Hires To You headerThe Illustrated History of Hires Root Beer



Many New Deal measures lost their impact due to economic and political disputes.

Unions successfully organized companies and industries that had not recognized them previously.  500,000 workers quit their jobs, many participating in illegal sit-down strikes.  A sit-down strike at General Motors ended when the company recognized the United Automobile Workers’ union.

The Marijuana Tax Act became law, leading to the criminalization of cannabis.

The German Hindenburg dirigible burned while landing in Lakehurst, New Jersey.  This tragic event was reported as the first coast-to-coast radio program.

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California was dedicated.

Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature-length animated film, premiered.

Howard Johnson’s opened their first franchised restaurants.

Newly introduced products and inventions included yellow fever vaccine, radio telescopes, shopping carts, automatic transmissions, Look magazine, and Hormel Spam.

Mills and Vendo automatic vending machines began to be used for bottled soft drinks.

Coca-Cola syrup sales reached 40 million gallons.

Root beer drinks were highly popular, with newly introduced brands including Twang, Howell’s, Dad’s Old Fashioned, and Triple XXX.

6,056 U.S. soft drink bottling plants were in operation.  Per capita consumption was 67.5 bottles.

In early 1937 Hires opened several company-owned facilities, including a bottling plant in Long Island City, New York in January, a bottling and syrup plant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and a bottling plant in Baltimore, Maryland in March, and a bottling and syrup plant in Somerville, Massachusetts in April.  Somerville is located directly northwest of Boston.

Hires’ 1937 marketing campaign focused on placing a multitude of full page advertisements in the leading U.S. magazines.  Early in the year a few magazine advertisements were placed that still promoted Hires Household Extract, but that approach ended abruptly by mid-year when the company’s sales focus totally switched to selling Hires R-J Root Beer in bottles.

Harold Anderson, a highly popular American illustrator, created the artwork for these two colorful advertisements.

(Figure 1937-01, Saturday Evening Post, May 22, 1937)

(Figure 1937-02, Saturday Evening Post, June 26, 1937)

Hires produced numerous full page, black-and-white advertisements with a similar format and theme during 1937.  The pictured 12 ounce bottle is the design patented by Hires in 1936.  Note the Hires R-J Root Beer paper label and foil wrap on the crown. 

(Figure 1937-03, magazine advertisement)

(Figure 1937-04, Life, July 12, 1937)

(Figure 1937-05, magazine advertisement)

Charles Elmer Hires suffered an apoplectic stroke and died at his home in Haverford, Pennsylvania on Saturday, July 31, 1937.  The Philadelphia Public Ledger published this obituary the next day:


Founder of Noted Beverage Company, Who Retired in 1926, Succumbs at 85

Charles E. Hires, root beer magnate and founder of the company which bears his name, died last night at his home on Buck Lane, Haverford.  He had been in declining health for some years and retired from active business in 1926.  He would have been 86 next month.

Mr. Hires was born in Roadstown, N.J. near Salem, in 1851.  He was the son of John D. and Mary Hires.  He came to this city when 16 as a pharmacist, having served an apprenticeship in New Jersey.  He worked in a small shop here and in later years purchased a business of his own.  He entered the brokerage business selling extracts and vanilla beans.

After diligent research, the young man hit upon the discovery that later developed into the perfected root beer.  The business grew by leaps and bounds until today the name is known the world over.

In 1910, Mr. Hires’ first wife, Clara K. Smith, died.  Two years later he married Emma Waln, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Waln, Jr.  She died in December, 1936.

Mr. Hires was chairman of the Board of Directors of Hires & Co.  He was a member of Merion Golf Club and the Penn Athletic Club.  He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science.

He leaves two daughters, Linda and Clara, and three sons, John Edgar, Harrison S., and Charles E. Jr.  Funeral services will be held on Tuesday at 2 P.M. at the Oliver H. Bair Bldg., 1820 Chestnut Street.  Int. private.  Friends may call Monday.

Charles Elmer Hires was buried in Westminster Cemetery, 701 Belmont Avenue, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.  Memberships and affiliations not noted in his obituary included the Society of Friends, Republican party, Manufacturers’ Club, Merion Cricket Club, Poor Richard Club, numerous yachting clubs, Merchant’s Bank of Philadelphia (director), Philadelphia Drug Exchange (director and former president), and the City Club.  He was posthumously elected to the Beverage World Soft Drink Hall of Fame, “Credited with establishing many of the techniques of modern soft drink advertising, through which he built Hires Root Beer into the nation’s leading brand at one time.” 

An August 13, 1937 Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger article indicated Charles E. Hires “left an estate of more than $300,000…His wife, Emma W. Hires, was bequeathed one-third of the estate, but she preceded him in death…The other third shares are placed in trust, the income to go to two daughters, Linda S. and Clara S.  A $25,000 trust fund, to yield a monthly income of $100, is created for a sister, Sallie H. Kirkley, Pitman, N.J…A secretary, Josephine Lucas, is given $2500…Personal holdings are valued at $200,000 ‘and upward;’ realty, $106,450.  Mr. Hires, who had been in declining health for some years, died at his home on Buck Lane, Haverford.”

(Figure 1937-06, Life, August 9. 1937)

(Figure 1937-07, Saturday Evening Post)

(Figure 1937-08, Saturday Evening Post)

This stereotyped train porter portrayal is totally inappropriate today, but atypical for 1937.

(Figure 1937-09, Life, September 6, 1937)

(Figure 1937-10, Saturday Evening Post)

(Figure 1937-11, Saturday Evening Post and Life)

This advertisement mentions “For 64 years, it’s been famous for its real root juice flavor,” incorrectly suggesting Hires Root Beer was founded in 1873.  Note a family size bottle is pictured, rather than a 12 ounce bottle. 

(Figure 1937-12, September 30, 1937)

(Figure 1937-13, Life)

These “Good Fellows” (apparently a grandfather and grandson) are sharing a Family Size bottle of Hires R-J Root Beer.

(Figure 1937-14, Life)

(Figure 1937-15, Life)

(Figure 1937-16, Life)

(Figure 1937-17, Life, October 18, 1937)

This advertisement was reprinted and included in a packet of marketing materials sent to Hires bottlers in 1986.

(Figure 1937-18, Life)

(Figure 1937-19, Saturday Evening Post)

(Figure 1937-20, Life)

(Figure 1937-21, Life)

(Figure 1937-22, Life)

(Figure 1937-23, Life, November 1, 1937)

(Figure 1937-24, metal bottle opener, 4.0” x 4.0”)

Cloth patches were sewn onto route men’s uniforms, jackets, and caps.  A 3.0” diameter version of this patch was also produced.

(Figure 1937-25, felt cloth back patch, 8.0” diameter)

A 12 ounce Hires Root Beer bottle was placed in this die-cut, cardboard, easel-backed, counter or window sign’s cutout to complete the display.

(Figure 1937-26, counter or window display sign, 10.75” x 10.25”)

(Figure 1937-27, die-cut, cardboard wall sign, courtesy of the Wong collection)

These three newspaper advertisements ran in 1937:

(Figure 1937-28, newspaper advertisement)

(Figure 1937-29, newspaper advertisement)

(Figure 1937-30, newspaper advertisement)

The Columbia Box Factory in St. Louis, Missouri manufactured this wooden city case for the Smith Beverage Company in Columbia, Missouri.  It measures 15.0" long, 11.0" wide, and 12.0" high and held a dozen quart bottles separated by cardboard dividers.  Note the end panels document the 1937 manufacturing date.

(Figure 1937-30.5, wooden city case)

These die-cut, cardboard signs have chrome-like lettering.  Both measure 7.25" x 9.0".

(Figure 1937-31, It Tastes So Good die-cut, cardboard sign)

(Figure 1937-31, Please Pay Cashier die-cut, cardboard sign)

H. D. Blossom at the Charles E. Hires Company’s Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania branch office sent the following cover letter and an attached Distributor’s Agreement to a newly appointed Hires franchisee November 13, 1937:

Hastings Bottling Works

Spangler Street

Hastings, Pennsylvania




      We welcome you as a distributor of Hires R-J Root Beer and enclosed for your permanent records is your copy of the Distributor’s Agreement.  Hires is sold to all retailers at 60¢ per case and to the home trade at $1.00 per case plus 60¢ deposit (2¢ for the 12 ounce, 4¢ for the 26 ounce bottle and 12¢ for each shell).


      Our Pittsburgh Plant has been in operation less than nine months and many of our distributors have sold in excess of 20,000 cases in this, our first season.


      The retail merchant will buy Hires Root Beer because his customer, the consumer, prefers Hires to other artificially flavored and colored beverages.  The consumer knows that Hires is made entirely from real root juices, is pure and wholesome.  Hires is bottled in a new and modern plant, every bottle sterilized, the water thoroughly filtered, the correct amount of syrup and the right percentage of carbonation in every bottle gives them the assurance of a uniform beverage that always satisfies.


      Most important is the advertising and sales promotion work we have carried on for the past 50 years, consistently using newspapers, billboards and point of purchase advertising such as store and window displays.  Our advertising appropriation for the coming year is far larger than ever before and you can be sure of a greater demand for the new 5¢ and 10¢ bottles of Hires Carbonated.  Your efforts to aggressively follow thru as a Hires distributor in selling more Hires and serving more dealers will be of great profit to you, as well as a definite benefit to your entire business.


      If we can be of any further service we will appreciate hearing from you.


                                                      Cordially yours,


                                          THE CHARLES E. HIRES COMPANY


Distributor’s Agreement

This Agreement made between THE CHARLES E. HIRES COMPANY, a Corporation of the State of Delaware, herein called the Company, and Hastings Bottling Works, Hastings, Pa., herein called the Distributor, Witnesseth:

1. The Company will sell and the Distributor will buy Hires R-J Root Beer Carbonated in bottles at a price of 60¢ per case and a deposit of 60¢ per case of bottles (48¢ for the bottles and 12¢ for the case) f.o.b. the Company’s plant at 220-28 Hooper St., Pittsburgh, Pa.  The terms of payment shall be cash on delivery of the merchandise.  The Distributor agrees to return empty bottles and cases to the Company and the Company agrees to refund the deposit with the understanding that only full cases of empty bottles and empty cases will be accepted by the Company.


2. The Distributor will faithfully distribute the advertising matter furnished by the Company and will use his best efforts to increase the sales of Hires R-J Root Beer throughout the territory covered by his delivery trucks and salesmen.  The Distributor will carry Hires R-J Root Beer on his trucks on all sales routes and will call on all customers at least once each week to deliver Hires R-J Root Beer and pick up empty bottles and cases.  The Distributor will endeavor to have both indoor and outdoor display advertising placed in the dealers’ stores to whom he sells Hires R-J Root Beer, and will also endeavor to have the dealer display the product prominently and see that it is kept on display continuously.


3. The Agreement shall become effective on execution thereof by both parties and shall continue in force until either party shall give the other written notice of his intention to end this Agreement at which time this Agreement shall end and all rights thereunder shall cease and determine. 


4. This Agreement contains the entire contract between the parties and is not binding on the Company unless accepted by it at its home office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and executed by the proper Officer or duly authorized representative.


DATED this 28th day of October A.D. 1937


WITNESS                               THE CHARLES E. HIRES COMPANY


Company’s Signature By C. J. McManus

Distributor��s Signature J. A. Bagley

November 15, 1937 - Hires leased their Los Angeles, California, Rochester, New York, and Minneapolis, Minnesota locations.

(Figure 1937-32, Life, November 22, 1937)

During the 1930s the playing of contract bridge, a highly popular partnership card game, boomed across the United States, inspiring Hires to market the “Hires R-J Root Beer Bridge Score – The ‘Hole-in-1’ Idea for Bridge.”  A folder sent to Hires bottlers and dealers explained the intent of the program and included a sample score pad.

(Figure 1937-33, Bridge Score folder)