Another staple that became associated with pharmacy were sodas and soda fountains. The rise and decline of the soda fountains reflected changes in America over time. Urbanization, the Prohibition, the Great Depression, technological progression, the decline of Main Street, the Car Culture and the growth of suburbs all played a part in this. Soda fountains first rose in the early 1800s and continued successfully until the 1960s.
In 1832, two men helped turn soda drinking into a major business when they began manufacturing soda fountains in the United States. John Matthews of NYC developed a lead-lined chamber in which sulphuric acid and powdered marble were mixed together to generate carbon dioxide. Then the gas was purified and manually mixed into cool water with steady agitation, creating carbonated water. Matthews and John Lippincott of Philadelphia changed the look of soda fountains making them ornate to take advantage of the social aspect they bring to pharmacies. People would go to the local drugstore for a fountain drink to cure or aid some physical ache. Many of the fountain drinks included various drugs that were flavored and effervesced to make them palatable.
It was estimated in 1877, that New York customers in warm weather were consuming 200,000 glasses of soda water a day. At an average of 7.5-cents a glass, this was earning druggists in NYC $15,000 daily. Charles Alderton a physician who decided to work as a pharmacist invented Dr Pepper in the 1885. In 1886 pharmacist John Pemberton looked for a cure for his morphine addiction invented Coca Cola. In 1866 pharmacist Charles Hires created Root Beer most likely to be an alternative to alcohol. In 1898 pharmacist Caleb Bradham invented Pepsi and he believed his drink aided digestion.
By the early 1920’s just about every drugstore had a soda fountain. The prohibition beginning in 1919 created a boom for soda fountains since they filled the social void caused by the closing of bars. Soda fountains became more decorative with marble columns hiding its working parts and reflected the latest trends of the day such as Victorian gingerbread and Art Deco streamline. The soda fountains were an urban phenomenon because its clients lived or worked in walking distance.
After WW2 marble soda fountains become unprofitable and were replaced by stainless-steel bobtail fountains. As Americans bought cars and moved to the suburbs people began to lose interest. Drive-in restaurants become the new social trend along with bottled and carton beverages.