Even though it dates back to the 19th century, Dr Pepper (there's no "." in Dr Pepper the soda) didn't rise to prominence until the 1970s. While the soda remained a regionally-based brand for many years, television commercials like this one propelled it into the national soda conversation. And no rise to fame can be complete without a good origin story. For over a century mystery has swirled around the 131-year-old recipe (although a man claimed that he found the original in 2009). But there are also rumors around the origin of the soda’s name. The persistent legend is that the name was in loving memory of a Confederate surgeon’s beautiful daughter. But it turns out that may not be quite accurate. Here’s the story behind the true identity of Dr. Pepper.
This fizzy mystery begins in the Texas town of Waco in 1885. At the time, Waco was a small frontier town that had more bales of cotton than actual people. It also had earned the nickname “Six-Shooter Junction” for being rather lawless. Presumably on an old dusty corner in town, sat “Old Corner Drug Store,” a catch-all establishment that sold supplies, medicine, tonics and soft drinks. Owned by pharmacist Wade Morrison, it was a spot where a locals would go when they weren’t drinking, gambling or in a brothel. An employee of Morrison’s was a young Brooklyn-born pharmacist named Charles Alderton who had gone to college in England and received his medical degree at the University of Texas. One day, Alderton noticed that customers were getting tired of the traditional drink flavors of the time like lemon, vanilla and sarsaparilla. So, he began experimenting with various fruit extracts, sweeteners and spices. Settling on a 23-flavor concoction, he mixed it with phosphoric acid, which is still an ingredient in sodas today to impart a tangy flavor, and gave it to Morrison. After several taste tests, they served it to the public for the first time on December 1st, 1885 (at least according to the United States Patent Office). Customers loved it, so much so that they kept coming back to the counter asking for the “Waco” or, in keeping with the town’s violent theme, they would say “shoot me a Waco.” A soft drink was born. However, Morrison thought the drink need a better moniker than simply being named after their beloved town.