Hires To You headerThe Illustrated History of Hires Root Beer



Railroad building and mergers brought thousands of new people into Los Angeles.  California’s warm climate and employment opportunities were highly publicized.

Edison built the first motor-driven phonograph with sound recorded on wax cylinders.

Free mail delivery was provided in all communities with a population of 10,000 or larger.

The gap between the poorest and richest Americans widened.  Clothing for the poor was dark and drab, and men worked in overalls.  The growing middle class lived in comfortable homes crowded with heavy furniture, thick draperies, and knickknacks.

Newly introduced products and inventions included pneumatic tires, the multiplex railway telegraph, and “Safety bicycles” with wheels of equal size.

During 1887 Charles Hires mass-mailed 9.0” x 14.0” flyers to druggists and storekeepers across the United States, Canada, and Britain promoting Hires’ Improved Root Beer Packages at wholesale prices.  The mailer included customer and dealer testimonials, an extensive list of wholesalers, and for the first time, an image of “Hires’ Patent Rustic Fountain,” modeled after a log cabin.  One spigot models were $50.00, while two spigot models were $70.00.  Hires’ Patent Rustic Fountain held a supply of Hires’ Improved Root Beer syrup that was dispensed into glasses, with carbonated water added from a separate source.  Most likely the side or roof of the log cabin was marked advertising this was specifically a Hires dispenser. 

(Figure 1887-01, Hires’ Patent Rustic Fountain)

The development and introduction of this unique soda fountain was likely a defensive move by Hires as he attempted to keep up with his competition.  Accelerated industrial development after the U.S. Civil War included all aspects of the soda water industry, particularly soda fountains.  A detailed history of soda fountains can be found in John J. Riley’s chapter about the “Early Years of the Soda Fountain” in his 1958 book, A History of the American Soft Drink Industry: Bottled Carbonated Beverages, 1807-1957.  Riley stated:

Development of a counter type of device, for preparation of the carbonated waters and their dispensing, was one answer, and numerous attempts were made in that direction…

The earliest U.S. patent relating to soda water apparatus, for which an illustration is now available, is that issued to Samuel Fahnestock, of Lancaster, Pa., in 1819.  It shows the type of portable tank, or fountain for containing the carbonated water to be dispensed…The use of the tank type of ‘fountain’ continued through the succeeding years as normal practice…

The earlier popular types of fountain dispensers were typified by counter draft arms connected with the soda water tank, concealed and cooled below the counter…Dispensing glasses were kept on the counter, with a small selection of bottled syrups for filling the preference of the customer.  Later the syrup bottles were mounted in a caster, or inverted in rings on a marble slab, with a valve in each bottle for releasing the syrup into the glass before it was filled from the fountain…

Progress in the retail soda-fountain field starting about the turn of the century, therefore, centered largely in the soda fountain unit itself.  Most prominent was the change of the fountain to the type of ‘front service’ which has entirely superseded the ornate marble structures of the Mid-Victorian era.

Hires placed this small advertisement in Century magazine in 1887:

(Figure 1887-02, Century magazine)

Charles E. Hires Company sales for 1887 were listed as 191,808 bottles.