History of the Soda Fountain

Birth of the Soda Fountain

The Natural carbonated waters, from volcanic springs, are well known throughout history and were prized for their unique properties. The effervescing nature of the water was an attractive quality, and was thought to be a natural tonic. Many civilizations believed that drinking and/or bathing in these mineral waters cured diseases, and large industries often sprang up around hot springs, like those in Italy and Iceland.

People clamored, for the stomach soothing nature of these effervescent waters, which made them a regularly prescribed treatment for dyspepsia or indigestion. The lack of side effects from a glass of soda water, unlike many other medicines of the time, helped motivate researchers to discover, and recreate, how these gas bubbles dissolved in water.

Before devices were created that could artificially carbonate water, people realized they could duplicate the tingling sensation, though poorly, by combining sodium bicarbonate and tartaric acid in water. This resulted in a glass of fizzy saltwater similar to Alka-Seltzer. To make the drink more palatable, fruit juices and artificial flavors were added. To make the effervescence convenient, the tartaric acid went in the flavoring and the sodium bicarbonate in the water. When the two liquids were combined, it would fizz. This was the precursor to modern soda-pop.

Artificially carbonated waters quickly caught the attention of the public. Given the medicinal properties ascribed to mineral water, the idea of being able to recreate mineral waters was compelling. Making these waters available to everyone by adding formulated salt mixtures that mimicked mineral waters from around the world were desirable for people and physicians alike. These artificial waters eventually transformed into flavored soda when businesses started adding flavors and sugar to the soda compositions.

The soda fountain was an attempt to replicate mineral waters that bubbled up from the Earth. Early scientists tried to create effervescent waters with curative powers. The foundation for man-made carbonated water starts with Englishman, Joseph Priestley, in 1767. The first discovery was infusing water with carbon dioxide by placing water over a fermenting mash. The carbon dioxide given off by the yeast dissolved in the pure water suspended over top. This would have been very weakly carbonated, but sufficient to realize that it was possible. His research led him to publish the book “; Impregnating Water with Fixed Air” in 1772.

 In 1774 John Mervin Nooth demonstrated an apparatus that improved upon Priestley's design. In 1783, German born Johann Jacob Schweppe used this information to invent a device to create artificially carbonated water. He sold his company in 1799, but his name is still prevalent today as the Schweppes Company. In 1807, Henry Thompson received the first British patent for a method of impregnating water with carbon dioxide. This was commonly called soda water, although it contained no soda. The Idea for that came from previous scientific studies of natural springs that contained carbonated water and with the advances in chemistry it enabled easier manipulation of carbon dioxide.

With the early successes of Priestley's invention  it was quickly adapted by several inventors, who managed not only to improve the process of creating carbonated drinks, but also created the foundation for the first Soda Fountain machines.

The first soda fountains appeared in Europe, but they were not manufactured and marketed with much success. However, Benjamin Silliman, an U.S. chemistry professor from Yale saw the potential of carbonated water, he kick-started the business of soda machine manufacture and sales of drinks across New York City and Baltimore, Maryland in the 1810's. His efforts are today recognized as crucial for making soda drinks not only popular with the U.S. population, but also a viable business venture. Organized production of soda fountains began in 1832 and ever since then many other manufacturers and improved designs started being formed across the U.S.       

In 1832, John Matthews, of New York and John Lippincott, of Philadelphia, began manufacturing soda fountains. Both added innovations that improved soda fountain equipment, and the industry expanded as retail outlets installed newer, better fountains. Other pioneering manufacturers were Alvin Puffer, Andrew Morse, Gustavus Dows, and James Tufts. In 1891 the four largest manufacturers Tufts, Puffer, Lippincott, and Matthews, formed the American Soda Fountain Company, which was designed to monopolize the industry. The four manufacturers continued to produce and market fountains under their company names. They were the ones who controlled prices and forced some smaller manufacturers out of business.

Before mechanical refrigeration, soda fountains used ice to cool drinks and ice cream. Ice harvesters cut ice from frozen lakes and ponds in the winter and stored the blocks in ice houses for use in the summer. In the early 20th century, new companies entered the soda fountain business, marketing "iceless" fountains that used brine.

In 1888 Jacob Baur, of Terre Haute, Indiana founded the Liquid Carbonics Manufacturing Company in Chicago, he became the Midwest's first manufacturer of liquefied carbon dioxide. In 1903 Liquid Carbonic began market-testing its prototype iceless fountain in a Chicago confectionery.
In their heyday, soda fountains flourished in pharmacies, people even opened soda fountain bars that dealt strictly with the sale of soda fountain items. Pharmacies were also popular with soda fountains. They served an important function in pharmacies people could pick up their medicines and have the foul taste diluted by something from the soda fountain.                                  
At the turn of the 19th century, chemists continued experimenting with methods of impregnating carbon dioxide gas in water. It still hadn’t achieved a level of efficiency that made wide distribution possible. However, it was becoming fashionable to have soda water at home.



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