Hires To You headerThe Illustrated History of Hires Root Beer



The battleship Maine sailed to Havana, Cuba to protect U.S. interests during the revolution, but an explosion sunk the Maine killing 260 American crew members and the public was outraged.  “Remember the Maine” became the rallying cry, and the Spanish-American War began.  A federal excise tax on “bottled mineral waters, ginger ale, etc.” (1¢ per bottle on pints or less, 2¢ per bottle on larger sizes) was proposed but not enacted. 

Amusement parks provided considerable entertainment and were often situated on the outskirts of cities.  Traction companies built them to create trolley car line traffic.

Caleb D. Bradham began to market “Pepsi-Cola,” a name derived from the words “dyspepsia” (meaning “indigestion”) and the “kola” nuts in the formula.

Hires’ 1898 marketing program started with the distribution of large, double-sided flyers containing several special offers.  The flyers were printed on extremely thin paper with considerable bleed thru.  They are presented here as four separate images.

 (Figure 1898-01, double-sided flyer, front, top half)

(Figure 1898-01, double-sided flyer, front, bottom half)

(Figure 1898-01, double-sided flyer, back, top half)

(Figure 1898-01, double-sided flyer, back, bottom half)

Hires Cologne retailed for 10¢ in triangular-shaped, hand-blown bottles.  The front side was curved for the application of a paper label.  The label on this example is identical with the label illustrated in the aforementioned special offers flyer.  The remaining two sides of the bottle were flat with one panel embossed “Hires Cologne.”

(Figure 1898-02, Hires Cologne bottle, front and embossed side, 5.0” tall)

This hand blown, aqua, crown top bottle is 9.5” tall.  The upper paper label features the Hires Boy hoisting a glass and reads “HIRES STANDS FOR PURITY – KEEP IN A COOL PLACE – DO NOT PUT ICE IN GLASS.”  The paper body label reads “Hires Ginger Ale – ABSOLUTELY PURE FROM THE FINEST GINGER ROOT – AN ENTIRELY NEW PROCESS – FREE FROM ALCOHOL – Makers of Hires Celebrated Root Beer – MANUFACTURED BY THE CHARLES E. HIRES COMPANY, PHILADELPHIA, PA.”  The back of the bottle is embossed Hires CARBONATED BEVERAGES in large letters.

(Figure 1898-03, Hires crown top bottle, front and back, 9.5” tall)

The J. L. Ketterlinus Printing Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania produced this 12 page Merry Rhymes for Thirsty Times booklet for Hires in late 1898.

(Figure 1898-04, Merry Rhymes for Thirsty Times booklet, 12 pages)

"Hires to our new Colonies” printed on the back cover of the Merry Rhymes for Thirsty Times booklet is a reference to the Treaty of Paris, the Spanish-American War peace settlement that saw Spain cede the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam to the United States. 

The "Hires TO OUR NEW COLONIES" phrase was also utilized with a paper stamp picturing the Hires Boy toasting the new colonies with a glass of Hires Root Beer.  Although this stamp appears to bear cancellation markings, there's no reference to United States Postage and no denomination shown.  Most likely this item was produced by Hires strictly for advertising purposes.    

(Figure 1898-05, Hires paper stamp)