Texas History Minute - Dr. Pepper

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

Hundreds of brands of soft drinks have been produced and sold around the world.  One of the most popular is a Texas original, Dr. Pepper. 

Dr. Pepper was the creation of a young pharmacist names Charles Alderton.  Alderton was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1857 and traveled extensively as a youth.  He received much of his education in Great Britain, but he eventually made his way to Texas where he attended medical school.  Afterward, he worked as a pharmacist with business partner Wade Morrison at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store in Waco.  

According to one story, Alderton experimented with several different drinks to try to attract customers before perfecting the Dr. Pepper formula.  The drink was first introduced in Waco in 1885, making it one of the oldest continuously bottled soft drinks in the United States.  

The drink quickly became a hit with people all across Waco.  Within a few years, it became synonymous with the city, and Alderton and Morrison were receiving requests from customers well outside the city asking for a “Waco” or “Doc Alderton’s Drink.”  Eventually, it came simply to be known as “Dr. Pepper.” 

 Where the name of the drink originated, no one is entirely certain.  Several stories have circulated, but some individuals have suggested it was named after a former girlfriend or even a friend of Alderton or Wade.  However, many colas across the nation were being created at that time in small drugstores.  A number of these local colas, including future rival Coca-Cola, were marketed as health drinks. 

By 1891, so many requests and orders for the drink had come into the pharmacy that they could no longer keep up with demand.  Morrison was excited by the possibilities and wanted to expand, but Alderton decided to pursue medicine instead and sold the rights to Morrison.  Alderton died in 1941. 

Morrison brought in another partner, Robert Lazenby, and formed the Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Co. in Waco to produce the soft drink.  The popularity of Dr. Pepper grew rapidly.  By the turn of the century, the company began selling franchise arrangements with bottlers across the state to produce and distribute Dr. Pepper in their area.  As a result, the success of the company grew even more rapidly. 

After Morrison’s death, Lazenby and his son-in-law, J. B. O’Hara, took the drink to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri.  It was such a success that Dr. Pepper began being sold across the country, marketed as the “King of Beverages.” 

By the 1920s, the “Drink a Dr. Pepper at 10, 2, and4”became a popular slogan.  The slogan connected with the cola’s origins as a health drink and was now being pushed as an energy drink from the idea that at 10, 2, and 4 each work day, people needed the energy boost that the sugar rush would bring.  As a result, the logo on all the bottles featured the numbers 10, 2, and 4 for decades and was included on all advertising into the 1960s.  

By 1988, Dr. Pepper fans organized and opened the Dr. Pepper Museum in the original bottling plant in Waco. 

The company continued to perform well in spite of being outpaced by Coca-Cola and Pepsi.  But Dr. Pepper itself was swallowed in 1995 by Cadbury Schweppes, a conglomerate of candymakers and soft drink manufacturers.  However, in2008, in a massive reorganization of the company, Dr. Pepper was spun off into a new company, the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, which includes more than 50 brands of drinks.  Dr. Pepper itself now has ten different varieties.  In 2010, the company reported more than $5.3 billion in sales worldwide. 

Ken Bridges