Hires To You headerThe Illustrated History of Hires Root Beer



Foreign investors grew disillusioned with the U.S. economy, withdrew capital, and triggered a worldwide financial depression.  Farm foreclosures increased, businesses and railroads went into receivership, the steel industry declined, and unemployment rose.  When stock prices dropped, there was a financial panic.  Over 500 banks and 15,000 companies eventually failed. 

The World’s Columbian Exposition, popularly known as the Chicago World’s Fair, marked the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America.  Exhibits from 72 countries attracted over 20 million visitors.  George Ferris’ revolving steel wheel was a major attraction. 

The Great Northern Railway, the northernmost transcontinental route, was completed.

Henry Ford completed construction of his first successful gasoline engine.

The Anti-Saloon League was founded in Ohio to promote the prohibition of alcohol.

(Figure 1893-01, Hires’ 1893 calendar, front)

(Figure 1893-01, Hires’ 1893 calendar, back)

This flyer published in early 1893 touted strong sales of Hires’ Root Beer in 1892:

(Figure 1893-02, paper flyer, 4.5” x 7.0”)

Slightly different versions of this advertisement were customized for specific audiences.  This first example features the word TEMPERANCE in all capital letters, and the standard warning to be wary of imitators. 

 (Figure 1893-03, St. Nicholas magazine, May 1893)

This version has the word TEMPERANCE in upper/lower case letters, and no warning about imitators. 

 (Figure 1893-03.5, magazine advertisement)

(Figure 1893-04, Liberty, May 1893, and St. Nicholas, June 1893)

(Figure 1893-05, Century and The Chautauquan magazines, June 1893)

An abbreviated version of the same advertisement without the warning about dealer deceit was placed in other magazines during June, 1893:

(Figure 1893-05.5, The Household and Home magazines, June 1893)

(Figure 1893-06, Century and The Chautauquan magazines, June 1893)

Note the child depicted in this magazine advertisement is not the Hires Boy:

(Figure 1893-07, The Ladies’ Home Journal, June 1893)

Wednesday morning, June 14, 1893, page 18 of the 20 page Philadelphia Public Ledger newspaper featured a full page article about Charles E. Hires and Hires Root Beer.  Today such an article would likely be considered an “infomercial,” as the author wasn’t identified and The Charles E. Hires Company was heavily involved in the composition of the content.  Nonetheless, the article is a wonderful source of historical information and provides a detailed “snapshot” of Hires Company activities in 1893.  Selected excerpts have been cited in other chapters based on references to specific years, time periods, events, and developments.  Here is the article in its entirety: 






Although Hires’ Rootbeer is, perhaps, the best advertised beverage in the United States, and people have heard of it all over the country, many never tasted its delicious flavor until they drank it at the World’s Fair in Chicago.  Every day crowds are to be seen surging around the booth in the Agricultural Building, awaiting their turn to get a sample glass, and then depart happier for the taste.

There are very many larger exhibits in the Agricultural Building, but it is doubtful if there is any display in it that is more attractive.  And it is not simply attractive because two pretty girls, tidily dressed, draw the foaming, tasteful rootbeer and hand it to all who want to try the great temperance drink, but the exhibit itself is an attraction.  It is not one that a visitor would hastily pass, bestowing only a glance, for the booth has been prepared with care and a nice attention to artistic effect.

The Handsome Pavilion.

When it is considered that $3000 have been expended upon the fitting of the booth, which is about 12 feet square, and the fountain from which the healthful rootbeer is flowed, some idea may be gained of its elaborate character.  However, this is not offensive to good taste, for it does not strike you that anything has been overdone, and consequently it has the charm of pleasing.  The exhibit consists of a solid oak counter, panelled and measured off with carved brackets.  A Tennessee marble top covers this, and above it rises a canopy about 12 feet high.  This is supported in front by four elegantly sculptured columns, the two central ones surmounted by carved Indian’s heads.  Some filigree work is above this, and topping the front is a spirited carving of an American eagle, holding by a string in its beak a large package of roots from which is made Hires’ Rootbeer.

The decorations are in black and yellow, and exhibit remarkable artistic ability, taste and judgment.  The roof of the canopy is covered with black stuff, gracefully drawn up at the centre into a peak, around the summit of which are grouped four small silken American flags.  Over the sable mantle of the canopy run ridges of thick yellow cord, giving pleasing contrast to the sombre (sic) covering.  The interior is extremely pretty, for the bright yellow predominates, being relieved with black tassels, which hang with studied negligence from the ceiling of the booth.

Little red, white and blue banners, each bearing the inscription in gold letters – “Hires’ Rootbeer – 1878-1893,” a legend which tells a wonderful story of the rise and popularity of the great temperance beverage, mount the cornice of the structure, enlivening, if that is necessary, the display with a touch of color.

A Characteristic Exhibit.

The exhibition is nothing if not characteristic of the push and enterprise of the manufacturer of the now famous beverage.  In advantageous parts of the exhibit are displayed all of the effective signs which are as familiar as household words, such as that of the little fellow with one arm outstretched asking, like the hero of a celebrated romance, for more.  In this instance Rootbeer is, of course, the objective of the little fellow’s desire.  Here and there are heavy plate glass signs, suspended by bright chains, bearing the statements which have long been accepted as facts – that the beverage is sparkling, that it is the great temperance drink, and the like.

From the fabled days when Mrs. Bluebeard was possessed with a desire to peep into a chamber which was forbidden, not only the daughters but also the sons of the race have been filled with inherent curiosity.  The very progress of the time is the result of researches made with a desire for knowledge, which, after all, is simply curiosity, but of a kind that is not only allowable but approved.  After one has taken a drink of Hires’s Rootbeer, the first question that he asks himself, after feeling a gentle satisfaction in its refreshing powers, is, “Of what is it made?”  Now, in the exhibit this query is answered in a practical manner.  Around the marble top of the counter at regular intervals are glass urn-shaped jars, mounted with polished brass ornaments, and each jar contains one of the ingredients of the famous Rootbeer, just as it reaches the manufacturer.  The name of the root contained within each of the receptacles is placed upon the jar, so that all who can read may learn.

Mexican Onyx Fountain.

A fountain, from which the great drink is drawn, is the gem of the display, a Mexican onyx gem in a setting of beautiful work.  It is a very high and handsome piece of onyx, or, rather, pieces of onyx; for, owing to its design, which is pretty, it is necessarily made up of many carefully cut slabs.  There are three silver-plated faucets lined with gutta-percha.  The whole affair, with its creamy hue, is exquisite, being one of the handsomest fountains shown in the Exposition, and cost $850.

Around the booth are hung framed pictures which have been used for several years to call attention to the excellencies of Hires’ Rootbeer, and which consequently are very much like old friends to the majority of people who come to see the show in the great white city.  At either end of the counter at the back of the little pavilion are specimens of Hires’ Rootbeer done up for family use.  One side is given up to rows of the packages of roots, which when boiled according to the directions upon the yellow wrapper, will produce five gallons of the nourishing and pleasant drink.  At the opposite end, fenced in partly as is the other, by a brass grill-like screen, are bottles of Hires’ beverage ready for immediate use.

Notwithstanding the fact that the exhibit is in the gallery of Agricultural Building, at the northwest corner, nearly every visitor finds it, and at times, especially on a warm day, there is a crowd of people four deep around the pavilion thirsting for a glass of the non-intoxicating rootbeer.  Mr. J. M. Baird, Jr., the manager of the exhibit, has travelled all over the United States in the interests of Hires’ Rootbeer, and through his vigorous campaigns in various parts Hires’ has become a family beverage.

Crowds Besiege the Booth.

In speaking of the crowds who besiege the booth at the time when the rootbeer is dispensed gratis, he said: “This is one of the best advertisements we have had in the country.  Why, they come here from all over the world, dignitaries and ordinary persons, and both alike go away disappointed because we do not sell it here, for they want to take it home.  It’s quite a novelty to some, for although they had heard of it and had seen our advertisements until they knew them by heart, they had never tasted it before.  Well, as soon as they get a sample glass they are immediately converted.  They are delighted, and are truly crestfallen because when they ask us to sell them some we refer them to their grocer, druggist or general store dealer."

“On the warm days we have had recently, they flocked around here literally with their tongues hanging out.  Why, it was a new experience, and a very pleasing one, when they were handed a glass of the rootbeer.  They kept us pretty busy handing out gallons upon gallons upon the thirty multitude.  Many of them who stop cannot speak English, but you can tell when a man’s delighted, whether he can talk or not.  However, they all try to talk, and when they make a failure of trying to express their satisfaction in English, they troll it off in their native tongues.  At least I suppose they do, for they lay down the empty glass with a smile, smack their lips, and they start in to talk in tongues too foreign for my understanding."

“If we were to sell it here we could drive a paying trade, but this is only an exhibit; we want the people to know it, to know what it is.  However, there are three places in the grounds where they can buy it by the glass, at the Terminal, the Casino and in the Moorish palace on the Midway Plaisance, and the people have learned where to find it, if the amount sold is any evidence.”


Sketch of a House that Has Built Up a World-Wide Business.

The story of a self-made man, who, by diligence, thrift, intelligence and commercial genius, has built up a great industry or business, is always interesting.  Of such this country furnishes innumerable instances, and its history is a record of achievements of self-made men.  In statesmanship, finaciering (sic) or invention, such a one’s fame is spread throughout the length and breadth of the land, and he is pointed at by fond parents as a fit model for aspiring youth.  In commercial lines the self-made man is more numerous, and it is only when he is superlatively successful that his fame is commensurate with his work.  Of this latter class, Philadelphia has one conspicuous exponent, whose fame is not bound by the limits of the country, but extends almost to every nation of the globe, as is attested by orders that come into his mammoth establishment from every quarter – Charles E. Hires, whose famed rootbeer has not only brought him fortune, but made him known beneath every flag.  Mr. Hires is constitutionally modest, and while willing to talk all day of the merits of his delicious beverage, he is yet averse to telling naught as to himself or business success.

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, and the same indefatigable energy that characterized his search for work led him on to fortune and to fame.  Perhaps he inherited the qualities of success from his parents, for his father was a prosperous Cumberland country 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.

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.  He remained here five years, ever diligent in business, sleeping at night in his store, saving a little money, and finally sold the place, going into a general brokerage business, with the vanilla bean and botanic drugs as his specialties.

A Valuable Discovery.

If there was one blissful memory of his youthful days that Mr. Hires recalled at this time it was invariably associated with the old-fashioned home-made rootbeer, that had refreshed him many a time at the close of a hot, dusty day, and for which the youngsters of that day longed with an inextinguishable thirst.  It was during one of these happy retrospections that he conceived of the commercial value of an extract from which this old-time, health-giving beverage could readily be manufactured, and he at once turned his attention to experimenting along this line.  After months of labor, the experiments were rewarded with success beyond the most sanguine expectations, for not only was a most delicious drink discovered, but it proved to be a great health beverage, one of the most valuable diuretics and blood purifiers in the world.  Nectar and ambrosia may have been dreamed of in song, but Hires' combination of roots, barks and berries and flowers, then as now known as "Rootbeer Extract" was the practical development of the poet’s theme.  From it could be produced, a home-made rootbeer, such as our forefathers used in “ye olden time.”

It was in 1878 that the valuable secret was discovered, and Mr. Hires immediately put it on the market.  His place of business was then at 217 Market street, but the competition had been so great in general merchandise, that Mr. Hires believed that there was more money in specialties.  He, therefore, disposed of his wholesale drug business, and gave all his time to the development of his trade in the rootbeer extract and vanilla bean.  His judgment was verified by time, and he is now without a peer the wide world over.  For a number of years he turned all the profits back into the business, and other funds that he possessed were used in the same way.  The early years were ones of trial but constant progress, for merit always wins, and the superior excellence of the extract caused a constantly increasing demand.  One year Mr. Hires spent $10,000 in advertising and sold $2800 worth of goods.  By hard work and perseverance the tide turned, and the profits soon largely exceeded the expenses.  Business steadily increased, some years doubling, until now enough extract is sold annually to give every man, woman and child under the English and American flags a glass of delicious rootbeer.

A Modest Beginning.

The beginning of this great business was a very modest one.  Mr. Hires commenced making the extract by boiling the roots, barks, etc., in a five gallon kettle.  One young lady was able to bottle all the product without overworking herself.  The first year 1000 packing boxes were made, and just 864 bottles were sold.  In five years the five gallon kettle gave way to a 20 gallon copper kettle and the extract was made in barrel lots.  Three years later, the increase in business had been so wonderful that a 100 gallon kettle was necessary and a 75 gallon percolator.  A percolator is a funnel shaped arrangement from which the extract drips into receptacles.  Now, a large steam boiler, of more than 300 gallons capacity is necessary; there is a large press of 80 tons pressure to the square inch, which will press the life-giving properties out of three barrels of roots at a time, and there are four 100 gallon percolators running night and day.  The extract is made up in tanks of a capacity of 300 gallons each, and four of these are going constantly.  More than 100 girls are employed in bottling, packing and casing the extract.  And there are 75 men and girls in the office and shipping room, this number including a corps of experienced salesmen, who are travelling the land from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the sunny slopes of the Gulf to the ice-bound lakes of the North.  And all this accomplished in fifteen years!

Growth of the Business.

A man may design or invent a good article, and yet be utterly void of ability to introduce it to humanity.  Like Cassandra, at the siege of Troy, whose prophetic warnings as to its final overthrow were disregarded and scorned, there are many men who cannot induct others to accept their judgment, not matter how infallible it has proven to be.  Mr. Hires has shown that not only does he know how to make a good thing, but that he possesses the equally rare ability to bring it to the attention of the public.  The growth of the Hires Extract business is a remarkable illustration of the assertion that merit wins success.  It was Washington Irving who wrote, “the heart of man is reached most insidiously through the stomach,” and, when a delicious flavor is augmented by health-giving properties, the man becomes imperative in his demand.  This is the secret of the success of Hires’ Rootbeer.  The people want it.

The rise and progress of the business can best be illustrated with a statement as to the number of bottles sold:

1878 ………….      864                   1886 ……….     83,728

1879 ………….   3,024                   1887 ……….   191,808

1880 ………….   5,804                   1888 ……….   394,560

1881 …………. 13,680                   1889 ……….   578,048

1882 …………. 18,422                   1890 ………. 1,298,000

1883 …………. 28,512                   1891 ………. 1,941,319

1884 …………. 45,216                   1892 ………. 2,880,278

1885 …………. 53,728

(Note: the 1885 and 1890 totals do not match Hires’ 1893 calendar.)

The extract sold in bottles last year represented 14,401,390 gallons made up into rootbeer, or 72,003,950 quart champagne bottles, or 238,027,800 glasses.

During four months of the year Mr. Hires spends $200,000 in advertising, an average of $50,000 a month.

Uncle Sam levies a tribute annually of $10,000, for just that amount of postage stamps is used each twelve months.

From 250,000 to 300,000 posters are posted up each year in every city in the United States having a population of 10,000 or more.

In 1892 the firm ground 76,608 pounds of roots, barks and berries.

Over 20,000,000 circulars and 10,000,000 picture cards are sent out each year.

From 75,000 to 80,000 dollars per year are spent in lithographs; while 250,000 calendars, in 12 colors, annually spread intelligence of the health-giving properties of Hires’s Rootbeer.

In addition to this the fame of Hires’ Rootbeer flashes from the back of fancy hair brushes, which are likewise sent out by Mr. Hires.

Dealers in country stores are also reminded of the same delicious beverage when looking at their monthly statements, since Mr. Hires prints bill heads for thousands of stores where the Rootbeer is sold.  The building which is now occupied by the Hires Company, although occupied but a few years, has already been outgrown by the increasing necessities of the business.  It is a four-story substantial brick structure, fronting 28 feet on Arch street, with a depth of 115 feet.  It was specially reconstructed in the interior when Mr. Hires moved there some five or six years ago.  The business has so outgrown the accommodations, however, that it has been found necessary to lease a three-story brick building in the rear as an annex.  This building is 30 by 40 feet, and is used entirely as a store house.

The Warehouse.

Entering the main building from Arch street, one goes into the wareroom, in the rear of which are the offices of Mr. Hires and his associates.  A busy scene is presented on this floor, as on all others.  A large corps of girls are working in the main office, while huge boxes awaiting shipment are piled near the door.  On the second floor in the rear is a storeroom for lithographs and printed material.  All kinds of lithographs are here as well as posters, circulars, and other means in which printers’ ink is used to extol the merits of Hires’ Rootbeer.  Here can be seen the plain poster, in black and white, in from one to three sheets, handsome lithographs in eight colors, and beautiful calendars, where twelve colors are harmoniously combined in a charming picture, which is in demand all over the country.  The printing office occupies the front portion of the second floor.  Numerous cases of type, two rotary presses, and two cylinder presses, one large enough to print a daily newspaper, comprise the full equipment of a modern printing house.  Eight men are constantly employed, and there would be many more if there were room.  As it is, the firm is forced to spend from $40,000 to $50,000 a year with outside printing offices.

On the third floor are the bottling and packing departments of the establishment, and here the visitor, if he be a young and susceptible man, will linger.  Scores of pretty young maidens look shyly up as one enters, their nimble fingers never ceasing for an instant from performing the tasks assigned them.  The daily capacity is from 100 to 150 gross each working day, and in busy seasons it has been found necessary to double the force of girls, part working during the day when a new corps comes on and works all night.  A number of men are also kept busy boxing and nailing up the cases ready for shipping.  On the fourth floor is the fountain head of the business, for here the laboratory, where the extract is manufactured, is located.  Here immense 200-gallon boilers, a huge press of 80 tons pressure, a dozen funnel-shaped receptacles, which are called percolators, and great tanks are to be seen.  The liquid is conveyed through pipes to the floor below for bottling.  The genesis of rootbeer is interesting.  First the roots, barks, herbs and berries are carefully selected and ground, then placed in an immense caldron of one hundred gallons’ capacity, where they are steeped several hours in water, with a small amount of glycerine to preserve the extract, then transferred to a large press of eighty tons pressure to the square inch, and, after being exhausted as far as possible of their strength, are again transferred to a percolater, where the balance of their strength is entirely exhausted by percolation.  Great skill and neatness in every department is apparent, particular attention being given to cleanliness in its preparation.  Although everything is carried on a large scale, nothing but the best is used, and this as long years of experience and study have suggested.

Component Parts of the Extract.

Probably not one person outside of the establishment itself knows the various ingredients that combine to make the delicious flavor that characterizes Hires’ Root Beer.  A dozen berries, barks, roots and flowers at least enter into the compound, all of the very finest quality, no matter how great the expense.  The proportion of each used in the extract no one outside of the Hires Company can tell.  It is one of the most jealously guarded trade secrets.

The precautions taken by Mr. Hires to guard the purity of the extract may be indicated in the statement that in the course of numerous trips to Europe and Central American regions, he has personally visited the localities where most of the ingredients are obtained, and learned under what conditions they are grown and how gathered.  Juniper berries are brought from Trieste; sarsaparilla comes from Honduras; dog grass, a powerful diuretic, is gathered in Germany and Italy; while among the list of domestic botanic drugs that enter into the extract are pipasissawa (sic), the finest hops from New York State, spikenard, teaberry leaf, sassafras, birch bark and ginger.

The Charles E. Hires Company.

Three years ago Mr. Hires, in order to be relieved of some of the responsibility, and to give those an interest who had been closely connected with him for years, turned the business into a stock corporation, with a capital of $300,000.  He remained at the head of the company, of course, retaining a large proportion of the stock.  William Ingersoll, a young man who had grown up with the business, was made Secretary and Treasurer of the corporation, and his brother, Joseph Ingersoll, one of the Directors.  D. Kelsey Whitaker, who had been associated with Mr. Hires for a long time, was also elected to the directorate, and he now has supreme charge of the New York offices.  The work of extending the knowledge of the value of Hires’s Rootbeer has been pushed on with even greater energy, until now there is not a country on the globe to which orders have not been sent.  So widespread has been the demand that it has been found necessary to open agencies in London, Montreal, Can., Ireland and Copenhagen.  Orders have come from the Flowery Kingdom, and Chinese mandarins have slaked their thirst with Hires’s Rootbeer.  Packages of the extract have been shipped to Africa, and the beverage has likewise refreshed the thirsty South American.


Success Assured Merit by the Use of Printers’ Ink.

A firm that has given $16,000 to the World’s Fair authorities at Chicago, merely for the privilege of a small space in the toilet room and the authority of giving away advertising brushes and combs, costing many thousand dollars more, must needs be enterprising.  Yet this is what the Charles E. Hires Company has done, and a study of its advertising methods is a revelation.  Milton’s apostrophe to a drop of ink voices the sentiments of Mr. Hires.  Last year the company’s advertising cost more than $150,000, and this year it will reach over $200,000.  Every year the company has two or three new advertising schemes, still retaining the best of the old.  In 1892, in newspaper advertising alone, $76,000 were spent, and this year the amount will be $125,000.  Lithographs cost $40,000.  Then there are all sorts of advertising ornaments for fountains, brass signs, etc., that are much in demand by druggists and storekeepers.  Then there are “insets,” or extra pages, specially printed in ten colors, for insertions in drug weeklies.

Ruth and Naomi.

But the lithographic cards sent out by the company by the million are what chiefly charm the eye and linger in the memory.  Some are reproductions of famous paintings, and some are specially designed for the purpose, but all are superb in execution; for in this, as in all other things, Mr. Hires is satisfied with nothing by the very best.  One of the most beautiful is the reproduction of the famous oil painting, “Ruth and Naomi,” well known to all European connoisseurs.  In one of his many trips abroad Mr. Hires saw the original in the Louvre, at Paris, whence it has since been transferred by purchase to the National Gallery at Liverpool.  At a cost of more than $5000 the lithograph reproduces the painting with scrupulous exactness in thirteen colors.  All the pathos of this touching episode of Scripture is in it – the local color, the sentiment.  The artistic beauty of the pleading attitude, the tenderness of expression and the womanly warmth cannot be too much admired.  It is another reading by the light of inspiration.  The small pictures took so well last year that the firm has spent more than $10,000 in making a larger lithograph this year.  About 50,000 of the large and 1,000,000 of the smaller ones will be distributed before next September.

Everyone has seen the lithograph of a baby, with outstretched arm, crying: “Say, mamma, I want a glass of rootbeer.”  The smaller ones are in ten colors and the larger in twelve colors.  More than a million of these have been distributed.  Another million of ten colored cards, depicting a child turning back the hands of a clock, were also sent out.  It took eleven million cards to satisfy the popular demand for the small lithograph known as the “Ledger card.”  This is a picture in twelve colors of a pretty little girl, with a newspaper cap made out of the Public Ledger, selected out of compliment to Mr. George W. Childs, of whom Mr. Hires is a warm admirer.

Other Novelties.

In the newspaper advertising line there are two novelties that will bring joy to dealers in as many cities.  Last March, Mr. Ingersoll spent three or four days in Chicago, and then came East with orders for seven carloads of rootbeer from as many firms, aggregating in value about $25,000.  A short time afterward, the New England agent of the company sent in an order for five carloads for five firms in Boston.  This ordered involved $22,500.  Mr. Hires had the trains photographed, each car having the name of the firm on the side, and now the Boston and Chicago newspapers are publishing the pictures, with a resulting increase of business to the company’s patrons.

This year the firm is giving away about 200,000 small wooden whistles, with the inscription “We blow for Hires’ Rootbeer.”  An order for 50,000 fans in ten colors is now being rushed through by a firm of lithographers; small books for store accounts are being sent out to country stores by the thousands; one million copies of “Little Mabel,” the poem written by the sister of George E. Vickers, the song writer, in competition, have been distributed.  The gifted writer captured the first prize with the poem, the last verse, quoted below, giving some idea of its scope: “Hires’ Rootbeer was thus discovered, While the little Mabel slept; But the recipe so wond’rous, Hires himself has always kept.”

From a local point of view, possibly, the best advertisement is the store that the Hires Company runs during May, June, July and August, on Chestnut street, opposite the Chestnut Street Opera House.  Here three men and two young ladies are kept busy dispensing the beverage to the thirsty.  Last year 160,000 glasses were sold – almost double the number disposed of in 1891.  This year it is expected that the receipts will be double those of 1982.  The place is a famous one, and all sorts and conditions of men, women and children drop in to get a refreshing glass of rootbeer.  The barefooted newsboy and the little flower girl may jostle the well-dressed afternoon shopper, the dignified bank president or the leading lawyer.

Unsought Advertisements.

Last year, however, Hires’ Root beer was given an advertisement in the Danish newspapers, that, while no bills were sent in afterward, were as flattering as they were lengthy.  The Hires Company had sent twenty gross of the extract to a Sanitarium in Copenhagen, and the beverage leaped into immediate favor.  Seven physicians gave separate testimonials, and the newspapers were filled with local accounts of “The Great American Drink,” printed, of course, gratuitously, and as ordinary news or editorial matter.  One hundred or more patients at the Sanitarium were benefited by the beverage, and were loud in their praises of what was to them a newly discovered drink.

“Why not give ourselves up to root beer drinking?” commented one of the newspapers, “instead of to dangerous lager beer?  That from a hygienic view it is healthful as well as pleasant and palatable, must be admitted, and it may be added that it can be drank quite cold without any deleterious effect.”

Much of the success of the business, however, must justly be ascribed to the genial and kindly personality of Mr. Hires himself.  Having had a hard struggle himself in his early days, he has a sympathetic regard for all young men who are trying honestly to make their own way in the world.  Dozens of young men have found in him a wise counsellor, and a friend in need, who does not hesitate to go down deep in his pocket to help them on the road to fortune.  A number of young men have been started in business by him, and his friendship never fails them.  Recently one of these became embarrassed, and wrote Mr. Hires that to protect him he would give him a bill of sale on his goods.  Mr. Hires, knowing the youth’s plight, at once advised to sell all he had and pay his other creditors.  Were any left, he could think of the original claim.  This is but one illustration of the spirit of the man.  A friend once made is never lost.  Such men deserve success.

Hires’ Root Beer was awarded a medal and diploma at the Chicago World’s Fair, and mention of this recognition was, of course, quickly added to advertising items, such as this “Form 12” envelope:

(Figure 1893-08, “Form 12” paper envelope)

During 1893 Hires distributed “The Secret and Santa Claus at Home,” a 16 page giveaway booklet with stories for children, Hires advertisements, customer testimonials, and a back cover image of the Hires Boy announcing receipt of the newly awarded Chicago World’s Fair medal and diploma:

(Figure 1893-09, “The Secret and Santa Claus at Home” booklet, front cover)

(Figure 1893-09, “The Secret and Santa Claus at Home” booklet, back cover)

This notice was printed inside the back cover of "The Secret and Santa Claus at Home:"


Beware of Rootbeers that are bottled ready to drink.  Much of it is made from artificial extracts.  Physicians report that a great deal of it is poisonous and injurious to health, causing stomach disorder.  For your health’s sake get a package of Hires Rootbeer and make it yourself, then you’ll know what you’re drinking.  It never disarranges your stomach.  Hires Rootbeer is used and endorsed by many of our most prominent physicians, and is in use in many of the sanitariums and hospitals throughout the country.  Will it pay you to trifle with your health to save a few pennies?  Don’t let your storekeeper offer you a substitute.  Insist upon getting Hires.

The primary focus of Hires’ “CAUTION” was competitors who used “artificial extracts” for preparing “Rootbeers that are bottled ready to drink.”  Given the strong suggestion that customers should “get a package of Hires Rootbeer and make it yourself,” one could infer that Hires was anti-bottling.  Indeed, Hires didn’t start bottling Hires Root Beer until, ironically, 1893, the very same year this “CAUTION” was published.  Initially, Hires didn’t do their own bottling, instead outsourcing it to the Crystal Bottling Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

This thinly disguised Hires advertisement was published as a “Reading Notice:”

(Figure 1893-10, Housekeeper’s Weekly, June 24, 1893)

(Figure 1893-11, Housekeeper’s Weekly, June 24, 1893, back cover)

A June 25, 1893 Hires notice to the trade listed “Hires Ready to Drink” pricing for 1-5 cases of 24 bottles at $2.50 each less 10%.  Orders greater than five cases received a 20% discount.

Hires finished the month of June at the Chicago World’s Fair by placing a large advertisement that covered the top one-third of page 7 in the Chicago Tribune.  The illustration is “from a photograph of a Chicago train of seven cars, each car holding from 32,000 to 36,000 packages, which would make the train represent 1,260,000 gallons.  This would give one gallon to each person in Chicago, including the visitors to the World's Fair, or give to every man, woman, and child in the eight States of Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and Ohio each a glass of HIRES’ Rootbeer.  Just think of the wonderful figures!  This is one shipment only, and that sold, not consigned.  Each part of the country is getting its share.  Unless all the people are mistaken HIRES’ Rootbeer is a really good thing.  It is as plain to be seen as the nose on one’s face that The people have adopted HIERS.”  Each of the seven train cars bears signage declaring the cars contain “HIRES Rootbeer for” specific dealers, including: Sprague, Warner & Co.; Reid, Murdoch & Co.; Steele, Wedclos Co.; Franklin MacVeagh & Co.; Henry Horner & Co.; Strassheim & Jaeger; and H. C. & C. Durand.  Three additional dealers rated listing below the illustration: Fuller & Fuller Co.; Morrisson, Plummer & Co.; and Lord, Owen & Co. 

(Figure 1893-12, Chicago Tribune)

Hires’ marketing plan during July, 1893 included this advertisement placed in The Household magazine.  It is similar to the advertisement in the June, 1893 issue of The Ladies’ Home Journal, but features an illustration of an older version of the Hires Boy, and simplified text.

(Figure 1893-13, The Household magazine, July 1893)

While The Household advertisement was simple and to the point, Hires went to the other extreme with a highly detailed, four page spread in the August 1893 issue of Harper’s Magazine.  Note the reference to Charles E. Hires as “a chemist in Philadelphia some fifteen years ago,” and that Hires Root Beer “was first introduced in 1878.” 


(Figure 1893-14, Harper’s Magazine Advertiser, August 1893, pp. 25-28)

Hires’ magazine advertisements continued to target sales to family members of all ages.  These images were previously used for Hires’ July, 1892 magazine advertisements.

(Figure 1893-15, The Household, August 1893, and The Ladies’ Home Journal, September 1893)

In late 1893 Hires inaugurated one of their longest running and most successful advertising campaigns with the introduction of their famous “Ruth and Naomi” pictures.  Charles E. Hires included the following comments in “Some Advertising Reminiscences 1869-1913,” an article he authored for the July 24, 1913 issue of Printers’ Ink:

(In) reference to the picture called “The Parting of Ruth and Naomi,” I saw it when it was first placed in the Liverpool gallery, twenty-odd years ago, and got permission to have it photographed.  Of the resulting lithographed copy – which I had copyrighted in this country – we have sent out millions, first and last, in all sizes from a post card to a large framed picture.  More people know the picture, of course, than know that it was published by this company.  But that is only natural.  If we had made the advertising feature too prominent we should not only have failed to secure much distribution which we actually received, but would have gone far towards spoiling a beautiful picture. 

This rare poster introducing the Ruth and Naomi campaign offered a picture “without any advertising on it” for anyone sending in five labels cut from the front of Hires’ Improved Root Beer packages. 

(Figure 1893-16, “Ruth and Naomi” introductory poster, repaired edges)

The Ruth and Naomi pictures without advertising copy were produced for Hires by Donaldson Brothers in New York City.   

(Figure 1893-17, “Ruth and Naomi” poster, 15.0” x 20.0”)

Hires also used the Ruth and Naomi picture on a variety of trade cards.  Here are several examples with differing pictures, verses, and advertising copy.

(Figure 1893-18, “Ruth and Naomi��� trade card, 3.0” x 5.0”, blank back)    

The J. Ottmann Lithography Company in New York City produced this trade card:

(Figure 1893-19, “Ruth and Naomi” trade card, front, 6.25” x 5.0”)

(Figure 1893-19, “Ruth and Naomi” trade card, back, 6.25” x 5.0”)

Donaldson Brothers in New York City also produced Ruth and Naomi trade cards for Hires.  Examples of three different card backs are illustrated:

(Figure 1893-20, “Ruth and Naomi” trade card, front, 5.875” x 5.0”)

(Figure 1893-20, “Ruth and Naomi” trade card, back, 5.875” x 5.0”)

(Figure 1893-20, “Ruth and Naomi” trade card, back, 5.875” x 5.0”)

(Figure 1893-20, “Ruth and Naomi” trade card, back, 5.875” x 5.0”)