Hires To You headerThe Illustrated History of Hires Root Beer


IT HAPPENED IN…1860-1868

Advertising began to appear in nationally distributed monthly magazines during the 1860s.

The 1860 Census indicated 123 U.S. soft drink bottling plants were in operation.  Per capita consumption was 2.2 bottles.  

The U.S. Civil War raged from 1861-1865.

The Homestead Act of 1862 opened up millions of acres (mostly west of the Mississippi River) to applicants at no cost.  Ultimately over 270 million acres of public land, almost 10% of the total area of the U.S., was given away to 1.6 million homesteaders. 

Nevada was the 36th state admitted to the Union on October 31, 1864.

William James Carlton began selling advertising space in newspapers during 1864, founding the agency that later became the J. Walter Thompson Company, the oldest American advertising agency in continuous existence.

President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated April 14, 1865 and Vice-President Andrew Johnson was sworn in as President.

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed in 1865, permanently outlawing slavery.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866, enacted April 9, 1866, was the first federal law defining citizenship and affirming that all U.S. citizens are equally protected by the law.  The primary intent of the Act was to protect the civil rights of African Americans.  President Johnson vetoed the legislation, but Congress overcame his veto and the bill became law.

In 1866 Cantrell & Cochrane entered the U.S. market with ginger ale bottled in Ireland.

The Territory of Alaska was purchased from Russia in 1867.

Nebraska was the 37th state admitted to the Union on March 1, 1867,

Newly introduced products and inventions included vacuum cleaners (1860), Yale locks (1860), web rotary printing press (1863), dynamite (1866), and baby formula (1867).

New magazines included Harper’s Bazaar (1867), and Vanity Fair (1868).

Ulysses S. Grant was elected President of the United States in 1868.


On July 31, 1860 a census surveyor collected Hires family data for the 1860 United States Census indicating John Dare and Mary Williams Hires and their first five children were all born in Cumberland County, New Jersey.  Cecelia Barcliff Hires, 20, was not listed as a member of the household and had apparently already moved away.  The children residing on the farm included Rebecca Paget Hires, 18, Isaac Elmer Hires, 15, Mary Elizabeth Hires, 13, Anna Marie Hires, 10, Charles Elmer Hires, 9, and William Nelson Hires, 5.  Susan W. Hires wasn’t listed as she died in infancy in 1854.  The survey did not list either Benjamin Franklin Hires, 2, or Sarah Williams Hires, the family’s tenth and last child. 

Charles Elmer Hires, the Hires’ second son, was their first child born on the new farm after the family had relocated to Elsinborough Township, Salem County, New Jersey. 

A full page article in Philadelphia’s Public Ledger June 14, 1893 included this observation concerning Charles Elmer Hires’ “indefatigable energy that…led him on to fortune and fame:”

Perhaps he inherited the qualities of success from his parents, for his father was a prosperous Cumberland county farmer, who had been honored by his fellow citizens with repeated elections as Assessor and School Director.  He was Treasurer of the School Board for many years, handling all moneys and paying all salaries, and was never a penny short.  He was also a Deacon in the Baptist Church.  Mrs. Hires was a member of the Society of Friends, and bequeathed to her son all those qualities of firmness, gentleness and thrift for which the Quakers are noted.

According to Cope and Ashmead (1904), Charles Elmer Hires attended public schools until he was 12 years old at which time:

He gained his first business experience while serving an apprenticeship of four years in a drug establishment in his native county, and after thoroughly learning the details of the various branches of this profession he located in the city of Philadelphia.

The June 14, 1893 Public Ledger article provides this insight into Charles E. Hires’ arrival in Philadelphia:

It was just after the close of the Civil War, in 1867, when a 16-year-old lad disembarked from a ferry boat at the foot of Arch street to try his fortune in the great metropolis.  He was fortified with a complete knowledge of pharmacy, attained in an arduous four years’ apprenticeship in his native New Jersey village at $1 a week and his board.  In his pocket he had exactly 50 cents, but he had the energy of youth and an abiding hope in the future.  A feeling of independence kept him from asking assistance from his father, but, armed with his own resources, he went resolutely to work.  A good old Quakeress then kept a boarding house on North Sixth street, and to her he went with a letter of introduction.  Arrangements were made that the youth should board there at $4 per week, until he got something to do, paying his indebtedness out of his first salary.  A tiny room in the attic was assigned him.  The next morning he was up betimes, and answered every advertisement in the Public Ledger in his search for suitable employment.  Not satisfied with this, the youngster tramped from one drug store to another, leaving his name and reference at each.  Upon his return to his boarding house in the evening he found two postal cards from druggists.  Posting off immediately, he secured employment with a Mr. Brown, who then kept a drug store on Vine street, taking his place that evening behind the counter.  Nothing was said of wages, but when Saturday came the youngster was given $10, with the query if that was enough.  Disguising his surprise, at the largeness of the sum, the young man modestly said he was satisfied if his employer thought his services were worth that much.  Mr. Brown’s new clerk was Charles E. Hires…

After staying with Mr. Brown one year his former preceptor in New Jersey took him into partnership, and young Hires stayed two years longer in his native town.  Sufficient scope for his ambition was not apparent, however, and the partnership was then dissolved, Mr. Hires, before he had attained his majority, opening up a drug store at the corner of Sixth and Spruce streets.  This was in 1869.

Responding to an editor’s request for a description of a “typical old fashioned Philadelphia drug store,” Charles E. Hires penned an article entitled “Seeing Opportunities” for the October, 1913 issue of American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record.  The article described events that occurred over 40 years earlier and is, of course, only as accurate as Charles E. Hires’ memory.  That said, it is a first person account by the man who actually experienced these events and it is the best available primary resource material concerning this time period in Charles E. Hires’ life.

I was not a registered college of pharmacy student, but after serving my apprenticeship of four years in a country store, from the time I was twelve until I was sixteen, I came to Philadelphia and after obtaining a situation as clerk here, I attended lecture occasionally at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy in the winters of '67, ‘68 and '69.  It was at the time customary to extend an invitation to drug clerks whose preceptor were interested in the College of Pharmacy to attend lectures during their nights off, and this was about the extent of my attending the College of Pharmacy… 

Note Charles E. Hires made no mention of returning to New Jersey during 1868-1869.  This may have been an oversight, or perhaps an attempt to forget an unsuccessful business venture.