Dr Pepper artifact may reveal soft drink’s origin

By | May 6, 2009

Dr Pepper artifact may reveal soft drinks origin

Poking through antiques stores while traveling through the Texas Panhandle, Bill Waters stumbled across a tattered old ledger book filled with formulas.

He bought it for $200, suspecting he could resell it for five times that. Turns out, his inkling about the book’s value was more spot on than he knew. The Tulsa, Okla., man eventually discovered the book came from the Waco, Texas, drugstore where Dr Pepper was invented and includes a recipe titled “D Peppers Pepsin Bitters.”

“I began feeling like I had a national treasure,” said Waters, 59.

Dr Pepper’s manufacturer says the recipe is not the secret formula for the modern day soft drink, but the 8 1/2-by-15 1/2 inch book is expected to sell between $50,000 to $75,000 when it goes up for auction at Dallas-based Heritage Auction Galleries on May 13.

“It probably has specks of the original concoction on its pages,” Waters said.

Waters discovered the book, its yellowed pages stained brown on the edges, underneath a wooden medicine bottle crate in a Shamrock antiques store last summer. A couple months after buying it, he took a closer look as he prepared to sell it on eBay.

He noticed there were several sheets with letterheads hinting at its past, like a page from a prescription pad from a Waco store titled “W.B. Morrison & Co. Old Corner Drug Store.” An Internet search revealed Dr Pepper, first served in 1885, was invented at the Old Corner Drug Store in Waco by a pharmacist named Charles Alderton. Wade Morrison was a store owner.

Faded letters on the book’s fraying brown cover say “Castles Formulas.” John Castles was a partner of Morrison’s for a time and was a druggist at that location as early as 1880, said Mary Beth Webster, collections manager at the Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute in Waco.

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