Soft drinks have a special place in American history. Many people have an emotional bond to their favorite carbonated beverage. The sound of a top popping and the fizz that emits from the container evokes memories of summer days or a loved one who provided the drink as a way to comfort. If soft drinks are not chosen because of childhood memories, many people chose soft drinks because their favorite celebrity drinks it. The history of soft drinks rarely enters the mind of individuals as they let the bubbles dissipate in their mouths.
The idea of soft drinks has ancient roots, when civilizations discovered natural springs that produced carbonated waters and mixed the water for fruits, herbs and flowers. For centuries, chemists studied mixtures that combined different elements to produce the carbonation process. In 1767, Englishman Joseph Priestley discovered how to infuse water with carbon dioxide to create carbonated water. He found that adding flavor created an effervescent drink. Chemists continued performing experiments of his carbonation process.
In 1806, Yale professor Benjamin Silliman began experimenting with adding gas to water and started selling carbonated soda water in New Haven, Connecticut. At around the same time, the soda fountain apparatus was being invented and the bottling industry started growing. The first patent for artificial mineral waters went to Joseph Hawkins in 1809. As the century progressed, people in different areas of the United States began distributing their versions of carbonated soda waters. At that time, most of these carbonated beverages where locally owned and not distributed to people across the country. Internationally, carbonated flavored beverages were being made.
Pharmacies served as the epicenter of the soft drink history, as these were the places that distributed carbonated beverages for medicinal purposes. To add flavor to these drinks, pharmacies added substances like ginger foot, sassafras, fruit and other sweet additives to make them palatable for consumers. By the end of the 19th century, the soft drink branding developed and companies patented their own drink formulas.
In 1885, Waco pharmacist Charles Alderton originated Dr. Pepper, the oldest major soft company in the world. While he was working in Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store, Alderton spent his spare time serving carbonated beverages in the soda fountain, mixing fruit syrup with carbonated water. He kept a journal of his mixtures, writing down what had a good taste and what didn’t. Alderton used Morrison and customers as taste testers. According to legend, Morrison coined the name Dr. Pepper.
Alderton had no interest in mass marketing his invention, and gave Morrison permission to further perfect the formula. Morrison and a young beverage chemist named Robert S. Lazenby, who also enjoyed the drink. In 1891, the two men formed Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company, a forerunner to the Dr. Pepper Company. In 1904, Lazenby and his son-in-law J.B. O’Hara introduced Dr. Pepper to attendees of the St. Louis World’s Fair Exposition.
In 1886, Atlanta pharmacists John Pemberton began experimenting with carbonated water and flavor. He mixed caramel-colored liquid and brought it to Jacobs’ Pharmacy and mixed the fragrant concoction with carbonated water. Customers liked the taste of the beverage. Pemberton’s bookkeeper called the mixture Coca-Cola and created the distinct logo. By 1891, an Atlanta businessman Asa Griggs Candler paid $2,300 for the rights to this company. Coca-Cola embarked on an aggressive promotion to advertise their new drink. They distributed clocks, urns and calendars with the company logo on them. By 1904, Coca-Cola had its first celebrity endorsement, Music Hall performer Hilda Clark.
Soft drinks still evoke a special place in the minds of consumers and have grown to encompass specialized beverage companies. Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper still remain leaders in the soft drink industry, with more than 100 flavors of these products, many customized to fit the taste of international consumers. They battle for celebrity endorsements and add time during major sporting events. By the turn of the 21st century, smaller soft drink companies have come along to create drinks to appeal to target groups.
History of Dr. Pepper
The Handbook of Texas Online