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Caleb Bradham, c. 1900
May 27, 1867|
Chinquapin, North Carolina
|Died||February 19, 1934
New Bern, North Carolina
|Occupation||Pharmacist, Pepsi inventor|
|Children||Mary (b. 1903)
Caleb, Jr. (b. 1905)
George (b. 1907)
Early life and ancestry
Circa 1890, he dropped out of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, owing to his father's business going bankrupt. After returning to North Carolina, he was a public school teacher for about a year, and soon thereafter opened a drug store in New Bern named the "Bradham Drug Company" that, like many other drug stores of the time, also housed a soda fountain. Middle Street and Pollock Street in downtown New Bern, is where Bradham, in 1893, invented the recipe—a blend of kola nut extract, vanilla, and "rare oils"—for what was initially known as "Brad's Drink," but on August 28, 1898 was renamed Pepsi-Cola. Bradham named his drink after a combination of the terms “pepsin” and “cola,” as he believed that his drink aided digestion much like the pepsin enzyme does, even though it was not used as an ingredient. His assistant James Henry King was the first to taste the new drink.
On December 24, 1902, the Pepsi-Cola Company was incorporated in North Carolina, with Bradham as the president, and on June 16, 1903 the first Pepsi-Cola trademark was registered. Also in 1903, he moved his Pepsi-Cola production out of his drug store and into a rented building nearby. In 1905, Bradham began selling Pepsi-Cola in six-ounce bottles (up until this time he sold Pepsi-Cola as a syrup only), and awarded two franchises to North Carolina bottlers.
On January 4, 1901, Bradham married Charity Credle in New Bern, North Carolina. He owned the Slover-Bradham House from 1908 to 1934. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
In addition to running his drug store, he served as the president of the People’s Bank of New Bern, and was a chairman of the Craven County Board of Commissioners. At one point he was even suggested as a candidate for governor of North Carolina. He also served as an officer in the naval reserve for 25 years; he was named a lieutenant in the North Carolina Naval Militia, was promoted to commander in 1904, and to captain in 1913. He retired as a rear admiral. Additionally, in 1914 he was appointed by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels to the General Naval Militia Board.
At the peak of success, Bradham had authorized Pepsi-Cola franchises in over 24 states; however, on May 31, 1923, Bradham and his Pepsi-Cola Company declared bankruptcy. The major factor for Bradham’s business failure was the price of sugar immediately following World War I, when prices went up to 28 cents per pound (it was three cents per pound pre-war), and Bradham had purchased a large amount of sugar at that price but the price of sugar nosedived soon after he purchased it. The assets of his company were sold to the Craven Holding Company for $35,000. After declaring bankruptcy, Bradham returned to operating his drug store.
Notes and references
- "Bradham, Caleb Davis | NCpedia". www.ncpedia.org. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
- The History of the Birthplace of Pepsi-Cola. Pepsistore.com. Retrieved on 2012-08-28.
- Survey Planning Unit Staff (May 1972). "Slover-Bradham House" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office. Retrieved 2014-08-01.
- National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- Caleb D. Bradham's memorial
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