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  • Writer's pictureAditi Mishra

From Seltzer to Self-Serve: A Journey into Soda Fountain History

If you thought this was just another fountain, well, then you thought wrong. Hop on a ride down history lane where every pour tells a tale of refreshment and delight.


Sprouting in the 1870s like a carbonated revolution, these bubbly dispensers started as the pharmacists' secret weapon—mixing potions that could rival any wizard's brew. Fast forward, and they turned into the Cheers of the 20th century, where everybody knew your soda flavour.

But how does the soda fountain work?The mechanism behind this is functional to this day and is used by many fast food chains. The way it operates is that the soda fountain device combines flavoured syrup or syrup concentrate and carbon dioxide with chilled and purified water to make soft drinks, either manually, or in a vending machine. Nowadays, the syrup is often pumped from a special container called a bag-in-box (BiB).

Its origins and relevance dates back to its invention when the soda fountain patent was first granted to U.S. physician Samuel Fahnestock (1764–1836) in 1819. He had invented a barrel-shaped pump with a spigot to dispense carbonated water, and the device was meant to be kept under a counter or hidden. In 1832, Sir John Matthews invented a design that would make artificially carbonating water more cost-effective.

An interesting fact coming out of this concept was that the person typically operating the soda fountain was known as the ‘soda jerk’. Interesting name for someone who holds immense power in handling your drinks and can possibly spike them. 

The soda fountain, a nostalgic icon, persists as a testament to tradition, with some establishments faithfully preserving its charm. You'll still encounter vintage machines at some places reminiscent of bygone eras. Yet, the modern landscape has seen fast-food giants embrace this cultural gem, ensuring that the soda fountain's legacy continues to bubble up in our hearts and glasses, bridging generations with a shared love for fizzy delight.


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