Hires To You headerThe Illustrated History of Hires Root Beer



Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington were important staging points for the Yukon as the Klondike Gold Rush helped end economic stagnation caused by the Panic of 1893.

Violent actions against Cubans by Spanish soldiers were covered in detail by the press. 

The U.S. annexed the Sandwich Islands (today the Hawaiian Islands), a movement largely directed by sugar plantation owners friendly to America.

A coal miners’ strike in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia shut down mines.

As city boundaries expanded, transportation of people became increasingly challenging.  Boston’s Tremont Street Subway, the first practical and successful U.S. subway, opened.

Prostitution was legalized near New Orleans’ French Quarter in the “Storyville” area.

The first Boston Marathon was won by John J. McDermott of New York City in 2:55:10.

Newly introduced products included aspirin and Jell-O.

In 1897 Nathaniel C. Fowler, Jr. published (take a deep breath before reading the title) Fowler’s Publicity – An Encyclopedia of Advertising in all its forms and in all that pertains to the Public-Seeing Side of Business.  The only complete reference book of this kind in the world.  Supplementary to the Original Page-Davis course of Advertising Instruction by Correspondence. This massive volume contains 1,020 pages and originally sold for $15.00.  In addition to highly detailed educational material explaining the many aspects of advertising, of particular interest is the section covering what the author termed “Great Successes,” further defined as “Weighty words by weighty men.”  He described these as:

Original and exclusive articles on, “How We Made Advertising Pay,” or “What We Think Constitutes Successful Publicity,” by the leading business men of the great civilized nations, who have been, and are, advertisers and users of printing, and who give printers’ ink credit for their successes.  This department presents, for the first time, personally written reasons of success, and not interviews – carefully and individually prepared chapters of fact, not theory – individual and composite tried and proven methods of profit, and plain, blunt, and uncolored expressions of what is, and what should be done with, every class of publicity.  The articles are from the makers and owners of profitable trade, and illustrate every department of business, from the great international and foreign advertiser to the representative retailer, including nearly all of the great general advertisers of this country.

The authors of these articles were a “who’s who” of America’s most successful businessmen and, not surprisingly, include this article authored by Charles E. Hires:


Philadelphia, Penn., “Hires Rootbeer.”  By Charles E. Hires, President.

Continued and persistent effort is bound to bring success.

In advertising I believe that Newspaper work, with perhaps an occasional exception, is by far the best and most profitable advertising.  When I say this, it is with a big IF, because when placing advertisements in Newspapers and Magazines promiscuously, without regard to their circulation or clientage, it is a profligate waste of money.  The first and most important step in advertising is to have your advertisements most carefully prepared, to say exactly what you want to express, to say it in a way to attract the attention of the public, and to say it in the least number of words possible that will be logical and convincing, so as to impress and create customers for the article advertised.

I believe also that an advertisement ought to be changed every issue.  I believe the reason of the large percentage of failures by advertisers is the result of carelessly prepared and illy gotten up matter for the advertisements.  After you have prepared your advertisement or advertisements, (and I say this is the most important), the next important step is to look about you, and see what mediums will best serve your purpose in reaching the clientage you wish as customers.  Not only this, but these mediums you select should be mediums whose circulation there would be no question about, not made up of gift or bonus enterprise, but of bona fide paid circulation.  It is only in this way that an advertiser can calculate upon a certain basis for his advertising expenditures bringing specific results.

A new paper starting out for business with a fictitious circulation, and the circulation of papers whose editors do not hesitate to make false statements in regard to the Publication are unknown facts, are to be shunned, because the results are unknown quantities, and are sure to bring disappointment, and a large waste of money.  I therefore, consider the keynote of good advertising:

First: Well prepared matter, and prepared by experts as far as possible.

Second: Frequent changes, if possible every issue.

Third: The adaptability of Newspapers for the people to be reached, and an established publication of truthful circulation.

For want of time I will not attempt to go into the other branch of advertising that afford publicity, because I feel that it is too large, and my time too limited; but what I have said is what I believe to be the synopsis and foundation of true advertising, and I shall depend upon this year almost exclusively.

When soliciting articles, Nathan C. Fowler also “asked a number of advertisers to send him their best advertisement” and reprinted them in a chapter entitled “Practical Publicity.”  Charles E. Hires complied by submitting the “Full of Snap” advertisement used in The Youth’s Companion during May, 1895 (see Figure 1895-09). 

Another Fowler’s Publicity chapter is entitled “Practical Opinion,” explained as “The law of averages is safer to follow than the rule of exceptions.  The minority is sometimes right – in uncivilized lands more often right than wrong – but in these days of universal intelligence, the majority rule by right of right as well as by right of power…A personal letter, accompanied by a printed slip of questions arranged with marked simplicity, was mailed to the great advertisers of the world.”  Here are the questions and Charles E. Hires’ responses (underlined):

To your business what is the relative advertising value of highest-class magazines?  10%; Family magazines and papers of medium grade?  10%; Illustrated papers?  5%; Religious papers?  10%; Agricultural papers?  5%; Large city dailies?  13%; Country dailies?  10%; Country weeklies?  5%; Trade papers?  1%; Posters?  10%; Catalogues?  1%; Circulars?  10%; Lithographic cards and hangers?  10%.

Exclusive of the country dailies and weeklies, how many publications can you use to advantage?  Most all reputable papers.

If you were to double your advertising appropriation, what percent of additional publications would you take?  75% dailies.

What percent would you increase your space?  25%.

Does an advertisement of given size, every issue, pay you better than twice as large an advertisement, every other issue, in a monthly?  Yes; Weekly?  Yes; Daily?  Yes.

How often do you change your advertisements in magazines, weeklies, dailies?  Try to every insertion.

What proportion of your advertisements contain cuts?  Most all.

If you decrease your advertising during the year, during what months do you cut it?  September to March.

How many words, generally speaking, ought to be in an ordinary four-inch single column advertisement?  Not over 50 or 60.

How long did you advertise before you got your money back?  8 years.

Hires once again distributed leather-covered, pocket-sized memo pads.  The 1897 pads were produced by Wm. Bertsch & Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

(Figure 1897-01, memo pad cover, 4.25” x 2.375”)

(Figure 1897-01, memo pad inside front cover, 4.25” x 2.375”)

(Figure 1897-01, memo pad advertising, 4.25” x 2.375”)

(Figure 1897-01, memo pad testimonials, 4.25” x 2.375”)

(Figure 1897-01, memo pad inside back cover, 4.25” x 2.375”)

Early in1897 Hires distributed a double-sided flyer attacking copycat root beers that storekeepers were passing off instead of Hires’ Improved Root Beer.  The back of flyer includes temperance testimonials received from two ministers during 1896, and product endorsements from six different publications.

(Figure 1897-02, double-sided flyer, front)

(Figure 1897-02, double-sided flyer, back)

Distribution of a 12 page My First Suspenders paper booklet began in early 1897.

(Figure 1897-03, My First Suspenders, front cover)

(Figure 1897-03, My First Suspenders, page 1)

(Figure 1897-03, My First Suspenders, page 2)

(Figure 1897-03, My First Suspenders, page 3)

(Figure 1897-03, My First Suspenders, page 4)

(Figure 1897-03, My First Suspenders, page 5)

(Figure 1897-03, My First Suspenders, page 6)

(Figure 1897-03, My First Suspenders, page 7)

(Figure 1897-03, My First Suspenders, page 8)

(Figure 1897-03, My First Suspenders, page 9)

(Figure 1897-03, My First Suspenders, page 10)

(Figure 1897-03, My First Suspenders, back cover)

Close examination of My First Suspenders reveals the bottle depicted on page 10 utilized a crown cap closure.  Initially the paper neck and body labels used for blob top bottles were also affixed to Hires' first crown top bottles.  The labels on this example are worn and yellowed with age.

(Figure 1897-03.5, crown cap bottle with paper labels)

Hires copyrighted these two trade cards in 1897.  If one glances quickly at the pair, they may appear to be identical, but they are actually two very different images.

(Figure 1897-04, trade card, front, 3.0” x 5.0”)   

(Figure 1897-05, trade card, front, 3.0” x 5.0”)

The first example was produced by Julius Bien & Co. in New York City.  The young girl is holding a blob top bottle of Hires Root Beer in her right hand, and there is a Hires Improved Root Beer package on the floor.  There’s nothing else in the background. 

The second version of this card was produced by Gray Lithography Company in New York City.  The young girl is holding a crown top bottle of Hires Root Beer, so it is likely this card was produced to promote Hires’ 1897 switch to the use of crown cap bottles.  The Hires Improved Root Beer package on the floor differs from the earlier card, and in the background is either a chair or a cast iron bed, and a doll lying on the floor.   

The backs of both cards match other than their source listings.

(Figure 1897-04 and 1897-05, trade cards, back)

The angel pictured on this sign is holding a blob top bottle of “Hires Rootbeer Carbonated” with full paper labels.  Note the angel's wings and “None Other Genuine” lettering. 

 (Figure 1897-06, cardboard sign, Hires Family Archives)

This 5.0" x 3.375" counter or table sign with an easel back ties in with the increasing national popularity of bicycling.   

(Figure 1897-07, die-cut, cardboard, standup counter or table sign, front)

(Figure 1897-07, die-cut, cardboard, standup counter or table sign, back)

A circular promoting Hires’ Improved Root Beer to dealers accompanied a second version of the same Hires Boy sign with different advertising copy on the back.

(Figure 1897-08, die-cut, cardboard, standup counter or table sign, back)

(Figure 1897-09, wall hanger, Hires Family Archives)

Existing artwork for a blob top Hires bottle was reworked by adding a crown cap.  

(Figure 1897-10, Century and Harpers Weekly, May 29, 1897)

(Figure 1897-11, The Youth’s Companion, June 1897, back cover, 16.0” x 11.5”)

A slightly modified version of this advertisement also ran in the July 3, 1897 editions of Harper’s and Munsey’s magazines. 

(Figure 1897-12, Life, June 3, 1897)

(Figure 1897-12.5, Ann Arbor Register, Ann Arbor, Michigan, June 17, 1897)

A blob top bottle was utilized for this magazine advertisement with a “thermometer” image.

 (Figure 1897-13, The Outlook Weekly, June 19, 1897)

The neck of a blob top bottle with a tied-down cork illustrated this summertime advertisement.

            (Figure 1897-14, magazine advertisement)

Hires marketed directly to German speaking customers with this half page newspaper advertisement.

(Figure 1897-15, Philadelphia Democrat, June 22, 1897)

An English version of the same advertisement ran in other U.S. newspapers, including the New York Sun June 26, 1897, and San Francisco Chronicle Thursday, July 1, 1897.  The headline reads “HOT WEATHER’S HERE Keep Up Your Supply of HIRES Rootbeer.”  The text states, in part:

This delicious temperance beverage is a hot weather requisite of which every home should have a good supply.  When heat and humidity make the earth almost uninhabitable, a cold, sparkling, effervescent glass of HIRES Rootbeer will satisfy your thirst, refresh and strengthen you.  It keeps the blood pure and cool, the stomach in a normal condition.  It is pre-eminently the best drink for children because of its health-giving properties.  It is of the greatest benefit to the wearied housewife, invigorating to the man who has worked all day, delightful to a wheelman at the end of a run.  You can’t have an over supply of HIRES Rootbeer.  A package makes five gallons.  Beware of imitations.  HIRES Rootbeer Carbonated, ready to drink except for the cooling, is put up in pint bottles, two dozen in a case.  If your storekeeper cannot supply you with the Carbonated…it will be delivered at your home free of charge.  If you value your health beware of cheap mixtures called root beer.  Remember, the genuine HIRES Rootbeer, Carbonated, is sold only in pint bottles with the name blown in the glass, and it is prepared only by THE CHARLES E. HIRES COMPANY, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

(Figure 1897-15.5, Detroit Free Press, page 5, June 29, 1897)

(Figure 1897-16, New York Sun, July 5, 1897)

The illustrated sidebar New York Journal article is headlined “DISEASE LURKS IN CHEAP DRINKS.  Use of Second Hand Corks a Menace to the Lives of Thousands.  GATHERED BY SCAVENGERS.  Process of Bottling Believed to Infect the Liquid with Deadly Germs.”  Hires added this copy:

If you value your health, beware of chemical concoctions under alluring titles, sold for a few cents a quart.  Common sense teaches you that the manufacturer cannot afford to be particular where he gets his bottles, his corks, or what kind of material he uses.  Any physician will tell you that such preparations are highly injurious, especially in hot weather when the stomach be most carefully guarded.  If you want to be on the safe side, if you want to have your palate tickled, your stomach toned, your nerves soothed, if you want the assurance that what you are drinking is pure, clean, wholesome, Drink HIRES Rootbeer CARBONATED, composed of health-giving herbs, roots, barks and berries, scrupulously prepared and put up in sterilized bottles.  It cools the blood, increases the vitality.  Counteracts the enervating effects of the heat, and makes you feel better for the next thing to be done.  Always drink Hires Rootbeer, carbonated, and you will always be on the safe side.  Sold by all dealers.  Price per case of two dozen pint bottles, $2.00, or $1.10 per dozen.  If your dealer cannot supply you drop a postal to FRED H. OTTEN, 76 Park Place, New York, and it will be delivered without extra charge.  HIRES Rootbeer Extract, a package of which makes 5 gallons, is sold as formerly by all dealers. THE CHARLES E. HIRES COMPANY, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

Slightly different versions of this advertisement were placed in The Black Cat and other national magazines during July, 1897.  The Black Cat was an American literary magazine published in Boston, Massachusetts.

(Figure 1897-17, The Black Cat, July 1897)

This simple and likely highly effective summertime 1897 advertisement drove home the message by repeating “HIRES Rootbeer” four times.

(Figure 1897-18, newspaper advertisement)

Hires’ 1897 newspaper advertisements continually informed the public that Hires Root Beer was a “non-alcoholic…aid to temperance.”

(Figure 1897-19, New York newspaper advertisement)

Donaldson Brothers Lithography in New York City produced this “Grandma’s Present” trade card for Hires,

(Figure 1897-20, “Grandma’s Present” trade card, front, 4.5” x 3.0”)

(Figure 1897-20, “Grandma’s Present” trade card, back, 4.5” x 3.0”)

These die-cut, cardboard images of the Hires Boy and a young girl were combined with a die-cut cardboard image of a Hires Improved Root Beer package to create the complete window display that follows. 

(Figure 1897-21, die-cut, cardboard Hires Boy and young girl, black background)

(Figure 1897-22, die-cut, cardboard Hires Boy, young girl, and carton window display, black background)

This die-cut, cardboard standup counter or table sign with an easel back pictures the Hires Boy wearing a tuxedo and likely celebrating New Year’s Eve.  The pictured example had sustained substantial damage over the years, and has been repaired.

(Figure 1897-23, die-cut, cardboard counter or table sign, Hires Family Archives)

Large quantities of Hires Improved Root Beer packages were shipped in wooden cases with dovetailed corners.  The cases were 7.625” long, 11.5” wide, and 3.625” high.

(Figure 1897-24, wooden Hires Rootbeer case, side)

(Figure 1897-24, wooden Hires Rootbeer case, side and end)