you have a passion for antiques and collectibles - and writing?
Wayback Times invites you to submit freelance articles for use
in print and on our new web site.
your text submissions
The Wayback Times.
published in The Wayback Times since 1995 have covered a wide
range of interests, from Golliwoggs to toy VW collecting, and
from collecting insulators to hunting old books.
authors of our online selection of articles have included their
e-mail addresses and they are always delighted to hear from other
- Ad Rates / Articles
/ Classified Ads / Editorial
/ Home / Links
- 1920s soda pop pick-me-ups
hit the spot
- Wartime medicine blossomed into soda pop
- By Jim Trautman
- The history of soda pop is a fascinating chapter in the cultural
history of North America.
- Today, it is sold in grocery stores, gas stations, corner
stores, vending machines and, of course, drug stores.
- The history of soda pop began around the time of the American
Civil War. One good fact about wars is they often increase our
medical knowledge regarding the treatment of wounds sustained
by the body and mind.
- After the Civil War, there was a new market for various medicinal
products and it would not be until the 1920s that there would
be any meaningful regulation on what could be sold over the counter.
Drug stores began to appear in large numbers in towns and large
- As the population moved west, the Traveling Medicine
Show began to visit. It was the high point of the year,
along with the circus coming to town.
- Each traveling show had its own magic elixir to sell to the
gathered crowds. The pitch was usually the same: the product
would cure everything from hernias, seizures, croup, consumption,
corns, fallen arches, rusty nail punctures and much more, including
being down, or as we know it in 2012, depression.
- Testimonial letters were read out to the crowd as part of
the plan to increase sales. Who really knew if someone had written
those letters? Another reason for the development of these elixirs
was that the push by the Temperance Movement was beginning to
accelerate. If you lived in a dry area, it did not
take long to discover that the medicine gave one a nice pick-me-up.
Even a recent turn of the 20th Century Murdock Mystery on television
dealt with the evils of the famous Absinthe - green liquor.
- In the late 1880s, druggists or pharmacists in many towns
and cities began to concoct new drinks that were marketed as
pick-me-ups. The most famous, Coca-Cola, was invented by Dr.
John Stith Pemberton. He stirred up the first glass of what was
to become Coca-Cola in May 1886 at Jacobs Pharmacy in Atlanta,
Georgia. Dr. Pepper was a product of Waco, Texas.
- Both Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper now have their own museums
where one can explore the history of the drink and the company.
The museums are located in the cities where each drink was invented.
Explore their websites.
- Later, Pepsi Cola was invented by Caleb Bradham, a pharmacist
from North Carolina, and N.C. Ward, a chemist in San Francisco,
devised Orange Crush, which originally contained real pieces
- In 1929, Charles Leiper Grigg of St. Louis, Missouri, brought
onto the market Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon Lime Soda, which became
known as 7Up. The little bubbles on the 7Up bottle were a sign
that if you drank it, you would become happy. This was very possible
since it contained Lithium.
- Moxie, invented by Dr. Augustin Thompson of Salem, Massachusetts,
was sold as nerve food, helping those suffering from nervous
exhaustion. Originally, it was sold to be taken by the
spoonful before meals. Ted Williams, the famous Boston Red Sox
baseball player, appeared in its advertising, especially on metal
signs along the highway and in drug stores.
- As the original inventors of the product brought in business
partners, it became apparent that to maximize profits these soda
pop drinks had to move out from the drug store fountain and into
- In 1892, the metal bottle cap crown was invented along with
the machinery to turn the caps out by the thousands. This, coupled
with the introduction of the mass-produced glass bottle, made
it possible to produce the soda pop in large factories and begin
to market and develop a company brand.
- In addition, the syrup for the soda pop could still be employed
in drug stores for customers who wanted it fresh on the spot.
Carbonated water could be purchased in bottles and new machines
made it possible to create it in the drug store.
- Coca-Cola became the major developer in setting the tone
and putting their brand into the public realm. In 1900, as a
forerunner to the coming Age of the Automobile and the drive-in
restaurant, Coca-Cola marketed its cola syrup to drug stores.
- Many drug stores then began to provide curb service for horse
and buggy drivers. An employee would take your order, go in and
mix the Coca-Cola drink and then carry it out to the waiting
occupants of the carriage.
- While each of the soda pop drinks was sold as a pick-me-up,
Dr. Pepper focused on the female customer. Their ads ran, Vim
springs from within, rest wont restore energy, but food
will. Dr. Pepper is the jiffy quick energy lift." The bottle
cap contained the numbers 10-2-4.
- The three numbers indicated when it was time for a Dr. Pepper.
- As competition for the customers money heated up, companies
issued give-away items, conducted contests and with the advent
of radio, soda pop advertising increased. Like todays television
shows, radio shows required sponsors to pay the bills.
- Pepsi Cola, which had been purchased by the Loft Candy Company,
was quick off the mark with its radio jingle - Nickel Nickel
- indicating the low price for a bottle of Pepsi Cola. This was
followed by Dr. Pepper with, Drink a bite to eat at 10,2,4
- the friendly Pepper-Upper.
- But, it was the Coca-Cola Company that hit it big with the
most iconic figure of all time; Santa Claus. Starting in 1931,
their illustrator Haddon Sundblom created the Santa Claus image,
which is still with us today.
- Sundblom would move on to create the Quaker Oats Man, the
package art for Maxwell House Coffee and the advertising for
Packard cars, but it was his depiction of Santa Claus that made
- The Christmas advertising campaign ran for 40 years. One
year featured Santa Claus playing with electric trains another
year holding a bottle of Coca-Cola and even being caught by a
little boy as he looks in the ice box for a cold one.
- In recent years, the company has resurrected those long ago
images on collector cans and packages and brought back many of
the original images including the Polar Bear.
- Each company attempted to keep their product before the public
eye. In the past 100 years, innumerable items have been given
away as premiums. They have included special edition bottles,
calendars, trays, pencil holders, bottle neck hangers, baseball
picture cards, movie stars etc.
- During World War II, it was a large series of Allied aircraft
bottle neck hanger cards. The set was designed by the famous
artist William Heaslip. The complete four sets of aircraft now
sell for thousands of dollars.
- Point of sale items have been a major part of the advertising
campaigns, as well.
- Records with famous singers have been issued and now one
can find Santa Claus on the sleeve of Christmas Carol records.
From the 1930s to 1970s, restaurants and soda fountains posted
cardboard ads featuring hot dogs, fries and hamburgers along
with a bottle of Coca-Cola or Pepsi Cola.
- Many items were issued with the local high school or college
team logo and a section to add the latest football, basketball,
baseball or hockey scores.
- The competition became so intense that companies provided
stores with a metal door push to put on the screen door. As you
entered and pushed on the door, there was the company brand putting
out the subliminal message to have a cold soda pop.
- After World War II, with wages increasing, autos mass-produced
and cheap gasoline, the Golden Age of the Automobile
- As a kid, my father operated a Philips 66 gas station and
I remember gas wars and providing full service. We even asked
you to step out of your car while we vacuumed the inside.
- With the advent of
the Sunday drive and vacation trips, more and more fast food
drive-ins appeared. Each drive-in provided kid-friendly, inexpensive
food like hot dogs, hamburgers and fries and, of course, you
needed a soda pop to wash it all down. Drive-in restaurants had
agreements with specific soda pop companies and only served that
brand. These agreements have continued on in 2012.
- A&W started in the 1930s and by 1970 had over 2,400 drive-in
restaurants located across North America. The feature of A&W
was the car hop who took your order and brought back the food
on a tray which hooked on the car window.
- A 1970 ad for A&W features a young woman in a fashionable
outfit much like an airline stewardess. The promo: A&W
Root Beer, brewed with pure natural ingredients and true draft
flavour, so good with food. And, of course, one could then
purchase their own heavy draft root beer mug to take home. A&W
became famous for the combination of ice cream and its root beer
to create a float.
- With the Internet, one just has to Google to find thousands
of sites devoted to soda pop. The book on Coca-Cola Collectibles
runs to over 600 pages. Several pages are devoted to Coca-Cola
trays that were only issued in certain markets such as Canada
- Many of the companies marketed items to each specific area
and so it makes collecting soda pop items very interesting. Many
soda pop items have cross over collector appeal. Into sports,
train sets, advertising, bottles, Christmas, it is, in fact,
- Many brands have their own collector clubs, magazines, annual
conventions. When the Emmy-winning TV drama Mad Men returns next
season, you might want to watch it to see how the process for
developing advertising for specific products is undertaken.
- With the arrival of Prohibition in the early 20th century,
John Somerset wrote in the June 1920 issue of Drug Topics, the
bar is dead, the fountain lives, and soda is king!
- 1 - WW2 Coca-Cola's Santa ads brought the war into their
- 2 - A late 1940s Woolworth' 5&10 soda fountain attracted
young and old
- 3 - Coca-Cola tray one of thousands of collectible promotional
to top of page
- This Is Publishing ©
- 581 8th Line West, RR1
Hastings, ON, K0L 1Y0
- Phone/Fax: 705-696-1833