How do you tell the story of a brand that's been around longer than the automobile, the zipper and even sliced bread? That's a task that falls to Rachael Nadeau Johnson, collections coordinator at the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco, TX, which houses thousands of archival photos, advertisements, memorabilia and other objects that document the 132-year history of Dr Pepper and the soft drink industry at large.
"We rely mainly on donations," says Nadeau Johnson of how the museum amassed its more than 100,000-item collection. Housed in the 1906 Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company building, where Dr Pepper was first produced, the museum opened on May 11, 1991, and last year it saw its highest attendance figures ever, with some 110,197 soda fans coming through the museum's doors.
In addition to its own collection, the museum also features many items on long-term loan from the Dr Pepper Snapple Group's collection, which was largely assembled by Dr Pepper historian Harry Ellis. Some objects date back as far as the late 1800s.
"I love seeing the unique pieces that are really rare, that no one's ever seen before," Nadeau Johnson says. Here, she shares a few of the museum's most special finds.
Old Corner Drugstore Ostrich Egg
Collector Shirlene Bobroff carved this ostrich egg into a model of the Old Corner Drugstore, where Dr Pepper was invented. "She made it specifically to give to the museum," Nadeau Johnson explains. "It has moveable windows and doors, and the inside is decked out with dollhouse models. She even got tiny Dr Pepper ads replicated and everything!"
Early 1900s Pin Tray
In the early 1900s, it was common advertising practice for companies to purchase stock ads (in this case, a pair of adorable puppies) and pay to have their name added. This turn-of-the-century pin tray is an example of that. In May 1998, a man visited the Dr Pepper Museum with his wife, who showed the tray to Mildred Walker, then-Curator of Collections. The woman explained that the tray had belonged to her grandmother, who died giving birth to her mother in 1908. The couple wasn't quite ready to part with the family heirloom, so Walker cleaned and waxed the tray for them and sent the couple on their way. Some time later, after the woman passed away, her husband brought the pin tray back to the museum, this time to be donated. "That's where she wanted it to go," Nadeau Johnson says.
World War II-era Posters
"There's a collector we know who hangs out on eBay and finds things he thinks we need," Nadeau Johnson says. "He found this very interesting series of 12 or 13 ads from World War II."
Many soft drink brands suspended their advertising campaigns during the war, replacing them with patriotic messages. "A lot of ads from that time had something about buying war bonds and supporting the troops," she says. "This series featured a monkey called Grandpop, with different sayings like 'Absentees put the axis at ease.' No one had ever seen these before."
Untouchable 7-UP Labels
When Dr Pepper Snapple Group's collection of memorabilia was transferred to Waco, museum staff found a file cabinet with a drawer full of 1940s-era 7UP labels. Included with the labels was a handwritten note that read, "Do not take any of these labels. If you do your [sic] fired," signed by former 7UP president H.C. Grigg. "That drawer has stayed intact ever since because nobody wanted to touch it," Nadeau Johnson says, only half-joking.
The Dr Pepper Museum is located at 300 South 5th St., Waco, TX. For more information, visit drpeppermuseum.com.