Hires To You headerThe Illustrated History of Hires Root Beer



The national economy was gradually recovering, but agriculture remained depressed.

The New York State legislature repealed the state’s Prohibition enforcement law, one of the first steps toward the eventual national abolition of Prohibition.

President Harding died of a heart attack and Calvin Coolidge was sworn in the next day.

Newspapers exposed the Ku Klux Klan.  The Klan claimed to have one million members.

More vehicles were manufactured during 1923 than were produced between 1901 and 1915.  Over 15 million automobiles were registered in the United States.  New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland had more autos than the rest of the world combined.  Annual styling changes became the norm and one in four U.S. families bought or sold a vehicle yearly.

An earthquake devastated Tokyo, Japan killing 132,807 people, destroying 500,000 houses, and leaving a million people homeless.

A major fire in Berkeley, California destroyed 640 structures, including 584 houses in neighborhoods near the University of California campus.

A new air speed record of 243.76 mph was set at the National Air Races.

The U.S. Open golf tournament was won by amateur Robert T. “Bobby” Jones.

The Charleston was a huge craze with dance marathons taking place across the country.

The state of North Dakota outlawed dancing on Sundays.

Zenith Radio was founded. 

Time magazine was launched.

Newly introduced products and inventions included ethyl gasoline, three-position traffic lights, balloon tires, electric shavers, Maidenform brassieres, tetanus vaccine, diaphragm contraceptives, and Butterfinger and Milky Way candy bars.

Coca-Cola introduced corrugated cardboard six bottle cartons for take home use.

6,818 U.S. soft drink bottling plants were in operation.  Per capita consumption was 41.1 bottles.

Hires distributed From Rum Running to Soft Drinks, a 12 page booklet publicizing the company-owned sugar mill property in Cuba.  

(Figure 1923-01, From Rum Running to Soft Drinks, 12 page booklet)

From Rum Running to Soft Drinks includes an unsupported claim that Hires "has continued in favor over 50 years, the oldest of all nationally known soft drinks.” 50 years earlier was 1872, so the copywriter was stretching the facts considerably.  Likewise, Hires was certainly one of the earliest nationally known soft drinks, but not necessarily the oldest.  Of particular interest, however, is the booklet's very specific declaration that 11,520 glasses of Hires Root Beer were sold in 1877.  This claim pre-dates all other  annual sales figures previously published by Hires lending additional support to dating Hires Root Beer's introduction to the public to 1877, not 1876 as is widely claimed.

This article appeared in the February 17, 1923 issue of Chicago Commerce:

Seek Out The Romance In Your Job, Is Message To Advertising Council

"There is romance in every man’s job,” according to W. Russell Green, advertising manager of Hires Root Beer company, who addressed the Advertising Council at its recent Thursday luncheon meeting.  Mr. Green, a member of the Poor Richard Club of Philadelphia, told members of the council of his search for “romance” in his work and drove home the point that every man should look for his element in his job.

As an illustration of the romance in business he told the story of Hire’s Root Beer, how the ingredients for this drink are gathered from all over the world and how romance enters into the securing of these products in foreign lands.  Following his address he showed several reels of motion pictures made by the company, which revealed the manner in which sugar, ginger, sarsaparilla and other ingredients are gathered in South America.

Mr. Green’s talk was in part as follows…

“I have drawn all business into what I call the triangle of business.  At the base I would put the word ’product.’  It seems to me there has never been any real, genuine success without a good, genuine product.

“On the other side of the triangle I would put the word ‘personnel’…the right kind of personnel is absolutely fundamental in a successful business.

“On the third side of the triangle, completing it, I would write a word which went out of our business vocabulary during the war, because that was the period of taking orders, you know.  It was just coming in before the war.  It went out during the war and is coming back.  I believe that more and more as competition increases and as there are more products to supply human wants this word must be more and more emphasized in business, and that is the word ‘service’…

“Two or three years ago we sent a camera man on a long trip.  He was gone ten months and traveled 25,000 miles.  He took pictures of some of the ingredients in our product, Hires Root Beer.  We wanted to prove to the American public what we had been telling them for half a century, that ours was genuine, not made from synthetic oils or coal-tar products, but made from real genuine ingredients.  So we wanted to get some pictures of those ingredients in their native climes and incidentally we realized as we began to see those pictures the amount of romance there was back of such an ordinary thing as a five-cent glass of Hires Root Beer, and I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen, if there is romance back of a product like ours there is romance back of your job, I care not what it is.

Heavy promotion of Hires Household Extract included distribution of this die-cut, cardboard, Hires Household Extract-shaped card.

(Figure 1923-02, Hires Household Extract package-shaped card, 2.125” x 1.0”)

(Figure 1923-03, cardboard hanger)

The following three advertisements appear to be different, yet they are identical in content and illustrate how Hires continually freshened material.  Note return of the Hires Boy’s image, and specifying the price for Hires Household Extract was 35¢ in Canada and $4.00 in foreign markets.

(Figure 1923-04, Saturday Evening Post, March 17, 1923)

(Figure 1923-05, Saturday Evening Post, March 24, 1923)

(Figure 1923-06, Saturday Evening Post, April 28, 1923)

The series of Hires Household Extract advertisements used in Saturday Evening Post magazines were reworked and turned into this advertisement specifically promoting Hires Ginger Ale.

(Figure 1923-07, Hires Household Extract advertisement, 4.5” x 6.0”)

Hires also enlisted boys and girls for product launches in selected cities.  A premium catalog folder was a key element of the marketing plan.  A premium catalog was designed to entice youngsters into selling bottles of Hires Household Extract for Ginger Ale to “friends and neighbors” in order to earn the pictured prizes.  Illustrated here are the front and back pages of the folder, plus the premium information (split into three overlapping images in order to show the full detail).  Also note the claim “The Charles E. Hires Company who have been in business in Philadelphia for fifty-four years,” dating the company’s founding as 1869.

(Figure 1923-08, premium catalog front page, 8.5” x 11.0”)

(Figure 1923-08, premium information pages, 8.5” x 22.0”)

(Figure 1923-08, premium catalog back page, 8.5” x 11.0”)

The June 20, 1923 issue of Hires Bottling News is an example of one way the company communicated directly with the bottlers.  Volume II, Number 8 included guidance on product quality, lubrication for delivery and sales vehicles, newspaper advertising, sales tips, and insight into company standards for hiring salesmen.

 (Figure 1923-09, Hires Bottling News, Volume II, Number 8, June 20, 1923)

The lead article in the June 20, 1923 issue of Hires Bottling News reminded bottlers to pay special attention to carefully following prescribed mixing formulas for Hires products.  Similar instructions were provided via paper labels such as these examples that were routinely attached to shipments of containers of Hires Root Beer Solution, Hires Ginger Ale Solution, and Hires Root Beer Concentrated Syrup. 




(Figure 1923-10, paper labels, 7.0” diameter)


(Figure 1923-11, Saturday Evening Post, July 28, 1923)


(Figure 1923-12, Saturday Evening Post, August 4, 1923)

The back of this tri-fold Hires Household Extract brochure included directions for making root beer and ginger ale in English, French, Hebrew, Italian, Polish, Hungarian, and German, similar to extract carton inserts. 

(Figure 1923-13, tri-fold Hires Household Extract brochure)

The Hires Book of Mother Goose Rhymes booklet was another promotional produced for distribution to children.  In addition to several illustrated pages of Mother Goose nursery rhymes, the advertising images and copy duplicate those found in the tri-fold Hires Household Extract brochure. 

(Figure 1923-14. The Hires Book of Mother Goose Rhymes, 3.25” x 4.5”)

(Figure 1923-15, embossed tin tacker, 10.0” x 14.0”, courtesy of Mike Godown)

(Figure 1923-16, cardboard fan, front, 14.0” x 8.5”)

(Figure 1923-16, cardboard fan, back, 14.0” x 8.5”)

Shaking the Hires Roll Bingo game caused five small steel balls to roll and land in the depressed dots.  Score five in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally across the corners and “BINGO wins FREE 5¢ mug.”  The tin case has a glass or plexiglass surface.

(Figure 1923-17, Hires Roll Bingo game)

This topper fit over a crown top Hires bottle creating an attractive counter or window display.

(Figure 1923-18, cardboard topper, courtesy of Mike Godown)

In 1923 Hires advertised “there are over 850 licensed bottlers thruout the United States – warehouses and offices in most of the principal cities – the Company’s products being on sale in over 250,000 dealers’ stores.”