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Drug Store exhibit.

Dr Pepper Museum

Field review by the editors.

Waco, Texas

Dr Pepper was first called "Waco" because it could not be found outside of that city's limits. Waco is now the home of the Dr Pepper Museum, partly housed in Dr Pepper's first bottling plant, which operated until the 1960s when Dr Pepper switched from bottles to cans. The building opened as a museum on May 11, 1991, exactly 38 years after a deadly tornado destroyed downtown. A second building, with a real 1950s soda fountain and a fake bottling assembly line, opened in 2016.

The museum starts with facade of an early 20th century "corner drug store," an important fixture in any romp through soft drink history. There's also a replica of the original drug store where Dr Pepper was first served as a brain tonic. We hurry along to the good stuff.

Cooking with Dr Pepper.

Dr Pepper memorabilia is everywhere -- a reliquary of retired vending machines, bottle designs, beverage coolers, and advertising. Visitors learn that the copywriter who came up with the slogan "Drink a bite to eat at 1024" -- which inexplicably propelled Dr Pepper to big sales in the 1920s -- was given a bonus of $25. They also learn that Dr Pepper is officially trademarked and labeled without the "Dr." period because the typeface on its bottles made it look funny.

The "Cooking With Dr Pepper" display imaginatively promotes DP as an ingredient in recipes such as Patio Beans and Salisbury Steak Deluxe. The "Diet Sodas And The Fitness Craze" exhibit includes little signs mentioning, without mentioning, the "health concerns" of artificial sweeteners such as Saccharin (cancer), Cyclamates (cancer), and Aspartame (cancer, blindness, coma, epilepsy, Alzheimer's, lupus, birth defects). It ends with a cheery reassurance that this has "led to continued testing on all of these sweeteners."

More bottles.

Perhaps the most popular exhibit in the museum is a continuous loop of old Dr Pepper commercials running on a video monitor, interspersed with one touting the soft drink industry as an example of the free enterprise system and of social betterment. "Because the industry has grown and developed with America," says a voice, supposedly of the same guy who narrates all of the Dairy Queen commercials in Texas, "it will continue to reflect and support forward thrusts of national progress."

The theme of soda as the lubricant of capitalism is continued on the third floor in the W.W. "Foots" Clements Free Enterprise Institute and The Beverage World Soft Drink Hall of Fame. Woodrow "Foots" Wilson was CEO of Dr Pepper during the 1970s -- its golden "Be A Pepper" decade -- and was honored with his own "Foots" brand soda. The Beverage World Soft Drink Hall of Fame has many enshrined members, but all of them are executives, none are workers, and only two are from small brands -- one from Crush, the other from Squirt.

Transistor radio.

Nearly lost among all of the gray plaques is the "Not Worth Two Cents" exhibit, which illuminates various aspects of free enterprise. The story goes like this: bottles of special "Vice President of the United States" soda were made, to be presented to Texas home-state favorite Lyndon Johnson when he gave a speech before the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages in December, 1963. But by the time that the meeting was held, JFK had been assassinated, Johnson was president, and he was too busy to give speeches to bottlers of carbonated beverages. The ABCB dumped the soda and tried to return the bottles for their two cent deposit, but they were told that the bottles were "not worth two cents."

After ingesting all of this information, you might understandably be in the mood for a refreshing Dr Pepper. Visitors receive a free Dr Pepper with every paid admission, but have to walk to the 1950s soda fountain in the other building to drink it. You can buy old-fashioned six-packs of bottled Dr Pepper in the gift shop, but the museum cleverly doesn't sell any hand-held pry-off bottle openers to get into them. No sticky spills here!

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Also see: Dublin, TX - Dr Pepper Museum | Hard and Soft Drink

Dr Pepper Museum

300 S. 5th St., Waco, TX
I-35 exit 335A (4th/5th Sts). West on 4th to Mary Ave. Left on Mary. The museum is on the corner of 5th and Mary.
M-Sa 10-5:30, Su 12-5:30 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Adults $10
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Death Masks of Frederick the Great and NapoleonDeath Masks of Frederick the Great and Napoleon, Waco, TX - < 1 mi.
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In the region:
Piece of the Deadly Monster Wreck, West, TX - 17 mi.

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