Chances are you’ve been a Pepper. Most people who drink Dr Pepper have probably never given the slightly fruity, very sugary carbonated beverage much thought, other than to wonder in passing if they really are drinking carbonated prune extract. (Yes, the soda has been shrouded by rumors of prune juice ingredients.) But many may be surprised to discover that not only is Dr Pepper the oldest major brand soft drink in America but it also has roots in Waco.
Facets of the Dr Pepper story have been documented numerous times in the pages of Texas Monthly, including a story printed in the first issue of the magazine in 1973. Since then, Dr Pepper has remained practically the same, but much of the story surrounding the beverage and its history has become more clearly defined.
If you happened to find yourself visiting Waco on a hot summer day in 1885, then it would have been hard to miss the fashionable Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store. Upon entering the cavernous store, the aroma of fruits, spices, and berries along with the smell of sarsaparilla, the most popular drink of the day, would hit you. It is very possible that Dr. Charles Alderton would be manning the soda fountain as you took a seat on one of the many stools lining the counter. If you were truly in the know, you would simply call out, “Shoot me a Waco!,” and the newly concocted drink would be served to you by the inventor himself. An experienced pharmacist and a man who enjoyed experimenting with many different flavors of soda water, Dr. Alderton hoped to capture the wonderful smells of the soda fountain in the taste of his new drink. His employer, pharmacist Wade Morrison, named the new drink Dr Pepper. The name itself has been the subject of much controversy and speculation.
Legend has it that Morrison first worked at a pharmacy in Rural Retreat, Virginia, and it was there that he fell in love with the daughter of his employer, Dr. Pepper. At the time, Morrison was nineteen years old, and he supposedly asked Dr. Pepper for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Dr. Pepper did not approve of the union, so Morrison left Virginia for Austin and eventually married a woman from Round Rock before settling in Waco. Recently, it has come to light that Dr. Pepper’s daughter was only eight years old at the time Morrison left Virginia; therefore it is highly unlikely that the daughter was ever a factor in Morrison’s life. Instead, it seems Dr Pepper was simply named after the man who gave Wade Morrison his first job.
Demand for Dr Pepper steadily increased in Waco, and by 1891, Morrison and fellow Wacoan Robert Lazenby had organized a bottling company named Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling to sell both Dr Pepper and Lazenby’s already popular Circle A Ginger Ale. But it wasn’t until the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis that Dr Pepper gained national exposure. It was at the same fair that ice cream cones and hamburgers were introduced to the world. Dr Pepper’s popularity has continued to rise, and today Dr Pepper remains one of the top soft drinks in the United States.
Dr Pepper’s ties to Texas remain strong. Though headquartered in Plano, after moving from Waco in 1923, no Texas town claims a stronger bond than Dublin, sixty miles southwest of Fort Worth. Every year, in June, the town officially changes its name to Dr Pepper, Texas, and for a week celebrates the history of the beverage and the town’s famous bottling plant. Not only is the tiny Dublin bottling plant the oldest Dr Pepper bottler in the world but it also is one of a kind. In 1979, because of the rising cost of cane sugar, much of the soda industry began using high-fructose corn syrup. Dr Pepper was no exception. But Bill Kloster, the owner of the Dublin plant, refused, arguing that the change would affect the unique taste of his Dr Pepper. Today, the Dublin plant remains the only bottling company in the U.S. authorized by the Dr Pepper company to use the recipe with Imperial Pure Cane Sugar instead of corn syrup. The result? A Dr Pepper blend that can only be found within fifty miles of the Dublin plant (actually, two other spots outside the fifty-mile radius can sell it).
The details of Dr Pepper lore can be located both in books and on the Internet, but to truly discover how Dr Pepper “makes the world taste better,” a visit to the History of Dr Pepper Museum in Waco is in order—and surely it will satisfy your thirst.
Random Dr Pepper Facts
Prune juice? Now, then, ever?
No. The Dr Pepper company and bottlers deny that any sort of prune ingredient has ever been used in Dr Pepper. The myth supposedly began in the thirties when a competitor’s salesman asked a potential customer, “You wouldn’t want to drink a soda that tastes like it has prune juice in it, would you?” The original (and still current) Dr Pepper recipe is kept in a locked vault in the Plano headquarters, as well as in two vaults in separate banks in Dallas, to prevent any mishaps. For more information, refer to “On Your Toes, You Lemon-Limes,” TM, July 1985).
Why is there no period after Dr?
The period was removed in the fifties after the font on the name was changed. The new font made “Dr.” appear to be “Di:”—the period was dropped. Also, the company wanted to help distinguish its product from any reference to medicine.
Who owns Dr Pepper?
Dr Pepper is owned by Dr Pepper/Seven Up. It’s a subsidiary of Cadbury PLC and oddly enough is distributed by Coke, Pepsi, and RC bottlers, depending on who owns a franchise in a specific geographic area.
Where is the Dr Pepper museum?
There are two:
The Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute
300 S. Fifth
Waco, Texas 76701
Old Doc’s Soda Shop
105 E. Elm
Dublin, Texas 76446