Thursday, December 1, 2005
Wire Service Dispels Myth as to Naming of ‘Dr Pepper’
By ROGER M. GRACE
The publicized tale of how the cola-like non-cola “Dr Pepper” got started—like yarns of other major brands’ foundings—is based largely on myth.
This column has itself uncovered a few such myths, such as the whopper that the hot dog made its debut, teamed with French’s mustard, at the 1904 World’s Fair.
It was The Associated Press that in 1992 bared the phoniness of the account of how druggist Wade B. Morrison came to name his concoction after Dr. Charles Pepper, of Rural Retreat, Va.
There actually was a Dr. Pepper, and it appears that one Wade Morrison, often credited as the inventor of the drink, had worked for Pepper in his pharmacy somewhere around 1880. Upon that factual basis, the fiction is overlain.
The AP story recited that according to Dr. Pepper Co. brochures:
“[Pepper] had an attractive young daughter and it wasn’t long before a romance developed between Morrison and the girl. The doctor discouraged the affair and a dejected Morrison left Virginia.”
The beverage Morrison fashioned in his Waco, Texas “Old Corner Drug Store” from 23 flavors, sugar, and seltzer was named after the father of his inamorata, to win favor with him.
This lore, steeped in romance, is bogus, akin to the fable that Charles Hire derived his root beer recipe from that of an herb tea served at an inn where he and his bride honeymooned.
“[T]here’s a major flaw in the company history,” the AP story pointed out, reporting that Sigred Neff, unofficial historian of Rural Retreat, “found a reference to the Pepper family in Hardesty’s Historical and Geographical Encyclopedia.” The article related:
“It shows that Pepper’s daughter would have been in elementary school about the time Morrison worked at the drugstore.”
Indeed, a check of the 1880 census records shows that the daughter, Ruth, was then age 5. (Charles T. Pepper, whose occupation was “physician”, was 49.)
The Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute in Waco, which once embraced the boy-pines-for-girl account, says on its website:
“Morrison is credited with naming the drink ‘Dr Pepper’ (the period was dropped in the 1950s). Unfortunately, the origin for the name is unclear. The Museum has collected over a dozen different stories on how the drink became known as Dr Pepper.”
The Dr Pepper/Seven Up website has this account: “Patrons of Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store in Waco suggested naming the new fountain drink after the Virginia doctor.” Just what would impel patrons to suggest the naming of the drink after Morrison’s former employer is not explained.
By most accounts, it was pharmacist Charles C. Alderton, who worked for Morrison, not Morrison, who created the drink—though there are yet other theories. Some say it was actually Pepper who originated it, and that Morrison swiped the recipe. Others credit the doctor’s son Louis (though he was only 8 in 1880, according to the census).
The museum in Waco says it was Alderton. As it tells it on the website:
“Alderton spent most of his time mixing up medicine for the people of Waco, but in his spare time he liked to serve carbonated drinks at the soda fountain. He liked the way the drug store smelled, with all of the fruit syrup flavor smells mixing together in the air. He decided to create a drink that tasted like that smell. He kept a journal, and after numerous experiments he finally hit upon a mixture of fruit syrups that he liked.
“To test his new drink, he first offered it to store owner Morrison, who also found it to his liking. After repeated sample testing by the two, Alderton was ready to offer his new drink to some of the fountain customers. They liked it as well. Other patrons at Morrison’s soda fountain soon learned of Alderton’s new drink and began ordering it by asking him to shoot them a ‘Waco.’”
It was in 1891 that Morrison cast his lot with beverage chemist Robert S. Lazenby, proprietor of the “Circle A” Ginger Ale Company in Waco. The duo formed the Artesian Mfg. & Bottling Company, which later became the Dr. Pepper Company.
Lazenby and his son-in-law, J.B. O’Hara, served bottles of Dr. Pepper to attendees at the aforementioned 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, with perhaps thousands partaking for the first time of the regional beverage.
In 1920, there came an episode in the history of the soft drink that isn’t mentioned on the Dr. Pepper/Seven Up website or that of the museum, or anywhere else that I can find on the Internet. I’m referring to the time that the Dr. Pepper Company went out of business, with allegations pending of tax fraud.
I’ll go into that next week.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company
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