Caleb Bradham

Caleb Bradham – A Devoted Pharmacist & Inventor of Pepsi

Pepsi is a favorite refreshing drink for many of us. However, did you know that it has been on the market for more than a century now? The creator of the iconic Pepsi drink is Caleb Bradham. He used his knowledge and devotion and eventually created one of the most famous refreshing drinks today. 

Caleb Bradham - A Devoted Pharmacist & Inventor of Pepsi

Early Years & Studies

Caleb Bradham was born in 1865 in Duplin County, North Carolina. He was the son of Julia McCann Bradham and George Washington Bradham. He was of English and Scots-Irish descent. In 1886, he started studying at the University of North Carolina, located in Chapel Hill. However, he could not manage to finish his studies. Because of his father’s bankruptcy, he had to quit school. 

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Even though he could not manage to finish university, he still wanted to follow his heart and be in the healthcare industry. He decided to return to his hometown and started to teach at a private school. After being a teacher for over a year, he finally managed to return to the University of Maryland. His goal was to become a doctor. This time, he enrolled in pharmacy studies and graduated with honors.

Caleb Bradham got married in 1902 on January 1st. He married Charity Credle, who was also from New Bern. They had three children: Mary Bradham, Caleb Darnell, and George Washington Bradham.

Bradham’s Pharmacy

After he graduated from the university, Caleb Bradham obtained his license as a pharmacist in 1895. After that, he purchased a drug store and established Bradham’s Pharmacy in New Bern. He called it “Bradham Drug Company“. The store was located on the corner of Middle and Pollock streets in New Bern. In his pharmacy, he created a pretty nice environment where people loved to go. 

He set up a jukebox that featured piano and violin music. People would pay a nickel and choose the music of their choice. Many drug stores back in the day had soda fountains in their facilities. His friends loved to gather around his soda fountain. Thanks to his background and knowledge in medicine, he was able to do the experiments easily with different flavor combinations. Later on, Pepsi-Cola was founded in this exact location.

In 1902, he hired an assistant to look after the drug store. It was because he wanted to devote himself to the new business and his invention.

How Caleb Bradham Invented Pepsi-Cola

Bradham always cared for its customers and their health. This became the reason for his legendary invention, Pepsi-Cola. Pepsi-Cola was invented to improve people’s health. Back in those days, soft drinks mainly consisted of narcotics, and he was against drugs. He made various combinations and experiments with different juices, syrups, spices, and anything that could be useful. The goal was to have a soft drink that would be healthier than the ones already on the market. 

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The oldest soda pop in America was invented in 1866. Not long before Caleb Bradham invented Pepsi-Cola, the drink was called Vernon’s Ginger Ale and was created by James Vernor

In 1893, he started to do experiments on soft drinks and invented a recipe. It was a mix of kola nut extract and some vanilla “rare oils”. The drink was mainly made from sugar, water, caramel, kola nuts, nutmeg, lemon oil, and other additives. The residents of the city loved the drink and even named it “Brad’s Drink”. The first person to taste the drink was James Henry King, Caleb’s assistant. Because of increased demand, Caleb decided to put all his time and effort into mastering the drink and selling it. The creation was called “Brad’s drink”. He eventually moderated his drink and renamed it Pepsi-Cola on August 28, 1898.

He believed that the product helped with digestion problems, and in comparison with other soft drinks on the market, it did not have harmful effects on the body. There are some thoughts regarding why he chose that particular game. Some may think that it could be because the drink had a pepsin enzyme inside. However, the drink did not consist of the pepsin enzyme. It was named because he believed that the drink had the same effect on the digestive system as pepsin did.

He founded Pepsi-Cola Incorporated in 1902, which is still considered a vintage company. Eventually, Caleb became the first president of the newborn business. Pepsi-Cola had one of the first trademarks ever registered with the US Patent Office. It started to be advertised as “The Original Pure Food Drink.” The statement was reasonable because the government determined in 1906 that the product had no harmful substances.

Growth of Pepsi-Cola

Pepsi-Cola was a huge success for Caleb Bradham in the first years of its appearance. Because of the increased demand, he decided to open the first bottling franchises in Charlotte and Durham. He created many new opportunities and jobs for the people in the area. He even decided to sell franchises.

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In 1905, there were only two manufacturer sites. The company needed a headquarters, so he opened a home office building for Pepsi-Cola in New Bern in 1908. In 1910, there were already 300 bottlers operating in twenty-four states in America. In addition to this, the Pepsi-Cola Bottlers’ Convention was going on in New Bern. 

It turned out that Caleb Bradham was truly a good businessman and advertiser too. He started by using women and celebrities in his campaign to emphasize the drink’s qualities. The Pepsi-Cola Company became one of the first to use motor transport in the shipping process.

The Crisis Phase of the Company

Caleb Bradham’s business flourished. In 1915, his drinks were sold across the southeast, and in total, he netted $31,346. However, little did he know that the bad times were coming. In 1917, World War I caused the rationing of sugar. As a result, the production of Pepsi-Cola dropped rapidly and sales decreased. 

Rationing sugar caused Bradham to produce a much lower volume of soft drinks than he normally did. So, he started to think about the possible ways out of the situation. Eventually, Caleb decided to use the sugar substitutes. However, it caused negative feedback from the customers. After the war, sugar prices were raised to 28 cents per pound. 

Bradham decided to purchase a large amount in advance, which was a huge mistake because soon afterward the prices nosedived. Therefore, Caleb Bradham had to raise the cost of Pepsi-cola too. Normally, the price of the bottle of Pepsi-Cola drink was 5 cents, not increased, and people did not want to pay more. This fact caused additional protest.

The Bankruptcy of Pepsi – Cola Company

Caleb Bradham’s business was not ready for such problems. He could not find a way to cover the production costs. So, in 1923, the company declared bankruptcy. He sold his company, and little did he know that it would eventually become the world’s number 2 soft drink manufacturer. 

The company was sold for $35,000 to an investor located in Richmond, Virginia. After that, it moved from hand to hand four times and was bankrupt again in 1931. However, under the new ownership, it slowly improved and became well-known internationally. 

Today, the annual retail sales of PepsiCo reach up to $98 billion. Pepsi is one of the most loved soft drinks of modern times. Its popularity was caused by its great marketing and the products themselves. Pepsi is a major competitor of Coca-Cola. Today, major Pepsi products are Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Max, Pepsi Blue, Crystal Pepsi, and others. 

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Charity work of Caleb Bradham

Even though he had a rough way to go, he still cared about people’s health and the well-being of his community. For example, the Caleb Bradham scholarship prize for students of pharmacy at UNC was maintained and continued until 1930. He was very religious and was a member of the Presbyterian church. He is also known to be a lifelong Democrat. 

He was an active participant in many charity events around his city. He co-founded the North Carolina Naval Militia. At first, he was a lieutenant there. In 1904, he got the status of commander, and in 1913, he became captain. By the time he retired, he had rear admiral status. He was also a county commissioner and became People’s Bank president. However, he has never considered naming it Brad’s Bank.

Caleb Bradham owned a house in New Bern, North Carolina. It was called Slover-Bradham House. The house was eventually listed on the National Register of Historic Places. His Pharmacy is today’s Pepsi Store and a famous tourist attraction in New Bern.

Interesting Facts

  • Caleb Bradham was the first one to use motor transport in product shipping. 
  • Initially, Pepsi-cola was intended to be the drink for people with stomach aches and digestion problems. 
  • There was a trademark dispute over the word “Cola” usage rights, which was settled in favor of Pepsi. 
  • Pepsi and Coca-Cola are considered to be the major rivals and competitors to this day.
  • Pepsi was the first company to begin marketing its products in the former Soviet Union in 1972.

Bottom Line

After his downfall and bankruptcy, he returned to his first business in New Bern and continued managing the drug stores full time. He devoted the rest of his life to his first business and eventually followed his path of medicine. 

Even though he was not the owner of the Pepsi-Cola company anymore, he did not give up and continued to help his local community and people. Caleb Bradham died at the age of 67 on February 19, 1934, after a long illness. He is buried in his hometown, Grove Cemetery.

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