Dr. Sodas

An Attempt at Doctor Soda History

1798: The term "soda water" is first introduced.
1835: Bottled soda water first produced in U.S.
1861: Soft drinks referred to as "pop."
1869: (circa) James Vernor starts selling Vernor's Ginger Ale in Detroit, MI. Vernor worked in a drug store as a lad, became a pharmacist and then went on to "...help pass the state's first pharmacy law and would also sit on the State Board of Pharmacy for eight years."
1876: Moxie introduced into apothecary shops by Dr. Augustin Thompson of Union, ME as a nerve tonic. It guaranteed to cure almost any ill including loss of manhood, paralysis, and softening of the brain (you want your brain nice and stiff). Moxie was only later carbonated and marketed as a beverage, in 1884.
1876: Hires Root Beer developed
1884: Moxie was founded in Lowell, Massachusetts by Dr. Augustin Thompson.
1885: Dr. Pepper invented in Waco, TX by pharmacist Charles Alderton.
1886: Coca-Cola invented in Atlanta, GA, on May 8 by Dr. John Smith Pemberton (pharmacy degree from Southern Botanico Medical College of Georgia). It was the doctor's second drink based on coca leaves and kola nut. Pemberton's first coca leaf drink was Pemberton's French Wine Coca, an imitation of Vin Mariani, a coca-wine drink invented in 1883 by Angelo Mariani. Pemberton (allegedly a morphine addict) was developing a new drink, a modified cola with celery extract when he died on August 16, 1888. The drink was never finished.
1901: Pepsi officially invented. Pepsi was invented in New Bern, NC by pharmacist Caleb Bradham as a cure for dyspepsia. Get it? Pepsi/dyspepsia? Hanh? Hanh? Anyway, it was originally called "Brad's Drink". When the name Pepsi was registered Bradham claimed he had been using the name since August 28, 1898. So Bradham must have invented it by 1898, or before. Or he could have lied, I don't know.
1902: On December 24, Bradham files incorporation papers with the state of North Carolina.
1905: A young graduate pharmacist, Claud A. Hatcher, began creating his own soft drinks in the basement of his family's wholesale grocery business. Thus, Chero-Cola Co. was born -later to become Royal Crown Co.
1919: Entrepreneur Roy Allen in Lodi, California, sold the first mug of A & W Root Beer for one nickel. Allen purchased the formula for his root beer from a pharmacist in Arizona. A and W stands for Allen and Wright. Frank Wright, his partner. Didn't get its name until 1921 or 22.
1924: Nehi line introduced.
1929: 7up invented by Charles Leiper Grigg. The Howdy Company debuted the new drink under its original name: "Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Sodas. Unwieldy, hunh? Worse, it debuted in October, two weeks before the stock market crash that caused the Great Depression. Grigg apparently had no medical background, but the drink originally had lithium in it (what they now give some mental patients) and Grigg believed his new drink was a cure for hangovers and marketed it as such. The name didn't go over very well (duh!), and was changed to 7Up Lithiated Lemon Soda, and then to just 7UP in 1936.
1934: Royal Crown Cola introduced.
1949: Dr. Enuf introduced by Charles O. Gordon in Johnson City, Tennessee. Actually has vitamins in it and claims to have medicinal value. The medical background of Mr. Gordon is unknown.
1960: Fanta introduced
1961: Sprite introduced; Diet Rite Introduced.
1962: Grapette introduced Mr. Cola and Mr. Cola, Jr.
1963: TAB introduced
1966: Fresca introduced
1972: Mr. Pibb introduced. It only took Coca-Cola 87 years to get an imitation of Dr. Pepper on the market.
1979: Mello Yello introduced
1982: diet Coke introduced
1985: New Coke introduced
1988: Dr Pepper Company and the Seven Up Company merge.
1995: Dr Pepper/7 UP company bought by Cadbury Schweppes. Cadbury Schweppes is now the third-largest soft drink company in the world.
1997: January: Surge introduced.
1999: Citra introduced.

Advertising Age also reported in their December 1, 1997, issue that Coca-Cola is planning to release a brand new knock-off of Dr Pepper sometime in 1999.

My Doctor Soda Crackpot Theories

Well, based on my skimpy research, the following interesting facts come to light: It seems the name " Dr. Pepper" is the last vestige of nomenclature illustrating that soda pop was originally invented as a medicinal tonic, and not as the teeth-rotting, teen-addling substance it is known as today. Soda pop was, strange as it may seem, invented primarily by pharmacists, and primarily by small town pharmacists.

My personal theory is that real doctors and big city pharmacists knew better than to play mixologist and screw around with whatever they had laying around and serve it to unsuspecting patrons. (Here, try this new rat posion I just invented!) Also, they probably actually had to WORK for a living, doctoring and filling prescriptions, and didn't have the free time their small town counterparts did. I can see these guys making stuff out of sheer boredom. Not to mention a small town pharmacy probably worked out of a general store where people bought drinks and what not anyway.

So if you're touting the medicinal qualties of something, put "doctor" in the title, right? The strange thing is not that there was a soda named Dr. Pepper, but that there weren't more doctor-named colas born in the 1880s and 1890s. Anyway, soon large companies came into play, either sprouting from the founder and his formula, or by buying the rights for cheap. Medicinal or not, people liked the taste and bought millions of gallons of the stuff. The Coca-Cola Company upped the ante, foisting its product worldwide with a missionary zeal.

Success breeds imitation and so God only knows how many various "colas" have come and gone (you know Coke is kicking itself for not patenting the term "cola"). Someone was bound to hit on ripping off the "Dr." title sooner or later. Now that soda pop has become standardized into various flavors: cola, lemon-lime, yellow-green citrus, various fruit flavors, etc., knock-offs strictly adhere to the standards. So any supermarket chain wanting a line of discount sodas is fifty-fifty gonna stick a Dr. Pepper clone in there. And probably name it Dr. Something, so's people don't have to think too hard (you'll notice lemon lime sodas almost uniformly come in green cans). A cultural shorthand has developed: "Dr." plus maroon can equals...the other cola.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

© copyright 1999 The Van Gogh-Goghs