Charles E. Hires and the Drink that Wowed a Nation
The Life and Times of a Philadelphia Entrepreneur
Publication: May 18
Publication: May 18
5.25 x 8.5
11 color photos, 1 tables, 1 figs., 17 halftones
An effervescent biography of Charles Elmer Hires, the Philadelphia pharmacist who introduced root beer to the American publicRead the Introduction (pdf).
Introduced at the 1876 Centennial Exposition and powered by an historic advertising campaign, Hires Root Beer—launched 10 years before Coca-Cola—blazed the trail for development of the American soft drink industry. Its inventor, Charles Elmer Hires, has been described as “a tycoon with the soul of a chemist.” In addition to creating root beer, Hires, a devoted family man and a pillar of the Quaker community, became a leading importer of botanical commodities, an authority on the vanilla bean. Starting from scratch, he also built one of the world’s largest condensed milk companies.
Charles E. Hires and the Drink that Wowed a Nation chronicles the humble origin and meteoric business success of this extraordinary entrepreneur. Author Bill Double uses published interviews, correspondence, newspaper reports, magazine articles, financial data, and a small family archive to tell this story of native ingenuity. Here, the rough-hewn capitalism of the gilded age, the evolution of the neighborhood drugstore, the rise of advertising in creating mass markets, and the emerging temperance movement all come together in a biography that, well, fizzes with entrepreneurial spirit.
"Charles Hires, the creator of Hires Root Beer and a pioneer in the soft drink industry, has never received his due as an innovator. Bill Double has filled that void in a fascinating book that places Hires firmly in his times, using new advertising techniques during the Gilded Age and then adapting them with modern methods into the Roaring Twenties. Charles E. Hires and the Drink that Wowed a Nation is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of soft drinks and the era that spawned them. "
—Mark Pendergrast, author, For God, Country and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It
"Charles Hires thrived as an honest entrepreneur in the Gilded Age of ruthless robber barons. He prided himself on making quality products using the best ingredients. A temperance advocate, he focused on producing nonalcoholic beverages. In addition to his signature drink, Hires Root Beer, he pioneered in manufacturing condensed milk and bottled water. Mr. Double has written an engrossing biography of an entrepreneur who aspired to be a compassionate, trustworthy person as well as a savvy businessman. Hires’ life story is a refreshing, affirmative saga of capitalism at its best."
—Anne Cooper Funderburg, author of Sundae Best: A History of Soda Fountains
"Double explores the rapid expansion of soda manufacturing in America and offers glimpses into Philadelphia history from the post-Civil War period to Prohibition. The book is well-researched, insightful, and a good, fun read."
"Through a careful study of his own favorite soda and its founder—Hires Root Beer and Charles E. Hires—Double takes his readers through the transformation of unique, homemade 'small beers' into the uniform and mass-produced sodas that we know now.... The quintessential rags-to-riches story that informs Hires’s trajectory means, furthermore, that Double is able to put him in multiple class contexts.... Double’s attention to detail is phenomenal."
Table of Contents
1. Farm to Pharmacy
2. A Rustic Tea Party
3. Bubbly Water Begets an Industry
4. From Sideline to Main Line
5. Never Wink in the Dark
6. Temperance Trauma
7. Twenty Years Too Late?
8. Milk and Sugar
9. Letting Go
Illustrations follow page 104