Waco, Texas, June 12, 1885: Charles “Doc” Alderton, a pharmacist at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store at Fifth Street and Mary Avenue downtown, has finally developed a soda fountain drink he thinks thirsty customers will enjoy and order every time they come into the drug store.
He calls his newly concocted soft drink the “Waco.” All this week, customers have come into the store, sat down at the soda fountain counter and laughingly shouted out, “Hey, Doc, give me a shot of Waco!”
“Doc” Alderton loves to work behind the soda fountain counter when he’s not in the pharmacy, and he loves to hear that shout out for a “Waco.”
Customers have been telling him for years that they were tired of the “same ole fruit flavored drinks” he served. They wanted something different. Alderton promised he would create exactly what they wanted.
For the better part of a year, the good doctor has been applying his pharmaceutical knowledge to blending assorted fruit flavors and conducting various experiments to come up with just the right taste for his new soft drink.
Alderton said he has always loved the mixture of fruit smells “permeating the air” around most drug store soda fountains. His idea was to capture the essence of all those mixed smells in a soft drink. He says he blended “around two dozen fruit flavors” to create his new “Waco” drink. So far, he is not divulging his formula.
About a week ago, Alderton had W.B. Morrison, the drug store owner, taste the “Waco.” Morrison was the first person to try it, other than Alderton. Morrison loved it and agreed to sell it in the drug store. Both he and Alderton have been busy pouring this new soda drink for customers every day since then.
The word is spreading all over this area about this new drink, and people are now coming into the store just to order a “Waco,” and even take some home with them.
Morrison and Alderton are trying desperately to make up as many batches of the “Waco” as they can to meet the growing demand.
Who knows? This drug store duo might be on to a totally new business here. The “Waco” could be sold all over the entire state of Texas before too long. Time will tell.
On December 1, 1885, the US Patent Office officially recognized—not “Waco”—but a new soft drink named Dr. Pepper as the legal name for the soda Charles Alderton invented. Six months later, May, 1886, Coca-Cola was created.
W.B. Morrison, the drug store owner where Charles Alderton worked, is generally credited with naming Dr. Pepper. He apparently named it after a doctor he once worked for back in his home state of Virginia—Dr. Charles T. Pepper.
In the early stages of Dr. Pepper’s development, other drug stores in the Waco area began buying the syrup to make Dr. Pepper to sell to their customers, too. When Morrison and Alderton could no longer produce enough of the Dr. Pepper syrup at the Corner Drug Store to meet demand, a young beverage chemist in Waco named Robert Lazenby was approached to figure out a way to mass produce this product. He did.
Incredibly, Alderton, the actual inventor of Dr. Pepper, said he was primarily interested in pharmacy work and had no designs on marketing the soft drink. So, Morrison and Lazenby formed a new firm called the Artesian Mfg. & Bottling Company, which later became the Dr. Pepper Company. They sold Dr. Pepper regionally for the next 19 years.
The big break for Dr. Pepper came at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. A huge percentage of the 20 million people who attended that fair tasted Dr. Pepper for the first time. Sales grew tremendously after that, and Dr. Pepper eventually became one of the top three soft drinks worldwide. Strangely, even after all these years, no one has ever been able to describe accurately the unique taste of Dr Pepper. So, it is still a refreshing part of Southern Memories that is genuinely one-of-a-kind.