Charles E. Hires and the Drink that Wowed a Nation

The Life and Times of a Philadelphia Entrepreneur

Bill Double
Book Cover

PB: $24.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1591-2
Publication: May 18

Ebook: $24.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1592-9
Publication: May 18

264 pages
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 public

Read 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.

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

About the Author(s)

Bill Double is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer and author of Philadelphia's Washington Square.