I was researching a post on peanut butter (coming soon!) when I came across this ad. Of course I had to find out more.
Soda fountains were very popular in the nineteenth century, and by the early twentieth century, consumers could purchase their favorite carbonated soft drinks in bottles. Coca-Cola, perhaps the best-known soft drink, began bottling its product in the 1890s. In 1899, Coca-Cola owner Asa Chandler sold two Chattanooga lawyers, Joseph Whitehead and Benjamin Thomas, the rights to bottle Coca-Cola. Whitehead and Thomas, as the Coca-Cola bottling Company, sold bottling franchises to other bottlers, while Chandler sold the Coca-Cola syrup. The Orange Julep Syrup Company in St. Louis, Missouri, incorporated in 1914, used a similar system. They produced Orange Jooj syrup and sold franchises to local bottlers.
While it’s a global brand today, Coca-Cola started as a regional product. It had competition from several other soft drinks. A 1919 article in Printer’s Ink, a trade journal for advertisers, noted the “bizarre” registered trade names of many new soft drinks that contained “playful notes of consolation.” Here’s a sampling of the names. As you can see from the list, the drinks were being produced across the country.
- “Appleju,” Northwest Fruit Products Company of Salem, Oregon.
- “Grapetone,” Foot & Jenks of Jackson, Michigan.
- “Dan-de-li-o,” a beverage meant to “instinctively suggest to many a reader the dandelion wine that mother used to make,” Frank C. Goodale, Lowell, Massachusetts
- “Cham-pay,” Cham-pay Products Company of Wilmington, Delaware. This was one of many drinks with champagne sounding names.
- “Fizzo,” M. Getz & Company, San Francisco.
- “Min Tu-lep,” a word play on mint juleps, James A. Tierney, Weston, West Virginia.
- “Bludwine,” Bludwine Company, Athens, Georgia.
- “Non-Tox,” Capital Brewing, Denver.
- “Konsolation,” a lime flavored beverage by the Nyal Company, Detroit.
- “Submarine Chaser,” A.M. Luckett, Fort Worth, Texas.
- “Drink and Be Sober,” the Drink and Be Sober Company, New York.
Printer’s Ink wasn’t kidding. These are some odd names, and I didn’t even include any of the variations on Coke and Cola.
Thanks to a 1917 case in the Missouri Supreme Court (Luckett et. al. vs. Orange Julep Co. et. al.) there is a fairly detailed account of the Orange Julep Company’s origins. Our story begins in 1911. Claude Johnstone was working as head of manufacturing for the Jersey Creme Company, a Texas-based soda syrup manufacturer. Jersey Creme’s sales were threatened by a competing product, “Orangeade,” so company manager C.J. Howel approached Johnstone about formulating a new soft drink. Howel bought the supplies and assisted Johnstone in creating the new formula, “Orange Julep.” In testimony, both Johnstone and Howel claim responsibility for creating the drink – Johnstone on the basis of his lab work, and Howel on the basis of marketing. In 1912, Howel trademarked the drink “Howel’s Orange Julep,” and by the following summer Jersey Creme had sold an estimated 50,000 gallons.
In the fall of 1913, Johnstone left Jersey Creme and relocated to St. Louis. The next spring he incorporated the Orange Julep Company along with two former Jersey Creme employees, W.F. Cox and Vess Jones. You can probably see where this is going. Johnstone’s company manufactured the same syrup he developed at Jersey Creme under the trademarked names “Johnstone’s Orange Julep” and “The Original.” A Jersey Creme franchisee sued to prevent further sales. Johnstone claimed that he developed the syrup while working at a soda fountain before he was employed by Jersey Creme, but witnesses contradicted this claim. When Johnstone left Jersey Creme, he gave the company an altered version of the syrup formula, taking the original with him. The court ruled that the syrup had been jointly created by Johnstone, Howel, and Blanchard, a Jersey Creme company officer. Johnstone was ordered to give Jersey Creme a correct version of the formula and to “refrain from making or marketing Orange Julep of any kind or under any formula” until he returned the “Howel’s Orange Julep” formula to the company.
I don’t know what happened to the Jersey Creme Company, but in 1916 Howel partnered with Neil C. Ward to form the Orange-Crush Company, a soft drink still produced today. By early 1917, a few months before the court ruling, the Orange Julep Company was using the term “Jooj” to advertise its orange syrup. In trade journals, “Jooj” was used alongside “Johnstone’s Original Syrup.” At some point that year, the company started using “Orange Jooj” exclusively, likely in response to the court ruling. Despite its legal battles, the company seemed to do well. The January 1917 issue of the American Bottler noted that the Orange Julep Company had plans to expand and had set aside a generous advertising budget. I found newspaper advertisements dating from 1917-1918 in ten southern and midwestern states and the District of Columbia. “This publicity,” writes the American Bottler, “will make a very large demand for ORANGE JOOJ. The bottlers that hold an exclusive franchise from the company are, indeed, fortunate.”
Orange Jooj advertisements emphasize oranges in the text and through images of juicy orange halves. Ad copy states that the drink is pure, refreshing, healthful, and suitable for babies and children. One ad in the Washington, D.C. Evening Star states that Orange Jooj is “Just sweet ripe oranges. Just white cane sugar. Just pure iced water. With just the right blending. That’s all.”
“That’s all,” indeed. In February, 1919, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, acting on orders from the Secretary of Agriculture, seized five unopened barrels of Orange Jooj syrup from a New Orleans bottling plant. The Orange Julep Company was charged adulterating and misbranding their product, a violation of the Food and Drug Act, enforced by the USDA Bureau of Chemistry, a forerunner to the current Food and Drug Administration. Remember that advertised ingredients list? Orange juice, sugar, and water? Turns out the product was nothing more than artificially flavored sugar water. Not a drop of orange juice in sight, despite the luscious drawings in the advertisements. According to the notice of judgement, the product was “artificially colored in a manner whereby its inferiority was concealed,” and “it contained an added deleterious ingredient, to wit, salicylic acid, which might render the article injurious to health.”
The company’s problems continued. In March 1919, the News Scimitar reported that ten 50-gallon barrels of Orange Jooj syrup were confiscated from the Union Bottling company in Memphis, Tennessee. The following year, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri brought charges against the company for selling adulterated and misbranded orange syrup in Missouri, Illinois, and Tennessee. The judgement concluded that “in fact and in truth, it was not an orange juice sirup and was not made of oranges.” The company pleaded nolo contendere and paid a $200 fine.
So what became of the Orange Julep Company and Orange Jooj? In December 1918, prior to its problems with the Bureau of Chemistry, the company changed its name to the Orange Smile Sirup Company, which operated until 1965. It produced an orange-flavored soda called Smile and a lemon-lime flavored soda called Cheer-Up. As far as I can tell, the company dropped the Orange Jooj name when they rebranded. Orange Jooj’s story is not unusual. In the crowded soft drink market of the early twentieth century, many brands competed for consumers. Some, such as Pepsi-Cola and Dr. Pepper stood the test of time and achieved national markets. A few, such as Nehi and Cheerwine, a cherry-flavored soft drink, are still available regionally. Many others, like Orange Jooj, have faded into the past.