Friday, May 16, 2008

1866 - Charles Elmer Hires invents root beer.

Charles Elmer Hires (August 19, 1851–July 31, 1937) was an early promoter of commercially prepared root beer. He was a pharmacist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who formulated the eponymous Hires Root Beer beverage on May 16, 1866.

At the age of 12 he worked as a drugstore boy. When he was 16 he moved to Philadelphia and worked in a pharmacy, saving his money until he had nearly $400. Using this money he started his own drugstore.

Some say Hires discovered root beer on his honeymoon in New Jersey where the woman who ran his honeymoon hotel served root tea. Hires was originally going to call his drink "root tea" also but thought that "root beer" would be more appealing to the working class. Originally, Hires packaged the mixture in boxes and sold it to housewives and soda fountains. They needed to mix in water, sugar, and yeast.

The drink was slow to catch on, but the Reverend Dr. Russell Conwell persuaded Hires to present his product at the 1876 U.S. Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. To make it stand out, he called his drink "The Temperance Drink" and "the greatest health giving beverage in the world". Hires was active in the temperance movement, and it is believed that he wanted root beer to be an alternative to alcohol.

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