In 1890, a pharmacist and chemist named John J. McLaughlin opened a small plant in Toronto, Canada, to manufacture soda water. He sold the soda water to drugstores as a mixer for fruit juices and flavored extracts.
But McLaughlin was thirsty for a better product. In 1904, after conducting hundreds of experiments, he struck gold with the perfect formula for a drink he liked to call Canada Dry Pale Ginger Ale. Exactly 100 years ago, a legend was born.
But Canada alone just wasn’t big enough for this new concoction, and in 1919 McLaughlin began shipping his Ginger Ale to New York City. It wasn’t long before the Big Apple was big on Canada Dry, and two years later the first Canada Dry plant in the United States opened on 38th Street in Manhattan.
Now, in those early days, corner drug stores were the main outlets for carbonated beverages. But McLaughlin changed all that by developing mass bottling techniques and serving Canada Dry wherever people gathered in mass — from the ballpark to the beach. Canada Dry has since gone on to pioneer many of the products and practices now considered standards in the beverage business.
Americans Go Canadian
Enter P. D. Saylor and Associates. The company was so enamored of the business McLaughlin had built that they bought it outright. Canada Dry Ginger Ale, Inc. was born.
Consumer demand soon outgrew the production capacity of the Manhattan plant, and Canada Dry began a program of national expansion. During this time, folks were introduced to a now legendary Canada Dry advertising campaign, known by the saying “Down from Canada came tales of a wonderful beverage”.
Ginger Ale’s Little Secret
It was during Prohibition when people discovered one of the unintended benefits of Canada Dry Ginger Ale. It turned out to be the perfect mixer to mask the taste of home brew and other such potent potables. Even the high price of 35 cents for a 12-ounce bottle didn't slow growing sales. The '30s saw the debut of Canada Dry's Sparkling Water, quickly followed by Tonic Water, Collins Mix and other fruit flavors as mixers.
Time, And Ginger Ale, March On
In 1936, a license was awarded to a bottler in Lima, Peru, to manufacture and sell Canada Dry in South America. Two short years later, Canada Dry had plants in 14 countries, including as far away as New Zealand.
During the '50s and '60s, Canada Dry introduced sugar-free drinks and produced soft drink beverages in cans well before the other big soft drink companies.
The introduction of Black Cherry and Cranberry Apple Seltzers wasn't the only change Canada Dry experienced in the '80s. The company changed ownership several times during the decade, before finding its home with Cadbury Schweppes plc of London. Today, Canada Dry continues under the ownership of Plano, Texas-based Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc., the largest non-cola soft drink enterprise in North America and the largest subsidiary of Cadbury Schweppes plc.
And though much has changed, one thing hasn’t: the clean, just-north-of-everyday taste that John J. McLaughlin made famous 100 years ago.
Go back to previous page
Skip To Navigation