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Introduction to Pop - The History of Soft Drinks

Soft drinks can trace their history back to the mineral water found in springs.

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Beverage can in ice
Jeffrey Coolidge/ Iconica/ Getty Images
Soft drinks can trace their history back to the mineral water found in natural springs. Bathing in natural springs has long been considered a healthy thing to do; and mineral water was said to have curative powers. Scientists soon discovered that gas carbonium or carbon dioxide was behind the bubbles in natural mineral water.

The first marketed soft drinks (non-carbonated) appeared in the 17th century. They were made from water and lemon juice sweetened with honey. In 1676, the Compagnie de Limonadiers of Paris were granted a monopoly for the sale of lemonade soft drinks. Vendors would carry tanks of lemonade on their backs and dispensed cups of the soft drink to thirsty Parisians.

Joseph Priestley

In 1767, the first drinkable man-made glass of carbonated water was created by Englishmen Doctor Joseph Priestley. Three years later, Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman invented a generating apparatus that made carbonated water from chalk by the use of sulfuric acid. Bergman's apparatus allowed imitation mineral water to be produced in large amounts.

John Mathews

In 1810, the first United States patent was issued for the "means of mass manufacture of imitation mineral waters" to Simons and Rundell of Charleston, South Carolina. However, carbonated beverages did not achieve great popularity in America until 1832, when John Mathews invented his apparatus for the making carbonated water. John Mathews then mass-manufactured his apparatus for sale to soda fountain owners.

Health Properties of Mineral Water

The drinking of either natural or artificial mineral water was considered a healthy practice. The American pharmacists selling mineral waters began to add medicinal and flavorful herbs to unflavored mineral water. They used birch bark, dandelion, sarsaparilla, and fruit extracts. Some historians consider that the first flavored carbonated soft drink was that made in 1807 by Doctor Philip Syng Physick of Philadelphia. Early American pharmacies with soda fountains became a popular part of culture. The customers soon wanted to take their "health" drinks home with them and a soft drink bottling industry grew from consumer demand.

The Soft Drink Bottling Industry

Over 1,500 U.S. patents were filed for either a cork, cap, or lid for the carbonated drink bottle tops during the early days of the bottling industry. Carbonated drink bottles are under a lot of pressure from the gas. Inventors were trying to find the best way to prevent the carbon dioxide or bubbles from escaping. In 1892, the "Crown Cork Bottle Seal" was patented by William Painter, a Baltimore machine shop operator. It was the first very successful method of keeping the bubbles in the bottle.

Automatic Production of Glass Bottles

In 1899, the first patent was issued for a glass-blowing machine for the automatic production of glass bottles. Earlier glass bottles had all been hand-blown. Four years later, the new bottle-blowing machine was in operation. It was first operated by the inventor, Michael Owens, an employee of Libby Glass Company. Within a few years, glass bottle production increased from 1,500 bottles a day to 57,000 bottles a day.

Hom-Paks and Vending Machines

During the 1920s, the first "Hom-Paks" were invented. "Hom-Paks" are the familiar six-pack beverage carrying cartons made from cardboard. Automatic vending machines also began to appear in the 1920s. The soft drink had become an American mainstay.

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