The Story Behind The Un-Cola and It’s Missouri Inventor
What city do you think of when I say Coca-Cola? What state do you associate with Dr. Pepper? There's a good chance you answered Atlanta and Texas to those two questions. But do you know where the soda branded as The Un-Cola got its start? Probably not, I didn't know. Keep reading to find out.
According to a now-defunct website found on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine and Wikipedia, 7-Up was the brainchild of Missourian Charles Leiper Grigg. Grigg was born in Prices Bridge, in unincorporated Montgomery County. At 22 years old he relocated to St. Louis and learned about the carbonated beverage business while working in advertising.
By 1919 Grigg was working for a company owned by Sylvester "Vess" Jones. If you're thinking, hey, is Sylvester "Vess" Jones related to the Vess Soda Company founded in St. Louis, you're right.
Jones named his soda company after his nickname and Grigg's was responsible for inventing Whistle Orange Soda, which became the company's best selling soda. Eventually, Grigg and Jones had a falling out and Grigg moved on to Warner Jenkinson Company where he developed flavoring agents for soft drinks, this is according to ThoughtCo.com.
At Warner Jenkinson, he invented another orange soft drink Howdy, which he took with him when he left and struck out on his own. Gregg formed a partnership with Edmund G. Ridgway and they formed the Howdy Company. Gregg, however, decided to change his focus to lemon-lime flavored beverages because his orange soda's always struggled to compete against Orange Crush which dominated the orange soda category.
In October of 1929, he invented what would become 7-Up, although at the time he, unfortunately, called the beverage Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Sodas. He quickly changed the name to 7-Up Lithiated Lemon Soda before settling on 7-Up in 1936.
Because 7-Up was founded in the era when sodas were marked as health elixirs, the original formulation of 7-Up contained lithium citrate which was marketed in some sodas as a mood elevator. Lithium is one of the elements with the atomic number of 7, which is where some think Grigg's got the number seven for the name 7-Up, but according to ThoughtCo.com he never explained where he came up with the name so that's speculation.
Grigg's passed away in 1940 but the soda he founded continued to thrive. Over the years 7-Up has tweaked its formula several times, and the popular soda brand has been owned by a variety of different companies including Westinghouse in 1969, tobacco giant Phillip Morris in 1978, a merger with Dr. Pepper in 1988, chocolate company Cadbury Schweppes in 1995, and now Keurig Dr. Pepper (formerly known as Green Mountain Coffee and Keurig Green Mountain.)
So there you have it. St. Louis and Missouri gave birth to the Un-Cola, 7-Up. All thanks to Charles Leiper Grigg, who is not only a big part of Missouri soda history and St. Louis soda history but American soda history. Think about that the next time you enjoy a clean, refreshing, 7-Up.