Hires To You headerThe Illustrated History of Hires Root Beer



Fueled by wild speculation, stock prices hit record highs and slowly declined until October 29th, “Black Tuesday,” when huge blocks of stocks were dumped and the Great Depression began.

Six million homes were built during 1924-1929 as a response to a major housing shortage.

4.8 million new cars were produced during 1929.  A total of 26.5 million vehicles were registered. 

60% of U.S. citizens had annual incomes of less than $2,000, considered the bare minimum to supply a family with the basic necessities of life.

Installment buying dominated for purchases of large appliances, cars, and furnishings. 

Newly introduced products and inventions included sunglasses, tape recorders, car radios, and Ford’s station wagon.

C. L. Grigg introduced Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda (later renamed 7Up).

7,920 U.S. soft drink bottling plants were in operation.  Per capita consumption was 53.1 bottles.

Those responding to advertisements for free samples received a cardboard mailing tube containing a 3/5 fluid ounce bottle of Hires Household Extract, enough extract to make eight pint bottles.

(Figure 1929-01, mailing tube for sample Hires Extract)

(Figure 1929-02, sample Hires Ginger Beer Extract carton, front panel)

(Figure 1929-02, sample Hires Ginger Beer Extract carton, side panel)

Standard-sized Hires extract cartons were revised, labeled “Household Formula,” and copyrighted in 1929.  Here are a Hires Root Beer Extract carton's side and end panels. 

(Figure 1929-03, Hires Root Beer Household Extract carton, side and end panels)

This eye-catching sign pictures 40 pint bottles of Hires Root Beer, a Hires Root Beer Household Formula extract carton, a full glass of root beer, a crown cap, and a cake of Fleischman’s Yeast.

(Figure 1929-04, paper sign, 10.0” x 14.0”)

This advertisement offered a free, full-sized bottle of Hires Household Extract to those who added their name and address to the coupon and presented it to a storekeeper handling Hires products.  Hires reimbursed storekeepers for participating in this promotion that ended July 1, 1929.

(Figure 1929-05, newspaper advertisement, 23.0” x 18.0”)

Continuing their partnership with General Motors Corporation's Frigidaire Division, the Charles E. Hires Company's Iceless Cooler Service Division advertised "Finest Iceless Water Cooler Service costs you only $1.38 per week.  DON'T PAY MORE."  A full page magazine advertisement stated:

"If you expect to enjoy all the advantages of electrically cooled drinking water this summer, your wisest and safest course will be first, to employ an experienced water service company and second, to choose a proved, dependable sanitary cooling unit...When you select a Hires Iceless Cooler you do not have to depend on your own judgment as to the type of unit best suited to your needs.  An expert study of your drinking water requirements is made by the Water Service Department of the Charles E. Hires Company.  The cooler recommended will be correct in type, capacity and sanitation for your individual needs...After installation your Hires Cooler is regularly inspected and serviced by an authorized representative of this company...A $10.00 assembly and delivery charge is your only investment.  The cooler service costs but $1.38 per week."

During 1929 Hires introduced a new catch phrase: “For Thirst And Cheer.”

(Figure 1929-06, embossed tin sign 10.0” x 27.5”))

(Figure 1929-07, paper poster, 8.0” x 20.0”)

(Figure 1929-08, cardboard sign, 24.0” x 28.0”, courtesy of the Wong collection)

A Woolworth’s soda fountain prominently displayed a 45 gallon Hires Multiplex Keg at the end of the counter.  The sign on the front of the keg reads "Drink Hires Root Beer 5¢ For Thirst And Cheer."

(Figure 1929-09, Woolworth’s soda fountain)

The metal signage on the front of this wooden keg dispenser reads “Drink Hires Root Beer For Thirst And Cheer.”  This keg was produced without the “5¢” marking.

(Figure 1929-10, wooden keg dispenser)

For the fiscal year ending September 30, 1929, Hires reported sales of $4,083,726.  The company produced a $789,273 net profit, for a 19.33% profit margin.

Hires sent General Letter No. 88 to their wholesalers October 9, 1929, a three page bulletin detailing a special promotion concerning keg distribution and free drink coupons.  Note the pre-printed stationery footer declaring “PHILADELPHIA PRODUCES FOR THE WHOLE WORLD’S USES.”

(Figure 1929-11, General Letter No. 88, 3 pages, October 9, 1929)

Continuing to market directly to school children, Hires produced Normal Instructor and Primary Plans bulletins.  “Hires Health Lesson No. 3” was one of a series of “Valuable Teaching Aids.”  This issue featured a “Daily Drinking Chart” for tracking the daily consumption of Black Cow, milk, Root Beer, and water, a free map offer, a free samples coupon, and the announcement of a contest offering cash prizes to teachers and pupils.  This publication is large and presented as two over-lapping images in order to provide the full detail.

(Figure 1929-12, Normal Instructor and Primary Plans bulletin, November 1929)

Teachers participating in the 1929 Hires contest gave “A Message to Mother from the Teacher!” postcards to their students with instructions to take the cards home to their parents.  No doubt Hires anticipated being flooded with contest entries that would prove useful as testimonials for future advertising purposes.  Three ounce samples of Hires Household Extract were sent to those mothers who returned the postcards. 

(Figure 1929-13, contest postcard, front)

(Figure 1929-13, contest postcard, back)

In late 1929 the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages (ABCB), the national association of soft drink manufacturing and marketing companies, launched a major advertising campaign promoting the soft drink industry.  “Your Favorite Carbonated Beverage Is Best Bottled" was used initially, but soon replaced with "Bottled Carbonated Beverages – Good and Good For You,” a slogan frequently appearing in full page advertisements placed in national magazines.  Concerned that some people weren’t familiar with the term “carbonated beverages,” the ABCB produced and included this standardized description in their advertisements:

BOTTLED CARBONATED BEVERAGES – These taste tempting drinks are also known by less formal names – tonics in New England, soda water in Dixie, soda pop in the Mid West, soft drinks in the Far West, and we all know the ginger ales.  Call them what you will, but drink your fill – they’re good and good for you.

The ABCB’s concern about the “carbonated beverages” term lasted until 1966 when they changed their own organization’s name to “National Soft Drink Association.”

In addition to the extensive ABCB advertising campaign, Organization in the Soft Drink Industry – A History of the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages noted:

About this time the 6-bottle carton, as a convenient means of carrying bottled drinks from the grocery stores, was beginning to catch on.  The use of such cartons – termed ‘Hom-Paks’ at the time – was promoted as a feature of the national advertising effort.  In retrospect this contribution to the initial effort seems insignificant in comparison to the proportions assumed by use of carryout cartons in later years.  (It has been estimated that in 1928 approximately 2,000,000 six-bottle cartons were used by the carbonated beverage industry.  For the year 1941 the industry’s use of such cartons was estimated at 125,000,000.)  But it no doubt helped to make the start toward that increased home use of the industry’s products which is recognized as the principal reason for the unprecedented growth in soft drink consumption during fifteen years following.

J. Edgar Hires filed a patent application May 8, 1922, but it was December 31, 1929 before the United States Patent Office issued Patent No. 1,742,074 for his “Bottle-Handling Device.”  The patent was in turn assigned to the Salem Glass Works of Salem, New Jersey, most likely the primary glass manufacturer producing the bottles used for packaging Hires Household Extract.  The highly-detailed patent filing includes 16 illustrations and over six pages describing how the device functioned.  Here is an abbreviated description of the device’s functionality and one illustration:


This invention relates to bottle handling devices, particularly those used in a glass factory in connection with the manufacturing of bottles by machines.

One of the objects of this invention is to provide a device which will automatically do the work now done manually, in taking the bottles from the forming machine and bringing them to a leer.

Another object is to provide a bottling handling device which will pick up the bottles by the neck and carry them to another point where it deposits them upon a form of conveyor which carries them to the leer.

A further object is to provide, in a bottle handling device, a plurality of gripping means, adapted to pick up the bottles individually, particularly picking them up in succession, by the neck, without knocking them over from their standing position and depositing them in a standing position.

Another object is to provide in a bottle handling device, a conveyor, which shall carry the bottles overhead as they leave the bottle forming machine, so as to leave a clear passageway about the machine, affording greater freedom of movement to the operators.

Another object is to provide in a bottle handling device, a conveyor formed to permit the free passage of a hanging bottle gripping device through it, particularly with a bottle depending from the gripping device…

Figure 11 “is a diagrammatical side elevation of the receiving end of the device, showing the effect of the cams upon the course taken by the parts of one of the griping units, when picking up a bottle by the neck.”

(Figure 1929-14, J. Edgar Hires U.S. Patent No. 1,724,074, Figure 11)

Full details for this and several other J. Edgar Hires patents are available on-line.