Hires To You headerThe Illustrated History of Hires Root Beer



Filipinos attacked the “imperialist” U.S. troops occupying their country. 

The first Coca-Cola Bottling Company plant began operations in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

William Painter patented an automatic crown cap feeder for bottling machines.

2,763 U.S. soft drink bottling plants were in operation.  Per capita consumption was 12.2 bottles.

In the spring of 1899 Hires launched a special marketing campaign via a double-sided flyer.

(Figure 1899-01, Spring ’99 flyer, front)

The “NO STAMP TAX” comment placed in between the bottle images refers to the War Revenue Act that took effect June 13, 1898 in order to raise funds for United States participation in the Spanish-American War.  The tax applied to goods and services, and products such as liquor, tea, and tobacco.  Hires successfully revised wording on the Hires Improved Root Beer extract carton so their sales were exempt from the tax.

Note the push on Hires Condensed Milk – “The DEMAND for Condensed Milk…will grow faster now that HIRES is in the field, for the pushing part will be in keeping with our usual vigorous methods of progressive advertising.  We will make Hires Condensed Milk like Hires Rootbeer, a household word and necessity.  We are now putting out our Booklets – millions of them – an interesting bit of history telling ‘How the Cow became Sacred in India,’ aptly illustrated by Brill, the well-known artist…Send for some to hand to your customers.”

Unfortunately, time and the elements have taken their toll on the back of the illustrated flyer.  The upper portion of the page depicts a Graphophone blasting this message into a “live, vigorous merchant’s” ear: “HELLO!  HIRES WANTS TO TALK WITH THE BUYER About the BANNER Business Boom Of  ’99…Prosperity shines full on farm and factory.  The workman gaily swings his dinner pail as full time and good pay remind him of a happy home and plenty to feed it…In the merchant’s cheery smile we read increasing sales and a growing cash account – The BOOM did it!

(Figure 1899-01, Spring ’99 flyer, upper portion of back)

The remaining advertising copy on the back reads:

The same Hires and the same Rootbeer in delightful thirst-quenching healthfulness that you have known a quarter of a century, founded on wholesome purity, established by pushing publicity.  Millions drink it – millions more will drink it, and therein lies OUR MUTUAL BOOM!  We start the boom – you boom the start – you and the 337,713 other live merchants with whom we are making this special drive.

Here is what we are doing:

“Merry Rhymes for Thirsty Times.” That’s the name of our new booklet – lithographed and handsomely illustrated, a fun-maker about a thirst-taker – it will catch the old and young – be spoken and sung.  There are several millions of them, one must go in every home – we’ll put it there.

Our Salesmen.  A small army of them will be out with their drums – your jobber too will push, and we’ll all push together – it’s business for all, and it’s that BOOM OFFER of ours which introduces HIRES Condensed Milk to every enterprising merchant handling HIRES ROOTBEER.

The Condensed Milk is FREE - it’s a grand Cash opportunity.  How?


Boom Offer No. 1. One Gross Hires Rootbeer Extract and Two Dozen Cans Hires Condensed Milk.  To be shipped, billed and paid for in the usual way that you buy your goods. Mail the wholesaler’s bill to us, being sure he has specified that Hires Rootbeer and Hires Condensed Milk were shipped.  We will promptly return it with our check payable to you for $2.25, the price charged for the Milk, which retails at 12 cents a can.  It costs you NOTHING – it BRINGS you $2.88 to add to your returns on the ROOTBEER.   

Boom Offer No. 2. One-Half Gross Hires Rootbeer Extract and One Dozen Cans Hires Condensed Milk.  To be shipped, billed, etc., as in Boom Offer No. 1, sending us the wholesaler’s bill and we will return it with our check for $1.13, the wholesaler’s charge for the Milk, which at 12 cents per can nets you $1.44 over your profit on the ROOTBEER.

Boom Offer No. 3. One-Quarter Gross Hires Rootbeer Extract and One-Half Dozen Cans Hires Condensed Milk.  To be shipped, billed, etc., as in Boom Offer No. 1, sending the wholesaler’s bill to us, which will be promptly returned with our check for 57 cents, which is the amount you paid for the Milk.  Sell it at 12 cents per can and you have 72 cents besides the ROOTBEER profit

The above Boom Offers apply to all points east of and on the Mississippi river.  West of the Mississippi river for Boom Offer No. 1, we will send you our check for $2.50, Boom Offer No. 2, $1.25, Boom Offer No. 3, 63¢, which are the jobber’s prices for that territory.

These offers positively close June 1, 1899, and will be filled but once to any firm and for not more than one gross.

A Pointer – You already have calls for Condensed Milk – you will have more when you get HIRES – why not order a whole case, 4 dozen, instead of the lesser quantity, to come forward with the Rootbeer?  We pay for part of it under our Boom Offer.  It’s a quick seller – we are selling it – See how, on the other side.  It means a handsome profit.

Hires continued to battle “poor imitator” brands by emphasizing customers preferred “genuine, original, honest and advertised Hires’ Rootbeer.”  The stereotypical illustration included in this Hires advertisement was likely considered quite humorous when placed in a grocery trade journal published in New Haven, Connecticut.

(Figure 1899-02, The Commercial Trader, May 20, 1899)

The difference in wholesale pricing for Hires Root Beer Extract versus the competition is evident in these listings from the same May 20, 1899 issue of The Commercial Trader:

Hires Root Beer Extract: $1.60 per dozen; $19.00 per gross (one dozen Hires Condensed Milk free with each gross, ½ dozen Hires Condensed Milk free with each ½ dozen)

None Such Root Beer: $ .90 per dozen; $10.00 per gross

Williams’ Root Beer Extract: $1.50 per dozen less than one gross; $17.50 per gross

Nutmeg Root Beer: $7.00 per gross

(Figure 1899-03, Truth magazine, June 1899)

(Figure 1899-04, full page advertisement, Collier’s Weekly, June 24, 1899)

During July, 1899 this young girl holding a paper labeled, crown capped bottle of Hires Improved Rootbeer was pictured in advertisements placed in Collier’s Weekly, Woman’s Home Companion, and other national magazines.  Here are two examples: 

(Figure 1899-05, national magazines, July, 1899)

The same young girl was also featured on an embossed, full color, cardboard sign. 

(Figure 1899-06, embossed cardboard sign, 14.0” x 14.0”)

(Figure 1899-06.5, magazine advertisement, 2.25” x 4.0”)

(Figure 1899-06.8, magazine advertisement, 2.25” x 4.0”)

This Hires advertisement ran in summer of 1899.  The “awheel” reference relates to the rapidly increasing national popularity of bicycling.

(Figure 1899-07, magazine advertisement)

The September 20, 1899 issue of the American Grocer trade journal announced that 4,000 cases of Hires Root Beer and Hires Ginger Ale had been sold to the military camps at Jacksonville and Fernandina, Florida. 

Hires’ 1899 marketing initiatives included the publication of Hail to the King, a 38 page booklet promoting Hires Condensed Milk.  New parents were the target market for this campaign, as the booklet details baby bathing, nursery design, digestion, exercise, food, feeding, food preparation, and baby records such as height, weight, first teeth, walking, christening, first words, etc.  The discussion on food covers fresh versus condensed milk, with considerable detail concerning Hires’ pasturing, cleanliness, scientific testing, sugar, dehydration and condensation, sterilization, and packaging.  Twelve customer testimonials received between March 6 and July 21, 1899 were included.  Here are the 7.0" x 5.5" booklet’s front cover, sample pages, and back cover:

(Figure 1899-08, Hail to the King front cover, sample pages, back cover)

The image of a happy baby pictured on the cover of Hail to the King was reused for this small Hires Condensed Milk advertisement printed on heavy cardboard stock.

(Figure 1899-09, cardboard advertisement)

This Hires Condensed Milk can-shaped cardboard sign is marked “COPYRIGHT, 1899, BY CHAS. E. HIRES CO. REG. PATENT OFFICE” at the bottom front of the paper label.

(Figure 1899-10, cardboard sign)

This is the “handsome ten-colored lithograph hanger” mentioned in Hires’ Spring ’99 Wholesale Price List to the Retail Trade.  The “Dairy Scene” features a milk maid with a pail, three Jersey cows and a calf in a field of clover, and a Hires Condensed Milk can.  This very rare example has sustained considerable damage:

(Figure 1899-11, paper sign, 12.0” x 17.0”, Hires Family Archives)

This paper Hires Condensed Milk sign is also very rare:

(Figure 1899-12, paper sign, Hires Family Archives)

This small recipe booklet depicts a can of Hires’ “Gold – Sterilized, Unsweetened, Evaporated – Milk – Full Cream.” 

 (Figure 1899-13, Recipe Book Gold Milk booklet)

The Hires Rootbeer and Hires Condensed Milk Premium Catalog directions provide insight into the numerous challenges Hires’ mail room personnel faced when filling catalog orders received from customers.  One can easily sense the frustration they felt when dealing with problem orders.

(Figure 1899-14, Hires Rootbeer and Hires Condensed Milk Premium Catalog directions, courtesy of Mike Godown)

Existing and potential Hires evaporated and condensed milk retailers received this promotional postcard picturing Hires’ Condensed Milk factories in (clockwise from the top, center): Malvern, Pennsylvania; Lake Odessa, Michigan; Enosburg Falls, Vermont; and Ubly, Michigan.

(Figure 1899-15, postcard, front, 3.5” x 5.5”)

(Figure 1899-16, ink blotter, 8.75��� x 3.75”)

Hires copyrighted The Merchant’s Account Book in 1899.  The back cover of this pocket-sized booklet features the earliest known image of the Hires Boy driving an automobile while telling readers “Say!  You ‘AU-TO’ Drink Hires Rootbeer.” 

(Figure 1899-17, The Merchant’s Account Book, front cover, sample pages, back cover, courtesy of Mike Godown)