Caleb Davis Bradham: The Inventor of Pepsi

On this day, May 27 in the year 1867, Caleb Davis Bradham was born in North Carolina, USA. He was the inventor of a beverage known as Brad’s Drink which later on became Pepsi Cola.

Caleb Davis Bradham
Caleb Davis Bradham

Bradham was the son of a businessman. When he was a student at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, his father’s business was failing and he was forced to drop out of school. He became a teacher and later returned to the university to take up pharmacy. After graduation, he opened a drug store in North Carolina.

The drug store included a jukebox to entertain customers. In 1893, Bradham concocted a drink which was made of kola nut extract, vanilla, sugar, and rare oils. He sold the drink in a soda fountain in his store. Having no name yet for this beverage, his customers’ called it “Brad’s Drink”. In 1898, he gave this drink a name, Pepsi Cola, from the words pepsin which is an enzyme that aided digestion and cola from the ingredient kola nut extract.

The cola drink became popular and in 1902, he incorporated the company. By advertising it as a pure food drink and through franchising, the business expanded to neighboring states. During the First World War, however, business operation was difficult due to the unstable supply of sugar as well as its fluctuating price. The company lost a lot of money and in 1923, the company went bankrupt. Its assets were sold to the Craven Holding Company for $35,000.

The life of Caleb Bradham did not just revolve around his cola business. He retired as a rear admiral in the naval reserve. He served as president of the People’s Bank of New Bern. Even after his exit from Pepsi Cola Company, he maintained his scholarship program at the University of North Carolina. He was an active member of his community either as organizer or participants of local events.

Caleb Davis Bradham was married to Charity Credle and they had three children. In 1934, he died from illness at the age of 66.

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