An 1895 photo of the soda fountain and candy store at Mullane’s on Fourth Street in Cincinnati, Ohio, shows men and women ready to serve customers. A long marble-topped counter appears to have spindle-backed chairs (not stools) for at least twenty customers.
Mullane’s made their own syrups—over 30 of them—for ice cream sodas. Some of the store’s interesting flavors were Catawba syrup, Ives Seedling syrup, beef tea syrup, and Nesselrode, a Victorian drink with candied pineapple, Maraschino cherries, hazelnuts, and rum flavoring.
Other flavors available in the late 1800s were Cherry Smash, Orange Julep, Orange Crush, and Green River. Root beer and Coca-Cola flavors have thrived to this day.
Just how long have soda fountains been around? Samuel Fahnestock received the first patent for his soda fountain in 1819, and other inventors continued making improvements.
A soda jerk squirted the highly-concentrated soda fountain syrup into a glass and then added carbonated water and phosphate. Watching their tasty drinks being prepared must have added to the customers’ anticipation.
Drugstores often had soda fountains, first appearing around the 1830s and growing in popularity. In 1888, Jacob Baur started manufacturing carbon dioxide in tanks. This made it easier to establish soda fountain shops, which were popular through the 1950s.
Our tastes may have changed over the years but the sight of an old-fashioned soda fountain and ice cream parlor can still inspire nostalgia—even for those of us who never experienced its heyday.
When you see one of these shops, take a few minutes to stop. Relax and enjoy an experience readily available to our grandparents and great-grandparents—who probably walked to the soda shop after a movie.
-Sandra Merville Hart
Bellis, Mary. “The History of the Soda Fountain,” Theinventors.org, 2019/3/22 http://theinventors.org/library/inventors/blsodafountain.htm.
“History of the Soda Fountain,” Soderlund Drugstore Museum, 2019/03/22 http://drugstoremuseum.org/index.php/soda-fountain/soda-fountain-history.
“Invention and History of Soda Fountain,” History of Soft Drinks, 2019/03/22 http://www.historyofsoftdrinks.com/soft-drink-history/history-of-soda-fountain/.
“Syrup Dispensers and the Drugstore,” Soderlund Drugstore Museum, 2019/03/22 http://drugstoremuseum.org/soda-fountain/syrup-dispensers/.
“The Drugstore Soda Fountain,” Soderlund Drugstore Museum, 2019/03/22 https://www.drugstoremuseum.com/soda-fountain/.
Woellert, Dann. Cincinnati Candy—A Sweet History, American Palate, 2017.