Soda Pops of the 1800s, 1900s, ‘20s, ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s

Whether it is cola, root beer, fruit-flavored or diet, if you drink soda pop or non-carbonated beverages, you have your own taste-bud-pleasing favorites. From the soda fountains of yesterday to the plastic pop bottles of today, many brands have hit the marketplace; some are still here and some are long gone. The fizzy stuff now called “liquid candy" actually has a very long history.

The Early Days of Soda Pop and Soft Drinks

The earliest types of carbonated soft drinks were waters found in natural mineral springs. In the 13th century, fruits, herbs, flowers and vegetation such as dandelions were used to ferment and flavor carbonated waters. Non-carbonated soft drinks made up of water, honey and lemon juice appeared in the late 1600s. In 1767, Englishman Joseph Priestley mixed water and carbon dioxide, the result was soda (carbonated) water. Juices, wines and spices were added to the soda water; the products were sold in English pharmacies. Phosphate Soda was introduced in the United States in the late 19th century. Soda fountain drinks with fruit juice, phosphoric acid and carbonated water became very popular and by the early 1920s, most drugstores featured soda fountains.

Soda Fountains

Soda fountains were popular in dime and drugstores, ice cream parlors, department stores and train stations. During the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s and 1950s, many stores that with soda fountains installed snack and lunch counters to sell sandwiches, ice cream treats and chocolate phosphates. In the 1960s, the appearance of vending machines, drive-in restaurants and dairy dessert stands meant that fewer drugstores and the like featured an “old-fashioned” soda fountain. Currently, vintage soda fountains may be found at locations which promote the nostalgia of days past.

Tropical Delite fruit soda by Cotton Club
Tropical Delite fruit soda by Cotton Club
Nehi is Radar O'Reilly's favorite! (M*A*S*H)
Nehi is Radar O'Reilly's favorite! (M*A*S*H)

“Pop”- ular Bottled and Fountain Soda Pops

  • Coca Cola. In 1888, Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton mixed up sweet, brown-colored syrup with soda water. Coca-Cola was then sold at a neighborhood drug store that had a soda fountain, selling about nine 5-cent glasses per day. Coca-Cola has developed many products in its long history including Sprite (1961), TaB (1963) and Fanta (1941).
  • Cotton Club. The Cotton Club Bottling Company of Cleveland, Ohio was founded in 1902 as Miller-Becker Bottlers, named after Isaac Miller and Eli Becker. In 1954, a new bottling plant was built on E. 49th street when, that same year, soft drinks were sold in cans as well as bottles. The company name was changed to Cotton Club in 1963. During the 1960s and 1970s, the company bottled a variety of soft drinks with the Cotton Club name; grape, orange, ginger ale (and a ginger ale called Big Ginger 50/50, cola, root beer, cherry-strawberry, a fruit punch-soda called Tropical Delight and a red pop called Cherikee Red. Some Cotton Club products are still available in Ohio.
  • Dr Pepper. Introduced in 1885, Dr Pepper (with no period to punctuate the Dr) was marketed in the United States after the turn of the century. Its taste is, according to company leaders, hard to describe; the formula contains 23 flavors. The soda was promoted as a refreshing “pick-me-up” drink, much like its competitors. Early marketing slogans for Dr Pepper included “Good For Life” (1940s), “Dr Pepper Has 23 Flavors” (1945), “The Friendly Pepper Upper” (1950), “America’s Most Misunderstood Soft Drink” (1960), “The Most Original Soft Drink Ever” (1970) and the popular “Be a Pepper” campaign of the late 1970s.
  • Hires Root Beer. Created in 1876 by Philadelphia pharmacist Charles Hires, the product began as a powdered extract that consumers could mix with their own soda water. In 1888, Hires developed a liquid product for drugstore soda fountains and the root beer was bottled in 1890. The company was sold in the 1960s and changed hands several times through the 1980s. Dr Pepper Snapple Group now owns the Hires brand.
  • Pepsi-Cola. Pepsi was developed in 1898; created by North Carolina drugstore owner Caleb Bradham. The Pepsi company organized in 1902 and set its trademark a year later. By 1907, there were 40 factories creating the Pepsi syrup; producing 100,000 gallons that year. Because the price of sugar fluctuated dramatically following World War I, along with poor business decisions, the company went bankrupt in 1923. The Pepsi company was purchased at auction but went bankrupt again following the Great Depression of the 1930s. After reorganization, the company introduced the 12-ounce, 5-cent bottle of Pepsi, paving the way to the product’s success. Early marketing slogans for Pepsi include “Twice As Much For a Nickel” (1940s), “The Light Refreshment” (1950s), “Taste That Beats the Others Cold” (mid 1960s) and “You’ve Got a Lot to Live” (early 1970s).
  • RC (Royal Crown) Cola. RC Cola was actually ginger ale when first created by Claud Hatcher in the basement of his family’s grocery store in 1905. The company, called Union Bottling Works, produced cherry-flavored Chero-Cola and then changed its name to the Chero-Cola Company. The company changed its name again in 1928 to the Nehi Corporation when the fruit-flavored carbonated soft drinks became popular. The company created Royal Crown Cola in 1934 and the first sugar-free soda pop on the market was introduced in 1962; Diet Rite Cola.

More Soda Pops and Soft Drinks

7 Up/Lithiated Lemon/Seven Up (1929), Bubble Up (1919), Barq’s Root Beer (1898), Big Red Cream Soda (1937), Bireley’s Fruit Drinks (assorted flavors, 1930), Boylan’s (assorted flavors, 1891), Canada Dry Ginger Ale (1904), Cheerwine (1917), Chero-Cola (1912), Dad’s Root Beer (1937), Diet-Way Cola (1962), Dixi-Cola (1928/1947), Dr. Brown’s (assorted flavors, 1865), Faygo (1907), Filbert’s Old Time Root Beer (1926), Fitz’s Root Beer (1947), Foxon Park (1922), Fresca (1966), Frostie Root Beer (1939), Good Grape (1922), Grapette (1939), IBC Root Beer (1919), Knapp’s Root Beer Extract (Circa 1890), Kreemo Special Root Beer (1909), Lemon’s Superior Sparkling Ginger Ale (1871), Marvel/Jumbo/Double Cola (1924), Minute Maid (1945), Mission (assorted flavors, 1929), Nehi (assorted Flavors, 1924), Nu-Grape (1921), Orange Crush (assorted flavors, 1906), Pommac (1919, U.S. sales in 1963-1969), Red Rock Ginger Ale (1885), Schweppes Ginger Ale (1870), Schweppes Bitter Lemon (1957), Shasta (1889), Ski (1956), Squirt (1938), Sun Drop (1949), Super Coola (assorted flavors, 1949), Teem (1964), Triple XXX Root Beer (1895), Try-me ( assorted flavors, 1919), Vess (1916), Welch’s (1869), White Rock Beverages (1871), Wink (1965).

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© 2014 Teri Silver

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Got a Favorite Brand or Flavor? "Pop" in Here! 8 comments

Victor Lopez 15 months ago

Looking for a soda soft drink that existed in the Philadelphia PA. area

call Puerto Rico around 1955 to 1965. logo was Hi chico drink Puerto Rico

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TeriSilver 15 months ago from The Buckeye State Author

Hi, I checked my resurces but could not find any information on that, sorry.

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probyn 6 months ago

There was a precursor to Jolt Cola (1985) in the late 1960s whose name I cannot recall, but it also had extra caffeine. I had it in New Hampshire but I think it was a national brand. (Moxie was my favorite but the recipe has changed IMHO for the worse since that time.) Thanks for your help.

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TeriSilver 6 months ago from The Buckeye State Author

Hello, probyn, thank you for reading this piece. I am not sure what you're asking about, but Moxie was a product originally created in 1876 by a doctor in Lowell, MA -- later turned into a soda pop. It was popular in the '30s, '40s and '50s. Diet Moxie came out in 1962, and in the later part of the decade, the entire brand was purchased by an Atlanta company. In 2007, the brand was sold to a subsidiary's subsidiary company of Coca Cola -- Cornucopia of Bedford, NH. Supposedly, this brand is still in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

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probyn 5 months ago

Thanks Teri-- Sorry, the mention of Moxie was an unintentional red herring. I was trying to find the name of a super-caffeinated soda available in 1969 which did not last many years after that, as I recall. Until recently I had remembered it as Jolt Cola, but that turns out to have been only begun in 1985. It may well be that this was a temporary product which left little trace of its existence.

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TeriSilver 5 months ago from The Buckeye State Author

If you know the product name. date of manufacture or distribution. parent company and/or where it was made, that would be helpful. Unfortunately, any inquiry I can make would require me providing this information to the recipient.

I will do some searching, though, and if I am able to find anything from the late 60s, I'll post it here.

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TeriSilver 5 months ago from The Buckeye State Author

There was a soda called Santiba that was under the Coca-Cola company umbrella. The trademark was filed in 1969 and "officially" registered in 1971. One version was a club soda with a lemon taste -- the entire line, which had a variety of flavors, didn't sell well but the company kept the trademark until 1992. It wasn't until 1990 that the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (from the USDA) came into effect, thus, unless a company released the data, the listing of ingredients (like caffeine) isn't readily available for products earlier than that. Sorry I couldn't be of more help.

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probyn 5 months ago

Thanks for your time and effort, Teri. Appreciated! :)

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