History of the American Soda Fountain

Closeup image of retro soda fountain nozzles

The history of the soda fountain can be traced back to the drug revolution of the 1850’s, when people would visit their local drugstore for a remedy (a.k.a a drink) to cure whatever was ailing them. At that time, there were no laws governing the use of drugs and medication in beverages, so ingredients such as caffeine and cocaine were regularly included in these drinks, along with various herbs and flavorings to make the drink taste better.

In the late 1880’s, real soda fountains were created with the invention of carbon dioxide tanks by Jacob Baur. This enabled shops to begin selling liquid carbonic soda drinks. Also in 1914, congress passed a law that banned cocaine and opiates as over-the-counter products. It was also during this same time that people became more concerned about what they considered to be addictive and intoxicating in their drinks. Baur and others worked to reinvent and change the image of soda fountain drinks in the early 1900’s, advertising them as non-intoxicating delicious treats.

Soda Jerk
By the early 1920’s, just about every drugstore had a soda fountain, it shows a way to fill the void left by the Prohibition’s closing of bars. These soda fountains were a great business opportunity in the time to fill that social void. Soda “jerks” would have their operations/recipe manual memorized and would be ready to serve up all sorts of popular drinks. The golden age of soda fountains continued until the 1950’s where most pharmacists were operators of their own drugstore and soda fountain.

Soda fountain drinks eventually lost their stigma and simply became known as “soft drinks”. Due to the mass production of canned soft drinks and other like beverages, a rapid decline of the soda fountain began in the 1970’s. Today, old-fashioned soda fountains are often hard-to-find and exist for many because of the nostalgic feel & memories of past decades.

Delray Shores Pharmacy is proud to have an authentic, old-fashioned soda fountain. We make drinks the old-fashioned way and you can order phosphates, ice cream sodas, shakes, malts, and much more. And trust me, drinks made in the old-fashioned way are much better than those you can get out of can or bottle. Check out our menu for a full list of available treats, then swing by Delray Shores Pharmacy & Soda Fountain at 124 NE 5th Avenue in Delray Beach, FL for a delicious trip down memory lane!