In the small town of New Bern, North Carolina, local pharmacist Caleb Bradham invented the original formula of what would become Pepsi-Cola. First called “Brad’s Drink,” this popular beverage was crafted with a mix of sugar, water, caramel, lemon oil, kola nuts, nutmeg, and other additives.

The instant popularity of this new drink leads Bradham to devote all of his energy to developing Pepsi-Cola into a full-fledged business. He applies for a trademark with the U.S. Patent Office, Washington D.C., and formed the first Pepsi-Cola Company. The first Pepsi-Cola newspaper advertisement appears in the New Bern Weekly Journal.

“Doc” Bradham moves the bottling of Pepsi-Cola from his drugstore into a rented warehouse; he sells 7,968 gallons of syrup in the first year of operation.

Pepsi’s theme line is “Exhilarating, Invigorating, Aids Digestion.”

Bradham purchases a building in New Bern known as the “Bishop Factory” for $5,000 and moves all bottling and syrup operations to this location. Pepsi is sold in six-ounce bottles. Sales increase to 19,848 gallons.

Pepsi-Cola’s first bottling franchises are established in Charlotte and Durham, North Carolina.

Pepsi receives its new logo, its first change since 1898.

Pepsi gets another logo change, the third in eight years. The modified script logo is created with the slogan, “The Original Pure Food Drink.”

There are 15 U.S. Pepsi bottling plants. The Pepsi trademark is registered in Canada. Syrup sales rise to 38,605 gallons.
The federal government passes the Pure Food and Drug Act, banning substances such as arsenic, lead, barium, and uranium, from food and beverages. This forced many soft drink manufacturers, including Coca-Cola, to change their formulas. Pepsi-Cola, being free of any such impurities, claimed they already met federal requirements.

Pepsi-Cola becomes one of the first companies to modernize delivery from horse-drawn carts to motor vehicles. Two hundred fifty bottlers in 24 states are under contract to make and sell Pepsi-Cola.

Automobile race pioneer Barney Oldfield endorses Pepsi-Cola in newspaper ads as “A bully drink…refreshing, invigorating, a fine bracer before a race.”

The first Pepsi-Cola bottlers’ convention is held in New Bern, North Carolina. 

Pepsi theme line speaks to the consumer with “Drink Pepsi-Cola, it will satisfy you.”

Pepsi created the first radio advertising jingle to be broadcast from coast to coast.

Pepsi-Cola advertised on television for the first time and modernized our famous script.

Pepsi-Cola became the most popular cola drink in supermarkets.

The Birthplace of Pepsi historical site opens.

Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi announced that the annual PepsiCo shareholders meeting would move to New Bern. “We are proud to be a North Carolina company and feel at home right here,” she said.


Caleb Davis Bradham

Caleb Davis Bradham was born in Chinquapin, North Carolina, on May 27, 1867. After graduating from the University of North Carolina, Bradham attended the University of Maryland School of Medicine in hopes of becoming a doctor. While attending school, he worked part-time as a pharmacy apprentice at a local drug store.

Unfortunately, a family crisis forced Bradham to drop his pursuit of medicine and return home to North Carolina.

 Upon returning, he taught school for a short period of time before opening a drug store on the corner of Middle and Pollock Streets in downtown New Bern. Bradham’s Drug Store would later become the very place Pepsi-Cola was invented. In 1893, “Brad’s Drink,” made from a mix of sugar, water, caramel, lemon oil, nutmeg, and other natural additives, became an overnight sensation. Despite its name and hearsay, pepsin was never an ingredient of Pepsi-Cola.

On August 28, 1898, Bradham renamed his drink “Pepsi-Cola.” He believed the drink was more than a refreshment but a “healthy” cola, aiding in digestion, getting its roots from the word dyspepsia, meaning indigestion.

In late 1902, the Pepsi-Cola Company was formed due to the rising popularity and demand for Pepsi-Cola Syrup, with none other than Caleb Bradham as the first president. 

The business began to grow, and on June 16, 1903, “Pepsi-Cola” became an official trademark. By 1904, Pepsi-Cola Syrup sales reached almost 20,000 gallons. As demand for the drink continued to rise, Bradham decided it was time to offer Pepsi-Cola in bottles. By 1910 there were 240 franchises in 24 states, and that year the Pepsi-Cola Company held its first Bottler Convention in New Bern.

Hard times fell on Bradham and the Pepsi-Cola franchise during WWI. This was due to the high price and severe rationing of sugar. This rationing prevented Pepsi-Cola from producing enough syrup to meet the demands of consumers. Though Bradham attempted multiple substitutes for sugar, like molasses, the outcome was always an inferior taste to the original. After the war ended, sugar prices soared from 3 cents to 28 cents per pound. Bradham purchased a large quantity of high-priced sugar, which would be a factor in the company’s downfall. 

Pepsi Cola officially was bankrupt as of May 31, 1923, and its assets were sold to Craven Holding Corporation for $30,000.

For a more detailed story of Pepsi-Cola, purchase our fact-filled book “How Pepsi Got It’s Name” in our online shop.


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