Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The History of Soda Pop

By Vickie McDonough

Okay, I’ll admit right off the bat that I’m a pop junkie. My dad bought pop for us all the time as kids. We even have a refrigerator in our garage reserved mostly for pop—and a place to thaw the Thanksgiving turkey.

As a kid, I watched all the cowboy shows and westerns of the sixties and early seventies. It always intrigued me when a cowboy would order a sarsaparilla. What a fancy name! I thought it might be fun to research soda pop and to find out how long it has actually been around.

1798—the term “soda water” was first used
1810—first U.S. patent for the manufacture of mineral waters was issued
1819—the first soda fountain was patented
1835—first bottled soda water was available in the U.S.

Note: The drinking of mineral water was considered a healthy practice. American pharmacists, who were selling most of the mineral waters, started to add medicinal and other flavorful herbs to the unflavored beverage, such as birch bark, dandelion, sarsaparilla and fruit extracts. 

1851—ginger ale was created in Ireland
1861—the term “pop” was first used

Just imagine, all of that happened before the Civil War had ended. It makes me thirsty just thinking about it.

1876—mass production of Root Beer began. It started out as an herbal tea that Charles Hires, a Philadelphia pharmacist, created on his honeymoon.

1881—the first cola beverage was introduced

1885—Dr. Pepper was invented, also by a pharmacist

1886—Coca Cola was invented by Doctor John Pemberton—you guessed it—a pharmacist from Atlanta, Georgia. Pemberton concocted the Coca Cola formula in a three legged brass kettle in his backyard. Until 1905, the soft drink, marketed as a tonic, contained extracts of cocaine as well as the caffeine-rich kola nut.

1892—William Painter invented the crown bottle cap

1898 Pepsi Cola is invented by Caleb Bradham. His most popular beverage was something he called "Brad's drink" made of carbonated water, sugar, vanilla, rare oils, pepsin and cola nuts. "Brad's drink" was later renamed "Pepsi-Cola" after the pepsin and cola nuts used in the recipe.

1899—The first patent is issued for a glass blowing machine to produce glass bottles

Did you know that soda pop has been around for so long? There are plenty more events in the soda pop timeline, but I’ll stop here. Next time you’re reading a historical set in the late 1800s and your hero refreshes himself with a soft drink, just remember it could have really happened. And, next time you indulge in a cold, refreshing soft drink, be sure to thank all those early pharmacists for their creative genius.

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Whispers on the Prairie, book 1 in the Pioneer Promises series

When Sarah Marshall’s wagon breaks down near a stage stop on the Santa Fe Trail, marriage proposals fly in faster than the incessant wind, but only one man interests Sarah—and he’s not proposing.

Ethan Harper’s well-ordered life is thrown into turmoil when an uppity city gal is stranded at his family’s stage stop. Now his two brothers and every unmarried male in the county are wooing Miss Priss. When one brother proposes, Ethan is in turmoil. Is it because she’s the wrong woman for his brother —or the right one for Ethan?

Vickie McDonough is an award-winning author of 26 books and novellas. Her novels include the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series and the 3rd & 6th books in the Texas Trails series. Her novel, Long Trail Home, won the Inspirational category of the 2012 Booksellers’ Best Awards. Coming July 1st: Whispers on the Prairie, the first book in an exciting new series set in 1870s Kansas. To learn more about Vickie, visit her website:


  1. I did know that soda pop was found at soda fountains in drugstores, but I did not know how long ago that was! And I remember Hires root beer, but I haven't seen it in a quite a while. It was good stuff!
    Thanks for the fun and informative post!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Bethany. I remember Hires root beer too.

  2. When I saw what you were blogging about today, Vickie, I knew I had to pop in! :)

    When I was a kid, I was told that Coca-Cola was made at the Newton Bottling Works in Newton, MS about 20 mile from me. Of course, being a kid, I was fascinated and somehow my brain thought Coca-Cola was was invented there. And, I also couldn't understand if it was so close by and so readily available why I couldn't have ALL I wanted!

    But alas, Coca-Cola wasn't invented 20 miles from me, but my pictorial history of Newton County does have a photograph of the old Newton Bottling Works that tells when he started bottling the drink.

    "Newton Bottle Works In 1907 Mr. J. L. Summer began bottling a drink called "Lake Celery" located near Hoye Springs with was fed by an artesian well. Soda water of other flavors were added and in 1912 he began bottling Coca Cola."

    Lake Celery??? Ewwwww

    I still think I should have been able to drink all the Coca Cola I know, in support of a local business! ha

    1. Thanks for "popping" in, Pam. I know what you mean about the Coke company. We have a Pepsi Bottling company not far from my house. I remember visiting it when I was a Girl Scout and how fascinating it was to watch those cans whizzing by on the conveyor belt. We did get a free Pepsi at the end of the tour. :)

  3. Vickie, this is a fun post. I tried sarsaparilla once in Abilene. Boy howdy, was it sweet.

    1. Did it taste like root beer? I've always heard that it does. I remember getting Yahoos--chocolate pop when I was young. I've have a couple as an adult, but they don't seem to taste as good as they did when I was young.

  4. Growing up in Texas I learned early on about Dr. Pepper and its history. When I went to Baylor, it was practically the only drink you could get and is still featured at Baylor Athletic complexes. I didn't know about the others except Coca Cola. Fascinating history. Hires was a great root beer, I don't see root beer as often as the other soft drinks now. Thanks for sharing, Vickie. Oh, and Dr. Pepper is still my favorite.

    1. I used to be a Pepsi-holic, but now Coke is my favorite drink. I like root beer too, but I've noticed when we travel that it's not sold in a lot of towns. I'm glad we have it here.

  5. Don't forget Cheerwine. :) It's a southeastern, cherry-based soft drink similar to Dr. Pepper. It was created in Salisbury, North Carolina, around 1917, is still made here, and VERY popular--especially with kids and teens.

    1. BTW, good post and interesting information. I got so excited over the Cheerwine, I forgot to add that. :)

    2. Sandra,

      I've never heard of Cheerwine. I like cherry, so I'd probably like it.

  6. Fun post, Vickie. Soda pop was always a treat when I was young. I still remember watching Dad pull the dripping soda bottles from the chest style cooler when we would play miniature golf - on rare occasions. Such wonderful memories.

  7. Oh, I remember those. It was always fun to slide the pop bottle along the maze like bars to get them out. Fun memory!

  8. Didn't realize all the history of soda pop. Our favorite as kids was the Nehi brand - strawberry, orange, grape is all I remember. Had to give up pop totally 3 yrs. ago because of the sugar and the acid. Bummer!

  9. Martha,

    We occasionally drank Nehi too. I liked the strawberry best.

  10. God bless all those pharmacists, but especially Caleb Bradham--I'm a Pepsi drinker! :-) I love a good soda every now and then for a treat since I refuse to drink diet! Can you imagine what people were like after drinking an original Coca Cola that had cocaine and caffeine? They had to be pretty hopped up and wicked hyper! Thanks for a really good post Vickie! Congrats on Whispers releasing--I can't wait to read it.

  11. Well that is very interesting! Love that pop goes that far back. :)
    Susan P

  12. Love to win your book. I was raised in Nigeria as an MK and we drank FANTA- I think it was British soda. The orange flavor was the most common. sharon, CA wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

  13. Vickie - reading such fascinating info was a real treat. Your book sounds like a real treat to read also. Thank you for this sweet giveaway and the chance to win a "great treat!"

    Barb Shelton
    barbjan10 at tx dot rr dot com

  14. Very interesting post. I am not much on sodas (or pops as you call them), but I am a HUGE Dr. Pepper fan. I was born in Atlanta, so I knew the whole Coca Cola thing, but not about the rest of soda history. I always heard sarsaparilla tastes like root beer too... I can't stand root beer though, so I'm not sure I would like it.

    Anyhow, great post!