Dr Pepper Museum
Discover what makes the world’s oldest major soft drink pop at the Dr Pepper Museum (300 S. Fifth St., 254/757-1025, www.drpeppermuseum.com, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Sat., noon–4 p.m. Sun., $6 adults, $4 seniors, $3 students). This fun museum takes visitors through the history of Waco-born Dr Pepper (the period after Dr was dropped in the 1950s) and Texas’s soft drink industry.
The Dr Pepper Company bills itself as “the oldest major manufacturer of soft drink concentrates and syrups in the United States” and is proud of its status as a native Texas product. It traces its sweet roots to 1885, at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store in Waco, where Charles Alderton, a young pharmacist, devoted much of his job to mixing up medicine.
In his spare time, Alderton liked to serve carbonated drinks at the drug store’s soda fountain, and this is where he reportedly concocted the recipe that would become Dr Pepper.
Alderton was intrigued with the various fruit syrup flavor smells wafting around the pharmacy and soda fountain, so he decided to create a drink that tasted like that smell. He kept a journal, and after many experiments he finally discovered a mixture of fruit syrups to his liking. Alderton eventually offered his new drink to his customers, and word soon got out about the tasty beverage at Morrison’s soda fountain.
He knew he was on to something when crowds arrived and began ordering it by asking him to “shoot them a Waco.” The origin of the name remains a mystery — one rumor is that Alderton named it after his horse, while another claims that combining its “peppiness” with the “Dr.” prefix made it sound healthier.
Dr Pepper continued to gain in popularity throughout the 20th century, and went on to have several memorable slogans, including “Drink a bite to eat at 10, 2, and 4,” “the friendly Pepper-upper,” “Be a Pepper” and the most recent campaign focusing on the 23 fruit flavors that give the drink its distinctive taste.
The museum is housed in the Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company building, where the product was made in the early 1900s. The mixture of flavors in Dr Pepper remains a closely guarded secret, but visitors can learn about some of the theories and the history of the beverage from the museum’s educational and interactive exhibits. The extensive collection of soft drink cans and bottles exhibiting design and logo styles through the ages is particularly fascinating.
Appropriately, the tour ends with an authentic soda fountain, serving Dr Pepper in its original incarnation, with pure cane sugar instead of corn syrup.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition