Hires To You headerThe Illustrated History of Hires Root Beer



Unemployment dropped to 6.6%, producer prices fell 2.5%, vehicle sales hit a record 16 million (28.2% were imports), and the foreign trade deficit rose to $170 billion. 

Over 60,000 U.S. farms were sold or foreclosed as an economic depression continued in the rural West and Midwest.  Heat and drought damaged crops and livestock causing a $2 billion loss.

The space shuttle Challenger exploded after liftoff killing all seven astronauts aboard. 

Cyanide poisoning killed two people who had taken Extra-Strength Excedrin containing the poison.  The next day Bristol-Meyers withdrew all of its non-prescription capsule drugs from sale.

A Soviet nuclear reactor in Chernobyl exploded dispersing radioactive fallout over Europe.

Nintendo video games debuted in the U.S.

1,380 U.S. soft drink bottling plants were in operation.

Procter & Gamble decided to celebrate 1986 as Hires’ 110th year in business, and made the anniversary Hires’ marketing theme for the year.  Copywriters at Manning, Selvage & Lee, Inc., a New York City advertising agency, prepared a folder of materials for distribution to bottlers. 

(Figure 1986-01, 110th anniversary folder, front cover)

The 110th anniversary folder included a press release-style, notice:


Charles E. Hires, the father of the nation’s oldest soft drink, Hires Root Beer, was also a pioneer of advertising, having been the first person to run a full-page ad in a U.S. newspaper in 1889.  The following is a collection of vintage Hires ads which have featured the familiar “Hires Boy” and entertainer Bob Hope.

The referenced “collection of vintage Hires ads” included black-and-white reprints from 1919, 1920, 1932, 1937, and 1961.

Procter & Gamble also distributed several 110th anniversary announcements, including this “fact sheet” with numerous errors that clearly demonstrate the copywriters didn’t devote much/any time to gathering “facts,” instead repeating numerous historical dating errors and myths.

(Figure 1986-02, 110th anniversary fact sheet)

Procter & Gamble also promoted a 110th “Anniversary Edition” of the replica Hires Boy stein.  The graphics are similar to the 1974 replica stein, with “1876 – 1986” lettering added along the front base.  The back is blank.  The base marking is a design error; Crush International Inc. sold Hires’ United States operations in 1980 and Hires’ Canadian operations in 1984.   

(Figure 1986-03, replica Hires Boy stein shipping box)

(Figure 1986-03, replica Hires Boy stein front)

(Figure 1986-03, replica Hires Boy stein base)

Hires’ 110th anniversary celebration also included production of the illustrated metal and poured acrylic lapel pin.  Logo-shaped lapel pins marked GENUINE Hires ROOT BEER, and SUGAR FREE Hires ROOT BEER, and a mug-shaped lapel pin marked AMERICA’S 1ST ROOT BEER with an 1876 - 1986 logo were also produced.

(Figure 1986-04, metal and poured acrylic lapel pin)

The Wisconsin Clock Company produced fantasy battery-operated, wooden, wall clocks featuring a Hires Boy image in conjunction with Procter & Gamble's 1986 marketing campaign.  Wisconsin Clock Company operated in Clintonville, Wisconsin 1973-1988. 

(Figure 1986-05, wooden, battery-operated wall clock, 20.0" x 13.0")