Hires To You headerThe Illustrated History of Hires Root Beer



The Ellis Island immigration depot opened in New York City to cope with the flood of U.S. immigrants, many fleeing political and racial persecution in Russia and Europe.

The McKinley Tariff Act reduced agricultural exports and worsened the Midwest’s economic problems.  America was steadily moved toward an economic depression.

Boll weevils severely damaged U.S. cotton crops.

U.S. industry was rocked by union activity and the threat of strikes.

The first successful U.S. made gasoline-powered automobile was built by bicycle designers and toolmakers Charles and Frank Duryea.

Republican William Harrison’s bid for reelection failed and Democrat Grover Cleveland was elected for a second term as President, not continuous with his first term.

Sears, Roebuck & Co. direct-mailed 8,000 postcards across the country and received 2,000 orders.

Vogue magazine and McClure’s Magazine began publication.

The Ladies’ Home Journal stopped accepting advertising for patent medicines.

The first working escalator was patented in New York City.

The first concrete-paved street was built in Bellefontaine, Ohio.

The Diamond Match Company patented book matches.

William Painter patented a “Bottle Sealing Device,” popularly referred to as the crown cap closure.

A promotional item Hires distributed to storekeepers in early 1892 was The Merchant’s Account Book.  Interestingly, Hires offered to print the merchant’s name and business on the front cover, while the inside pages would not contain any pre-printed advertising; the pages were simply lined with columns for tracking dollars and cents.  While The Merchant Account Book version offered to storekeepers didn’t include advertising, Hires’ promotional sample definitely did!  The back cover not only compares Hires’ historical sales in 1878 with the preceding year’s sales, but also lists their sales target of 6,000,000 bottles in 1892, a figure that would more than triple Hires’ 1891 total.  Here are the front and back covers and examples of the advertising pages:

(Figure 1892-01, front cover, 3.5” x 5.75”)

(Figure 1892-01, back cover, 3.5” x 5.75”)

(Figure 1892-01, advertising page, 3.5” x 5.75”)

(Figure 1892-01, advertising page, 3.5” x 5.75”)

This die-cut trade card was produced for Hires by The Knapp Company Lithography in New York City.

(Figure 1892-02, die-cut trade card, front, 3.75” x 2.5”)

(Figure 1892-02, die-cut trade card, back, 3.75” x 2.5”)

Donaldson Brothers in New York City produced this beautiful cardboard fan.  The girl in the bonnet repeats the previously illustrated trade card image.  The center image pictures two children sharing a frothy glass of Hires Root Beer, and is captioned “My, How Good!!!”

(Figure 1892-03, cardboard fan, front)

(Figure 1892-03, cardboard fan, close-up of center image)

(Figure 1892-03, cardboard fan, back)

Hires copyrighted this “Home Guard” trade card in 1891, but delayed publication and distribution until 1892 when year-end 1891 sales figures were available. 

 (Figure 1892-04, “Home Guard” Hires’ Cough Cure trade card, front, 3.0” x 5.0”)

(Figure 1892-04, “Home Guard” Hires’ Cough Cure trade card, back, 3.0” x 5.0”)

This humorous trade card was produced by Donaldson Brothers, Lithographers, and published and copyrighted by The Charles E. Hires Company in 1892.  It was also printed with “If Thirsty Drink Hires’ Rootbeer” below the address on the back.

(Figure 1892-05, “They must be very hoarse” trade card, front, 3.0” x 5.0”)

(Figure 1892-05, “They must be very hoarse” trade card, back, 3.0” x 5.0”)

Families were Hires’ primary target market and what could have been more enjoyable than drinking Hires’ Root Beer while playing checkers with one’s family members?

(Figure 1892-06, checkerboard, front, 13.0” x 6.0”)

(Figure 1892-06, checkerboard, back, 13.0” x 6.0”)

(Figure 1892-06, checkerboard opened, 13.0” x 12.0”)

This die-cut, cardboard sign features a baby girl wearing a bib bearing the message “Just One More.”  Also note the illustrator added a Hires Boy image matching those used for the checkerboard to the end flap of the Hires’ Improved Root Beer package. 

(Figure 1892-07, die-cut, cardboard sign, 11.0” x 14.0”)

This die-cut, cardboard sign was produced by the H. A. Thomas & Wylie Lithography Company in New York City, and copyrighted by the Charles E. Hires Company in 1892.  It has an easel back to facilitate counter display.  The Hires Boy image was previously used for the front and back covers of the checkerboard (see Figure 1892-06).

(Figure 1892-08, die-cut, cardboard counter sign, 7.0” x 5.0”)

The Hires Boy image was utilized for this die-cut, cardboard sign with revised advertising copy.  The sign was framed and the illustrated photograph was taken at an angle to eliminate glare caused by the glass.

(Figure 1892-08.5, die-cut, cardboard counter sign)

(Figure 1892-09, paper napkin, edges trimmed slightly, courtesy of Mike Godown)

Note the subtle differences in these two magazine advertisements:

(Figure 1892-10, Century, May 1892)

 (Figure 1892-11, Cosmopolitan, June 1892)

A similarly worded, full-color, 16.5" x 11.0" counter display sign:

 (Figure 1892-12, die-cut, cardboard counter sign, courtesy of Mike Godown)

The Great Health Drink” slogan was continued from 1891 and reused in combination with “Say! You ought to drink Hires Rootbeer” for this cardboard sign.  The illustrator added frosting and squared up the piece of cake the Hires Boy is holding in his right hand.

(Figure 1892-13, cardboard sign, 11.0" x 16.0")

(Figure 1892-14, “Say, Mama,” Knapp and Company trade card, front, 3.0” x 5.0”)

(Figure 1892-14, “Say, Mama,” Knapp and Company trade card, back, 3.0” x 5.0”)

(Figure 1892-15, Home magazine, summer 1892)

This large newspaper advertisement featured an illustration made from a photograph of a train bound from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to New York:

(Figure 1892-16, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 25, 1892)

Here’s a portion of the included advertising copy:

HIRES’ ROOT BEER is selling by the car load…A car load contains from 32,000 to 36,000 packages – the equivalent of 160,000 to 180,000 gallons.  Such a train load as the above is sufficient to make HALF A MILLION GALLONS OF HIRES’ ROOT BEER.  So it goes.  The sales so far this year are double those of last.  Who says that Hires’ Root Beer is not the most popular temperance drink of the day?  The most important question is, has your family had its share?  Give your folks some of the health and pleasure which other folks enjoy.  HEALTH is improved…TEMPERANCE is promoted…HOME is made happier by HIRES’ ROOT BEER…HIRES’ ROOT BEER has many counterfeits, yet it’s easy to avoid disappointment and loss – accept nothing but Hires’; leave all other kinds with the “just as good” dealer.  For health, temperance and home there’s no drink in the world as good as HIRES’ ROOT BEER.

(Figure 1892-17, The Review of Reviews, July 1892)

The following comments were included in “Some Advertising Reminiscences 1869-1913,” an article Charles E. Hires wrote for the July 24, 1913 issue of Printers’ Ink:

One of the most successful cards ever issued for Hires Root Beer was one which bore the picture of a sixteen-year-old miss wearing a three-cornered cocked hat made of a folded copy of the Public Ledger.  I have in my desk today a letter from Mr. Childs, written in 1891, thanking me for including the newspaper, and asking for a few copies for himself.

Charles E. Hires was referring to the “What came from the newspaper hat” trade card published by Donaldson Brothers of New York City and copyrighted by The Charles E. Hires Company.  The girl’s “soldier hat” was created by folding the November 12, 1890 issue of the Philadelphia Public Ledger newspaper.  Note how the folding of the newspaper strategically placed a Hires’ Root Beer advertisement at the top of the hat.  The verse on the back of the card explains the girl’s story.  Although Charles E. Hires described the girl as “a sixteen-year-old miss,” the card refers to her as the "Ledger Baby,” and she appears to be considerably younger than sixteen.

(Figure 1892-18, Ledger Baby” trade card, front, 3.0” x 5.0”)

(Figure 1892-18, “Ledger Baby” trade card, back, 3.0” x 5.0”)

This paper wall hanger featured the Ledger girl and two other girls enjoying Hires Root Beer.  The sign is captioned: “(A Toast) ‘Here’s to your Health, Wealth and Happiness!’”

(Figure 1892-19, paper hanger)

These advertisements emphasized the ease and fun of making Hires Root Beer at home:

(Figure 1892-20, die-cut, cardboard sign, original produced in full color)

(Figure 1892-21, magazine advertisement)

This full-color, paper poster was produced by the J. Ottmann Lithography Company in New York City and copyrighted in 1892.  The goat pulling the cart is chewing on a Hires advertising flyer. 

(Figure 1892-22, paper poster, 8.5” x 14.0”)

Hires copyrighted this 3.0" x 5.0" trade card in 1892:

(Figure 1892-23, “It is TIME to drink Hires’ Rootbeer” trade card, front)

(Figure 1892-23, “It is TIME to drink Hires’ Rootbeer” trade card, back)

Hires copyrighted this 3.0" x 5.0" trade card in 1892 for distribution during 1893:

(Figure 1892-24, ��It is TIME to drink Hires’ Rootbeer” trade card, front)

At first glance, the second trade card appears to be a duplicate of the 1892 example.  Looking more closely, however, there are numerous differences, including the title lettering, roses, clock face, the boy’s right foot, and the positioning of the ladder relative to the clock.  The advertising copy on the back of both examples matches.

Charles E. Hires Company sales for 1892 were listed as 2,880,278 bottles or 14,401,390 gallons.