Hires To You headerThe Illustrated History of Hires Root Beer



U.S. farm production set a record in spite of widespread drought and crop restrictions.  The Agriculture Act included a “soil bank” plan to reduce surpluses.

The U.S. Federal Highway Act authorized a 42,500 mile network linking all major urban centers.  90% of the $25 billion cost was to be funded by the federal government, with completion estimated by 1968.  The system wasn’t completed until 1993.

Southern states defied the Supreme Court ruling against public school segregation and blacks boycotted the Montgomery, Alabama bus system.

Social Security benefits were expanded to include disability insurance.

United and TWA airliners crashed into the Grand Canyon during a thunderstorm killing 128 people in the worst U.S. commercial air disaster to date.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was re-elected President of the United States in a landslide. 

The U.S. motto “In God We Trust” was authorized.

Youthful rebellion was fueled by political, social, and technological changes, evidence the meteoric rise of Elvis Presley whose three appearances on Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town television show were watched by 82.6% of the total television audience.

Johnny Cash recorded “Folsom Prison Blues” and “I Walk The Line” at Sun Studios in Memphis.

The first “Dear Abby” newspaper column was published in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The “Huntley-Brinkley Report” with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley premiered as NBC’s evening television newscast.

Don Larsen of the New York Yankees pitched the only perfect game in World Series history.

Newly introduced products and inventions included Scotchgard, television remote controls, Play-Doh, and Yahtzee games.

Forty brands of soft drinks were being canned, with overseas shipments by Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Canada Dry, Nehi, and Hires.

5,218 U.S. soft drink bottling plants were in operation.  Per capita consumption was 188.9 bottles.

Hires to You!, Volume 10, Number 1, the February, 1956 issue, pictured two female bowlers, both of whom were enjoying Hires Root Beer from vending machine cups.

(Figure 1956-01, Hires to You! Volume 10, Number 1, February, 1956, front cover)

The inside front cover presents a cost-per-fountain-drink comparison between Hires and an “other brand” at a charge of 5¢ per drink.  A footnote suggests “If you charge 10¢ per drink your Gross Profit per Gallon increases accordingly.”  Interestingly, there were no added comments about potential customer dissatisfaction with a 100% increase in the cost of a drink, a concern that certainly wasn’t ignored by dealers.

(Figure 1956-01, Hires to You! Volume 10, Number 1, February, 1956, inside front cover)

This issue’s lead article touted Hires Finished Fountain Syrup’s 1955 sales success.

(Figure 1956-01, Hires to You! Volume 10, Number 1, February, 1956, page 3)

(Figure 1956-01, Hires to You! Volume 10, Number 1, February, 1956, page 4)

This Hires To You! Volume 10, Number 1, February, 1956 article explained a “new philosophy…revealed to the entire Hires bottler organization at regional meetings…during January and February:” 

Tremendous Sales Potential: THE TEEN-AGE MARKET

By George F. Finnie, Director of Advertising & Merchandising

In any approach to advertising and merchandising, the market to be reached must be carefully defined.  But when an 80-year old firm with a reputation built on product acceptance by the adult population, reverses itself, and clearly defines the Teen-age Market as its sole objective – that real news.

This new philosophy – together with a revitalized, progressive attitude toward advertising and merchandising – was revealed to the entire Hires bottler organization at regional meetings held in various parts of the country during January and February.

A pleasantly surprised and highly enthusiastic bottler organization learned some of the more important factors which helped to influence us to pin-point our advertising and merchandising to the teen-age group in 1956.

280 Gallons of "Pop"

The tremendous potential of the youth market was graphically revealed to the bottlers by an illustration showing the estimated quantities of certain food products consumed by the typical teen-ager from birth to the age of 17.  Included in this list were such items as 3,500 hot dogs, 4,000 quarts of milk, 3,500 ice cream cones, 2,000 pounds of meat, 4,000 bowls of cereal, 5,000 bars of candy, (and) 4,500 bottles of soda pop.

Faced with potential figures such as this, is it any wonder than Hires sales and advertising executives (and those of other food manufacturers) are sitting up nights learning jive talk?

Everyone who sells to the Teen-age Market has his own statistics on its scope and potential.  For example, someone has estimated that 60% of all soft drinks made are consumed by persons between the ages of 10 and 22.  Whether or not this estimate is correct is of minor importance.  We do know beyond a doubt that youth consumption represents the bulk of the soft drink sales.  Reliable sources estimate there are probably 25,000,000 boys and girls in the United States between the ages of 12 to 22.  Every year some 3,000,000 are added, while a similar number graduate into the adult consumer group.  The means over 11,000 new prospects for Hires come into the youth market every day.

Bigger Birth Rate Began It

These figures are undoubtedly bigger than they have ever been.  With population trends as they are, the youth market will certainly continue to get bigger for a number of years.  This shifting market is not difficult to understand when we take certain facts into consideration.  The bulk of the 25% growth in population in this country comes through the tremendous jump in the birth rate since World War II.  The bumper crop of war babies is now old enough to play an important part in the consumer market.  With births ever rising, a steady growth in the youth market is assured for years to come.

On this premise, and to be certain this approach could be justified, the company decided to embark on a market research project of the teen-ager and “young twenty” groups.  The company subsequently hired the Eugene Gilbert Company, a market research organization specializing in youth research.  More than $8,000 was spent for an exclusive and intensified study of the youth market in major American cities.

The Eugene Gilbert youth research organization performs the same functions as any reputable research organization, with one important distinction.  The company is designed to find answers only among the young people who comprise the youth market.  The roots of this distinction lie in the use of young people as field interviewers.

For the purpose of the Hires survey the Gilbert Company used high school and college students highly recommended by the faculty advisors and marketing instructors.  Questionnaires were carefully prepared to include such subjects as brand preferences, motivation, tastes, place of consumption and frequency.  The survey took over eight weeks to complete and resulted in volumes of data.  The results of the survey confirmed beyond a doubt the decision of Hires to concentrate its advertising and merchandising efforts in the youth market.

The results of the survey emphasized once again the need for returning to basic essentials: distribution, sampling, prominent display and consumer advertising.  The importance of adequate distribution was clearly brought out by the findings of the survey.  For example, there is no question when a young person does not find his favorite brand of soft drink in the store, he will usually accept a substitute.  Nine out of 10 young people will drink something different, according to the results of the survey.  Less than one out of 20 will go to another store.  This means that nearly every time a young person is thirst, if he wants a Hires – and it is not available – a sale may be lost forever.

One-third Uninitiated

Interviewers reported that three out of 10 of the soft-drink-consuming youth market in Hires territories have not yet tasted Hires.  With a potential this high the need for additional sampling is obvious.

In trying to evaluate advertising effectiveness it was found our slogan “HIRES TO YOU” fared very well in comparison to other national brand slogans.  An analysis of Hires advertising penetration as compared to other competitive soft drinks brought out some interesting facts.  Radio and magazines apparently dominate the mediums where advertising has been most effective for Hires.

The complete survey of Teen-age Market provided us with sufficient data to see how effective our present advertising has been, what percentage of the market we have saturated, where the greatest opportunities for growth originate, what the consuming person looks like, what media young people remember seeing our advertising in, as well as many other important items for future marketing strategy.

The previous Hires To You! article mentioned “bottler organization…regional meetings,” and this follow-up article explained the purpose and content of those sessions:


By Edward Stern, General Sales Manager, Franchise Division

Our second annual series of Regional Sales Meetings was an all-‘round success.  The ten meetings held in as many cities across the country were heavily attended by enthusiastic groups of Hires bottlers.

These regional get-togethers are one more example of the Company’s strong conviction that “all business is local.”  The grass-roots reaction is wanted and needed by the Home Office.  That is why we tried this give-and-take type of meeting last year as an experiment.  It worked so well the first time and it worked even better the second time…

Everybody Likes Previews

The moviemakers know the value of previews.  So does the Hires organization.  An enthusiastic reception greeted the new advertising and merchandising program and its colorful pieces wherever we unveiled them.  A considerable number of items was shown – point-of-purchase pieces, sales promotion and merchandising aids of all types, even the new color designs and national magazine advertisements. 

Orders were taken on the spot for promotional materials, with a promise of early delivery to the bottlers.

Subject matter ran the gamut from sales, advertising, and merchandising budgets and their operation through marketing procedures, production techniques, product control, all the way to route engineering.

As before, meetings were highlighted by periods of spirited discussion.  These unusually provocative sessions contributed much in suggestions, recommendations, exchange of ideas, airing of problems, and in clarification of many controversial questions.  Home Office personnel took back many sound ideas for development to meet changing conditions in bottlers’ territories.

New Revelations

A particularly lively discussion followed the informative presentation on the Premix at every meeting.  This system of mixing carbonation and syrup in advance of the filling operation has tremendous advantages of speed and uniformity.  The whole story was re-told at the meetings, with good reception.

The bottlers were also advised that additional personnel were being added to give more attention to work to be done in bottler territory.  This move answers a long-standing need for closer co-operation between the Company and bottler sales organization in developing markets and putting on promotions…

New Goals, New Efforts

Targets for many new bottlers for the year were set up.  A large increase in the 1956 advertising budget was announced.  As a result of better and more effective advertising being planned, goals calling for a 28% increase in case sales were announced.  A definite objective was established – The Teen-age Market.  All advertising has been designed to point to this target.  Greater continuity and integration will typify the new promotional efforts.

The response was deeply gratifying.  The effects of the second Regional Sales Meeting will continue to be felt throughout the coming year – a year that looks like the most promising yet for Hires and our bottlers.

This informative Hires to You! article was penned by Robert W. Murphey, a member of the Client Service Staff at N. W. Ayer & Son:


People in other lines of business often ask us, at N. W. Ayer & Son, “Just what does an advertising agency do?”

An easy answer to this question is, “The agency prepares and places advertising for its clients.”  However, in practice, it isn’t that simple – nor, as some believe, that glamorous.  The preparation of advertising is the end result rather than the beginning.

Formula for Success

First, an agency must have clients with strong and good management character, willing and able to promote and expand distribution of good products.

Next, the agency must develop, with its client’s cooperation, a specific objective – a plan of action.  The best brains of the Ayer agency and the combined resources of its principal departments are brought to bear on the preparation of an advertising plan designed for each client.  The services of many specialists – market analysts, copywriters, art directors, and experts in media – are needed, but their contributions must be welded and blended into a harmonious flow of ideas and results.  To a large extent The Plan is evolved rather than created and ultimately becomes, in most cases, a compromise between the views of the client and those of the agency.

Business Contemporaries

In Hires, Ayer finds a client with fine management character, an excellent product, a long record of accomplishment and ambition to grow continually….Hires and Ayer have been building business character, strength and influence for approximately the same number of years – since 1876 – from headquarters in the same city, Philadelphia.  Hires is the oldest soft drink manufacturer with a record of continuous national advertising.  Ayer is the oldest (and one of the largest) advertising agencies.  Both pioneered ideas, developed good management character and have grown strong and respected as a result.

Hires is a “growth company,” as are all other Ayer clients.  We can’t work with any other kind because any company content to hold its own ignores its problems and therefore cannot solve them.  More importantly, growth companies help spark ideas which kindle new approaches to all sales and distribution problems.

Helping One Helps All

Helping clients solve such problems is Ayer’s business.  This approach to agency service started in 1899 when Ayer took on the advertising program of the newly formed National Biscuit Company.  In those days crackers were sold in bulk, out of open barrels on the grocer’s floor.  We designed an air-tight package, a distinctive brand name and a trademark as well as a coordinated plan for reaching the public through every available advertising channel.  This successful campaign pioneered in the packaging and selling field of staples.  Ideas, techniques and experiences gained in that campaign were useful in helping other clients of the time just as the combined experiences of individual clients of today help all other Ayer clients.

Every year members of Ayer’s large staff make thousands of calls on the trade in every section where their clients sell.  They call on distributors and retailers, ride with route-salesmen, (and) question consumers.  In no other way can we get the feel of the market, dig up facts and mistaken notions alike.  With this primary experience, we can accurately prepare and interpret larger sample surveys.

Two Ayer clients provide us with working laboratories in fields vitally important to Hires.  These are Penn Fruit Company (a chain of supermarkets which does the largest volume of business per store in the business – more than $3 million per unit), and Peoples Drug Stores (a local chain which is nationally recognized as the sales leader in the field).

Networks of cooperation such as this benefit all Ayer clients.

This is the organization behind the preparation of advertising which produces profitable results.  From this we get The Plan for individual clients like Hires.  Now we are in a safe position to prepare the advertising and schedule it in newspapers, magazines, radio, television and other media.  The Plan guides the copywriters, artists, radio-TV producers, and other specialists in interpreting the ideas.  The Plan keeps things moving toward a common target – sales.

Hires and Ayer have cooperated for a large portion of their business lives.  We believe that Hires will not only maintain its present top leadership in the Root Beer field but that Hires Root Beer is coming into its greatest period of growth. 

If anyone should ask, “Where is Hires headed?” the answer is, “Forward!”

The happy customers pictured in this advertisement include seven young people and a Dalmation!

(Figure 1956-02, Look, April 3, 1956)

Once again, the emphasis was on target marketing to active, younger customers.

(Figure 1956-03, Saturday Evening Post)

Hires repeated as a winner of Motion Picture Herald magazine's ”Theatre Sales Champion” award in 1956.

(Figure 1956-04, Motion Picture Herald magazine)

Here’s yet another reminder to bottlers that Hires was targeting younger customers.  Also note the announced change to “Clean, refreshing blue stripes (that) give a youthful feeling to Hires’ complete new line of catchy point-of-sale material.” 

(Figure 1956-05, The American Soft Drink Journal, May, 1956)

Another group of active, younger customers were pictured for this advertisement.

(Figure 1956-06, Saturday Evening Post, May 5, 1956, and Life, June 4, 1956)

The June, 1956 dedication of Hires’ new bottling plant in Houston, Texas was featured in a full page article placed in the July, 1956 issue of The American Soft Drink Journal:

Several thousand Texans came to inspect the modern bottling procedures and enjoy the open house festivities which officially dedicated the new Houston Hires plant in ceremonies on June 11.

Complete with personally-escorted tours of the new plant and Hires and hot dogs, this parent-owned operation was launched in true Texas fashion.

During the week prior to the actual opening, plant personnel distributed cartons of Hires to hundreds of homes in the area, inviting consumers to attend the open house.  Neighboring bottlers, Houston civic leaders, parent company officials and dealers on hand for the event added to the success of the occasion.

Among the parent representatives who attended the opening were C. Edgar Hires, vice president, Edward Stern, franchise manager, and John A. Bauer, plants manager.

Located at 2501 West Eleventh Street, the new plant is situated on an acre and a half plot and is modern throughout.  In addition to bottling and distributing Hires in the greater Houston market, the firm will manufacture Hires finished fountain syrup for the entire Southwest.

LaVerne A. Ashley, until recently manager of the Hires Branchville, Md., operation, is manager of the Houston plant.  To assure maximum distribution – and consumption – Mr. Ashley is conducting a well-founded and consistent merchandising saturation program in the Houston market area.

Quality production is insured with late-model bottling machinery.  The plant is equipped with a Meyer 12-wide washer, Cem 40-spout filler and Western Filter water treating system.  Palletized at delivery and production ends, Houston Hires maintains a fleet of 16 Chevrolet and GMC trucks to service its outlets.

The company bottles eight-ounce and 26-ounce goods.  Wholesale level for eight-ounce merchandise is 80 cents, while 26-ounce Hires is set at a $1.20 level.

On the Saturday preceding the opening, Hires held open house for all plant employees and their families.  The day’s events included a barbecue, family-get-togethers, games and prizes for the children.

And for the balance of the week following the opening, Hires driver-salesmen were hosts to their customers at the new plant.  Specific days were allotted each routeman, who formally invited his dealers by printed invitation.  He took his customers on a tour of the facilities and then served them snacks and Hires.

The June 19, 1956 The Galveston News profiled Hires in their “Galveston Weekly Business Review” section.  A large photograph pictured John T. Allen, president and owner of the local Nu Grape Bottling Company and a Hires Root Beer distributor, Louis L. Rickelman, secretary and sales manager of the firm, and Edward Stern from Hires’ franchise division, posing with a Hires sign. Headlined “Refreshing, Tasty Hires Root Beer Is Big Favorite,” the article included highlights of Hires’ history and advertising copy some of which was lifted from a Hires/Ayers press release:

People all over the United States have enjoyed Hires Root Beer for 80 years.  It is the oldest nationally known soft drink…the world’s largest selling soft drink of its kind…

This refreshing, zestful soft drink is distributed in Galveston by the Nu Grape Bottling Co., 2409 Post-office…

The company was the first soft drink concern to purchase full-page advertising in daily newspapers.  Hires was a success, the earliest, most important pioneer in the beverage industry.  They helped pave the way for other soft drinks.

Within a few years Hires made its appearance in the growing Texas market.  It was advertised in Dallas as early as 1886…

The great public confidence in Hires has been earned by an unswerving policy of “Nothing Shall Interfere with Hires Quality.”  Nothing has, so Hires now as then is the same pure natural delicious drink!  That’s why thousands of Galvestonians daily say “Hires Root Beer, please” when they seek refreshment from fountains, in bottles, and from vending machines…

Whenever you feel the need for a quick, refreshing “lift” on these hot summer days, just ask for a Hires.  You’ll discover why it is the favorite of millions of Americans.  It is truly delicious and refreshing.  Today, more than ever, Hires is one of the nation’s top beverages, the finest of its kind.  For real soft drink enjoyment, “Hires to you.”

This small advertisement was placed on the same page.  The reference to “cartons of six 10-oz. bottles” is an error; the smaller Hires bottles would have been either 8 or 12 ounce.

(Figure 1956-07, The Galveston News, June 19, 1956)

(Figure 1956-08, The American Soft Drink Journal, July, 1956)

This wooden case held twenty-four 12 ounce bottles of Hires Root Beer.

(Figure 1956-09, wooden case, 18.0” long, 10.5” wide, 11.5” deep)

This program was produced for a high school football game between St. Cloud Cathedral and Marshall Central.  The teams met September 21, 1956 at Clark Field in St. Cloud, Minnesota.  The program measures approximately 8.0" x 11.0" unopened.  In addition to the Hires bottle and pennant pictured on the centerfold, note the "Time for HIRES" lines incorporated into the referee signal explanations at the bottom of the centerfold pages.  

(Figure 1956-09.5, front and back covers)

(Figure 1956-09.5, centerfold pages)

This Philadelphia Daily News article was authored by David Benjamin Bittan, the newspaper’s Business Editor:

Hires Co. Seeks New Fields to Conquer

For 80 years, Philadelphia’s Charles E. Hires Co. has been known far and wide for its root beer.  The firm’s founder invented the drink.  It leads its nearest competitor in sales in the U.S. by a 12-to-1 margin, says Peter W. Hires, president.

But Hires isn’t resting on its laurels.  It soon will market its own formula ginger ale.  If that sells well, Hires-made grape and orange drinks will go on the shelves of the nation’s stores.

The ginger ale won’t carry the Hires label.  In the Philadelphia area, it will be called Purock.  Hires produces distilled water through its subsidiary, Purock Water Co.

Peter Hires, only 33, is rounding out his second year as president.  The firm was founded in 1876 by Charles E. Hires Sr.  Peter’s father, Charles E. Hires Jr., is chairman of the board.  A cousin, Edgar Hires, is vice president.  An uncle, Harrison S. Hires, is on the board.

A drop in root beer sales each winter prompted the ginger ale experiment, says Peter Hires...During World War I, Hires produced powdered coffee for the Army.  In its early days, it made cough syrup and liniment.  Fruit-flavored soft drinks also were among the first Hires products.

“But our root beer has always been our mainstay,” says Peter Hires.  “It will continue to be our big product.”  Hires will do $10 million in sales this year.

The company-owned bottling and syrup plant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was closed in August, 1956.  The company-owned syrup plant in Lyons, Illinois was opened in September, 1956.  The company-owned bottling plants in Long Island City and Rochester, New York were closed in October, 1956.  The company-owned bottling plant in Burbank, California was closed in November, 1956.

Hires’ 1956 Annual Report for the fiscal year ending September 30, 1956 reported net sales of $9,469,561 and a $387,180 net profit.  Peter W. Hires' cover letter highlighted:

Disposal of the Electric Water Cooler Division in New York;

Franchising the Rochester and Long Island, New York, areas previously serviced from Company operated plants;

Installing a syrup plant in Lyons, Illinois;

Developing additional beverage products designed to implement sales in the cooler winter months.  They were to be sold under their own label and made available to Hires' licensed bottlers; and

Entering into franchise agreements for the bottling and distribution of other well known and reputable franchised products at the Kansas City, Missouri and Denver, Colorado plants.

Here is the entire 1956 Annual Report:

(Figure 1956-10, Hires' 1956 Annual Report, front cover)

(Figure 1956-10, Hires' 1956 Annual Report, page 1)

(Figure 1956-10, Hires' 1956 Annual Report, page 2)

(Figure 1956-10, Hires' 1956 Annual Report, page 3)

(Figure 1956-10, Hires' 1956 Annual Report, page 4)

(Figure 1956-10, Hires' 1956 Annual Report, page 5)

(Figure 1956-10, Hires' 1956 Annual Report, page 6)

(Figure 1956-10, Hires' 1956 Annual Report, page 7)

(Figure 1956-10, Hires' 1956 Annual Report, page 8)