Hires To You headerThe Illustrated History of Hires Root Beer



May 1st over 100,000 workers across the country struck for an eight-hour day.  Chicago policemen fired on strikers, killing four and wounding others.  The Knights of Labor demonstrated against the murders and when a detonated bomb mortally wounded seven policemen, the police fired into the crowd causing more casualties.  There was much agitation for better working conditions, fewer hours, and better pay.

The Statue of Liberty was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland.

Richard W. Sears founded a business that ultimately became Sears, Roebuck & Company.

Cosmopolitan magazine was founded.

In Atlanta, pharmacist John S. Pemberton introduced Coca-Cola, a headache and hangover remedy containing cocaine (unregulated at the time), a cola nut extract, and fruit syrup, and advertised as an “esteemed brain tonic and intellectual beverage.”

Hires added “FOR 1886” at the top and repeated this typical newspaper advertisement’s format and text on the backs of the following series of four trade cards ordered from an unknown printer:

(Figure 1886-01, newspaper advertisement)

(Figure 1886-02, trade card series, fronts)

Hires ordered this beautiful trade card from Cosack & Company in Buffalo, New York, a publisher who advertised they were “The only lithographic house in New York printing and publishing advertising specialties…(with) over fifty million cards constantly on hand.”

(Figure 1886-03, acrostic trade card, front)

(Figure 1886-03, acrostic trade card, back)

Note the acrostic verse on the back of the card, with the first letter of each line spelling out HIRES IMPROVED ROOT BEER.  This card also advertises Hire’s as “THE BEST BLOOD PURIFIER IN THE WORLD,” a very bold claim indeed!

A cardboard wall hanger was also produced using the same trade card image.  This self-framed version of the sign still has the hole at the top used for hanging the sign. 

(Figure 1886-04, self-framed, cardboard wall hanger, 12.0” x 16.0”)

During 1886 Charles Hires also utilized a trade card published by Gast Lithograph and Engraving Company of New York City.   Similar to the Cosack & Company card, this one also featured a young girl holding a carton of Hires’ Improved Root Beer. 

(Figure 1886-05, trade card, front, 6.5” x 5.0”)

(Figure 1886-05, trade card, back, 6.5” x 5.0”)

This extremely rare sign features the same image of a young girl, enclosed in a metal frame marked HIRES’ across the top, and ROOT BEER across the bottom. 

(Figure 1886-06, framed sign, 18.0” x 15.0”)

Charles E. Hires Company sales for 1886 were listed as 83,728 bottles.