-to-do set thought it was vulgar and slang-ish to call it pop, or soda pop, so they referred to it as ginger champagne, or the one that stuck, ginger ale. In 1876 root beer was initially mass produced for public sale. The first cola flavored sodas were marketed in 1881, and the one in the reddish-brown can was first distributed in 1885. One year later the one in the red can was created. The blue can came twelve years later in 1898. The Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime soda was introduced to a tongue-tied America in 1929. Calorie-conscious citizens didn’t enjoy the first diet soft drink (The No-Cal Beverage), until 1952. However, if you didn’t like ginger ale you were stuck with sugar until seven years later in 1959, when the first diet cola was sold.
In restaurants and bars today, soda is mixed in fairly the same way that it was when your friendly neighborhood jerk was behind the counter. Co2 is pumped from a tank and mixed with flavored water. But, if you get thirsty and there’s no establishment in sight, find a vending machine. There are almost three million of them dedicated to your favorite bubbly beverages.
Experts are now linking health problems to the consumption of soda. Like many other things in history which were once thought of as healthy or at least not harmful, the seemingly benign soda pop (which will probably very soon have a warning label on the can), has turned out to be detrimental as well. It keeps company with butter, cigarettes, saccharin , booze, etc.; in searching for things to make us feel better, we found ways to ultimately make us feel worse.
It is doubtful that the end is near, however, for our beloved soda-pop, for there are ingenious people out there researching and creating and doing things like putting vitamin C and antioxidants into the beverage. A soda revolution could be on the horizon, and this writer will embrace it, just as she presently embraces an icy-cold can of a fizzy diet cola.