History of Soda Fountains

  • By: Max S.
  • Date: December 22, 2022
  • Time to read: 6 min.

You’re used to seeing your favorite soft drinks in cans and bottles, but have you ever heard of a little something called a soda fountain? If not, your world’s about to change forever!

Picture this: you’re at a restaurant or a convenience store, and you need a fizzy drink to quench your thirst. Suddenly, you lock your eyes on a beautiful device on the marble countertop. That right there is a dream come true!

Meet the soda fountain: a device that can dispense carbonated beverages right then and there! How cool is that? The soda fountain combines carbonated soda water and flavored syrups to create the most delicious drinks ever. 

Just a couple of decades ago, this was quite the trend! Eventually, the iconic soda fountain counter became local residents’ #1 hangout spot. And honestly, it’s not hard to see why. 

If you want to learn more about soda fountains, you’ve come to the right place! This blog will fill you in on everything you need to know. So, grab a fizzy drink and stay tuned for the 411!

History of Soda Fountains

Honestly, the history of soda fountains is so vast that we couldn’t possibly summarize it even if we tried! By the time the 20th century rolled around, soda fountains were everywhere. Keep reading to learn more!

Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we? Oh, and buckle up! This is going to be quite the ride.

Say hello to Joseph Priestley. This English chemist was fascinated by the vapors from the brewery next to his residence. Day and night, he was intrigued by the gas bubbles, especially the ones in his beer.

In 1767, Priestley became the first to produce artificially carbonated water. And how did he do that, you ask? The experimental scientist hung a filled vessel over a fermentation vat at a brewery. And boom! That right there was the start of something special.

Four years later, Torbern Bergman added to Priestley’s discoveries and invented a process to create carbonated water. In 1771, this Swedish chemist and mineralogist produced this water from chalk using sulfuric acid. Isn’t that cool? 

Now listen to this. In 1783, German-Swiss scientist Johann Jocab Schweppe did the unthinkable and developed a way to bottle sodas on a commercial scale. Before you knew it, he set up mass production in Geneva and began selling carbonated beverages under the Schweppes brand. Talk about a revolution.

If you’re wondering how carbonated water became so popular in the States, you can thank Benjamin Silliman for that. In 1806, he became the first American to create soda water in bulk. That’s right! This chemistry professor bought a Nooth apparatus to incorporate carbon dioxide into water and soon kick-started a business. Wow. 

Needless to say, the soda industry was soon up and running in America. No one could get enough of that refreshing fizz (and for a good reason). Given the popularity, it’s not hard to see why inventors began looking for ways to quench that thirst like never before. 

In 1819, the first patent for the soda fountain was granted to Samuel Fahnestock. By inventing a barrel with a pump and a spigot to dispense the carbonated drink, the American physician successfully met the demand for fizzy drinks in the States. 

soda fountain patent

Then, in 1832, New Yorker John Matthews changed the world of carbonation as we know it. His cost-efficient process involved mixing sulfuric acid and calcium carbonate to create carbon dioxide. Genius, isn’t it?

But wait, there’s more! The inventions just didn’t stop. In 1863, Gustavus D. Dows patented the first marble soda fountain. And around the same year, James Walker Tufts invented the Arctic Soda Fountain and eventually became one of the most well-known fountain makers in town. 

the soda apparatus

Thanks to the Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, soda fountains grew even more popular. Soon, these incredible devices sprung up all over the nation. Seriously. It was all anyone could think about.

In 1888, Jacob Baurr started to produce carbon dioxide in tanks and launched the Liquid Carbonator Company in Chicago. Today, he is said to have “done more for the soda fountain business than any other man.”

Oh, and remember the Arctic Soda Fountain? In 1891, the company merged with A.D. Puffer and Sons of Boston, Charles Lippincott, and John Matthews to form the American Soda Fountain Company. Together, these popular soda manufacturers successfully monopolized the beverage industry.

When Prohibition hit in the 1920s, more and more people began gravitating toward soda fountains to fill the void caused by the lack of alcohol. You could find one of these fountains at every department store and drugstore (more on that in the next section). 

From that point onward, there was no looking back. It was officially the golden age of soda fountains! From the early 1900s to the 1950s, these magical devices were the talk of the town. Everyone’s idea of a perfect afternoon was sitting by the countertop, indulging in a carbonated beverage, and chatting with one another. And I mean, it makes sense. What could be better than that?

Everything was great until, well, the 1970s. Thanks to the introduction of bottled beverages and fast food restaurants, the popularity of soda fountains began to decrease rapidly. The memory, however, lives on to this day. 

Why Did Drugstores Have Soda Fountains?

We know by now that drugstores had soda fountains to keep up with the growing demand for fizzy drinks. But did you know that they also sold carbonated beverages for medicinal value? That’s right! These beverages were used to treat certain health conditions.

We know we just went on and on about the history of soda fountains, but let’s recap. After the invention and mass production of carbonated water, countless soda fountains began to take America by storm. And because Prohibition banned alcohol, everyone ran toward sodas instead (and understandably so). 

So if you think about it, it only makes sense that soda fountains were suddenly everywhere, including drugstores. Consumers could stop by for a quick drink, socialize with their friends, and have the time of their lives. And with the ice cream business booming simultaneously, they could even enjoy a delicious ice cream soda! The possibilities were endless.

Okay, now hear this. Drugstores didn’t just have soda fountains for pleasure. They also had them for another reason. Believe it or not, carbonated beverages were used to cure certain physical ailments and promote good health. Woah.

We know this isn’t probably what you envision when you think of a drugstore now, but this is what it was like back in the day. Oh, and that’s not all. Many of these fizzy drinks were concoctions of drugs. 

Pharmacists strongly believed in the power of these drinks and often created secret formulas for their customers. Caffeine and cocaine, for example, were combined to treat headaches. Who would’ve thought? 

How Do Fast Food Restaurants Make Soda?

soda fountain new age machine

Sodas in fast food restaurants are made directly in the machine with flavored syrup and carbonated water. Of course, every place uses different straws and quantities of syrup, CO2, and ice, so the tastes may vary. But the bottom line? It’s delicious

What is the Soda Dispenser at a Bar Called?

soda siphon jetting into a glass

Soda dispensers at bars are commonly called soda siphon or soda guns. As you might know, this incredible tool dispenses carbonated beverages to eager customers. Which, we believe, is an incredible invention. 

Do Soda Fountains Still Exist?

Unfortunately, soda fountains are not nearly as common anymore, but you can still find a few nationwide. Some include The Pickwick, Doc’s, Zaharakos, Crown Candy Kitchen, Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain, and Leopold’s. Feel free to browse for more!


In 1922, America had over 100,000 soda fountains with a whopping $1 billion in sales.

If that doesn’t prove how successful soda fountains were, we don’t know what will! But honestly, can you imagine how much fun it would be to sit by a countertop and have fresh carbonated beverages with your closest friends? Sounds like heaven!

Of course, the cans and bottles we have today are super convenient, but it’s safe to say that there’s just something about the old-school charm of soda fountains. I mean, there’s a reason they were that popular.

The good thing is that some iconic fountains are still scattered throughout the nation. So, if you’re curious to try one, hop in a car and get going! We promise you won’t regret it.