curative, effervescent mineral waters -- 6/2/21

Today's selection -- from Charles E. Hires and the Drink that Wowed a Nation: The Life and Times of a Philadelphia Entrepreneur by Bill Double. Even George Washington was a patron of mineral springs:

"The distance between prescription counter and soda fountain was not as great as may first appear. Pharmacists' affinity for soda water grew out of their role as purveyors of healthful rem­edies. Naturally carbonated mineral water from spas such as Vichy and Saratoga Springs had long been prized for their re­puted health benefits. In 1784 George Washington, a patron of mineral springs, received a letter commenting on the high car­bonation of Saratoga's waters. 'Several persons told us they had corked it tightly in bottles and that the bottles broke,' Colonel Othy Williams wrote the general.

"Early drugstores supplemented their inventories of chemi­cals, proprietary remedies, paints, and sundries with bottles of effervescent waters from native and foreign springs. These spas, often claiming restorative powers bordering on the miraculous, were popular among well-to-do patrons seeking therapies and cures. Those who could not afford the luxury of a spa visit might secure the purported benefits of natural springs at their local drugstore.

"Ever since the ancient Greeks used them to treat disease, ef­fervescent waters had fascinated healers and scientists. In 1684, following up on Van Helmont's discovery, English chemist Rob­ert Boyle speculated about how mineral waters might be repro­duced by chemical means. Interest in effervescent drinks bub­bled to new heights in 1767 when Joseph Priestley, an English clergyman and chemist, invented a method for carbonating still water by infusing it with carbon dioxide (CO2). He called the gas he captured above fermenting vats at a Leeds brewery 'fixed air.' Priestley's countrymen refined his process. They discovered that the gas could be produced more reliably by using dilute sul­furic acid to dissolve the calcium carbonate in powered chalk or marble. By the end of the eighteenth century, artificially car­bonated water began to appear in London apothecary shops. A British patent for impregnating water with carbon dioxide was issued to Henry Thompson in 1807.

"Priestley's discovery stirred scientific interest across the At­lantic as well. American physician Benjamin Rush, for example, was convinced of the curative powers of natural mineral waters. In 1773 he published papers on the nature and consumption of such waters in the Philadelphia area. His colleague, noted sur­geon Dr. Philip Syng Physick, is credited with creating flavored carbonated soft drinks as early as 1807. He had been prescribing artificially carbonated water to relieve his patients' gastric disor­ders. While instructing a pharmacist how to produce such waters, Physick suggested adding fruit syrup to make it more palatable.

"In 1806 Benjamin Silliman, a Yale chemistry professor, pur­chased a British inventor's soda apparatus and began producing artificial mineral water for sale at a New Haven pharmacy. He had difficulty finding suitable bottles for the drink. 'I cannot procure any glass bottles which will not burst, or any stone ones which are impervious to the fixed air,' Silliman wrote.'

"An 1819 British visitor to Philadelphia reported: 'During the hot season mineral waters (chiefly soda), sometimes mixed with syrup, are drank [sic] in great abundance -- the first thing any American who can afford five cents (about three pence) takes on rising in the morning is a glass of soda water: many houses are open for the sale of it, and some of them are fitted up with Pa­risian elegance.' At one such establishment, the Shakespeare Gallery, patrons might find soda water on tap and peruse the latest novels, newspapers, and pamphlets. The gallery styled itself as 'not only conducive to the health of the city, but an el­egant and fashionable lounge for ladies and gentlemen through­out the day.' The term 'soda water' may have derived from the European practice of adding sodium bicarbonate to such drinks to ease indigestion."


 | www.delanceyplace.com

author:

Bill Double

title:

Charles E. Hires and the Drink that Wowed a Nation: The Life and Times of a Philadelphia Entrepreneur

publisher:

Temple University Press

date:

Copyright 2018 by William G. Double

pages:

45-47
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