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Soft Drink History and Free Enterprise

Dr Atherton Anamatronic photo“I’m a Pepper, he’s a Pepper…Wouldn’t You Like To Be a Pepper, too? Drink Dr Pepper”. Boy, a good advertising campaign slogans stick in your head. Years later they pop up in your mind like old memories lodged in a synaptic nook. Dr Pepper is that particularly American brand of soda pop, always further down in the fountain than big competitors like Coke and Pepsi - perhaps because it never used some of the more addictive additives of those icons, or perhaps its flavor, with a slight piquant rather reminiscent of prunes. Dr Pepper the bottled carbonated drink is actually the oldest major national brand soft drink in America, predating Coca-Cola by a year, first formulated in 1885, by a pharmacist, Dr Charles Atherton at his Old Corner Drug Store in Waco, Texas, and originally called “Crazy Water”, before gaining its familiar brand name.

1924 Deliver Truck Dr Pepper Museum photoThe Dr Pepper Museum is located in the former bottling plant of the brand, built in 1906 as the Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company, designed by Architect Milton Scott. The present day brand is now owned by food and beverage conglomerate Schwepps/Cadbury and made elsewhere, but the museum in Waco offers a look back into the story of the soft drink and its unique place in American culture. At the museum, you find a recreation of the original drug store fountain, the remaining factory machines and original artesian well from which the water was drawn and filtered. Upstars a recreation of a 1930’s country story and filling station. Also a great deal about the marketing that brings a product to national attention. Dr Atherton came up with his formula, not at first as a soft drink, but as a health remedy, launched with the slogan “Vim, Vigor and Vitality”. It’s marketing took off with the slogan touting its sugar and herbal formula as a nutritional pick me up with the slogan “Drink a Bite to Eat at 10, 2 and 4”, a reaction to the WWII era rationing which classified sugar as a food (which is why you’ll see those numbers on the old label - something for the trivia contest).

Bottle Plants Equipment Dr Pepper Museum photoWith the main exhibits covering two floors, the Dr Pepper Museum holds one of the most comprehensive collections of soft drink memorabilia in the world. Not just Dr Pepper, but a whole variety of soft drink brands are represented, from Mr Pibb to Kickapoo Joy Juice. The collection and story of root beers, the home made beverage brew of the Prohibition Era that turned to a favorite drink of millions is explored with brands recognized from across the country and times past. One of my first jobs was working for Stewarts Root Beer in New Jersey, and found it among the Dads and other nearly forgotten corners of the sugar rush. The Dr Pepper Museum is not just a historical journey. After a visit to the floors above, stop into the on-site soda fountain for a real Dr Pepper Float or fizz. The shop also sells Dr Pepper, Root Beer and other flavor syrups to take home and enjoy in your own soda fountain, or perhaps deconstruct the secret formula. And don’t forget the Dr Pepper flavored jelly beans.

Free Enterprise Institute

Foot Clements Ghost effect photoOn the third floor of the museum, you’ll find the added exhibit of the Free Enterprise Institute, a chance to get a little supply-side entrepreneurial inspiration with your soda pop. W. W. Foot Clements was one of the Dr Pepper company’s most influential leaders. He started as a salesman, marketing the drink in filling stations and small town markets, rising with the brand. It was his dream to inspire the young and adults alike with the principals of the free enterprise system, using the soft drink industry as an example. The upper floor at the museum has a recreation of his office, interactive exhibits of his marketing techniques (including some tips from his ghost), and a theater for presentations to school groups.

Visiting the Dr Mepper Museum

Dr Pepper Museum Building photoThe Dr Pepper Museum is located at 300 South 5th Street at the Corner of Mary Avenue, next to the railroad tracks in downtown Waco. The museum is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 4:15pm (last admission) and Sunday 12pm to 4:15pm. The souvenir store and Soda Fountain are open until 5pm. The hours are sometimes extended in peak months. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $4 for students and children. Audio Guide wands are $1 for rental. © Bargain Travel West

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Dr Pepper Museum

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