10, 2, 4 on bottle of Dr Pepper in a vintage ad

Why Does Dr Pepper Have 10, 2, 4 On Vintage Bottles?

Dr Pepper’s “10, 2, 4” on their old vintage glass bottles and antique advertising signs were part of a marketing campaign starting in the 1920s where Dr Pepper assigned three times a day - 10:00 am, 2:00 pm, and 4:00 pm - as a way to maintain a “refreshed” feeling all day and hold one over between meals. But they weren’t the only people using the 10-2-4 markers in the day. Let’s get to some history.


It was 1885 when the son of British immigrants named Charles Alderton worked as a pharmacist at Wade Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store in Waco, Texas. Originally from New York, and part of the “Mason Invasion” of the Wild West after the 1826 Captain Morgan ordeal, Alderton lived a very private, quiet life, and little is known beyond the Dr Pepper folklore. But it’s no surprise Alderson was a chemist considering the Mason’s association with alchemy. So when he wasn’t mixing prescriptions, Alderton was mixing drinks at the soda fountain.

Vintage 10 2 4 Dr Pepper Advertisements

Somewhere between fruit juices (not prune juice) and health supplements, Alderton created a syrup that was a balance of 23 different ingredients. Whereas there’s been some speculation to the recipe, most likely it was a variation of the fruit juices and rock candy syrup popular in Austin and Galveston in the 1880s. Rock candy syrup has a unique vanilla flavor and had been used for medicinal purposes since the ancient Egyptians, and colonizing Egyptian practices had been a norm for Freemasons for centuries.

Rock Candy Syrup newspaper ads


Alderton's drink became known as“the Waco,” and gained popularity, especially with travelers. This brought a lot of attention to Alderton that he was uncomfortable with. Alderton passed his invention to his boss, Wade Morrison, and fellow chemist Robert S. Lazenby, who formed Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company.  Morrison, who had taken over the drug store in downtown Waco 1879, gave the drink its official name: Dr Pepper - named after Dr. Charles Taylor Pepper, a chemist in Virginia, former employer of Morrison, and businessman who sold his medical supplements and cures in Morrison’s Old Corner Store.

Dr Pepper 10, 2, 4 origins at Morrison's drug store, newspaper ads, and inside pictures of soda shop

Wade Morrison was born in 1852. He worked for Charles Pepper from 1874 (at 22 years old) until 1880 (at 28 years old), before heading to Texas. The folklore that Morrison named "Dr Pepper" for a daughter of the Peppers he was once loved may be"official and popular, but it's not very plausible. Charles and his wife, Isabella, had daughter Mary Howe, who died within a year of birth (1867). Their other daughter, Ruth McDowell Pepper, was born the same year Morrison and Pepper started working together (1874). There is the Pepper's eldest son, William Howe, would've been 15 when a 22-year-old Wade Morrison arrived, and 21 when Morrison left.

A less scandalous option - one that won't dismantle the carefully fabricated conservative foundation on which Waco is built - is that Alderton used Dr. Charles Pepper’s medical products in the formation of “the Waco.” This included the iron phosphate sold at Morrison's, used for combating alcoholism (see pic above, click to enlarge). Because Morrison and the Pepper family were friends, it makes more sense Morrison would call the new drink after the "secret" ingredients (aka "flavors") that extended the reach of Dr. Charles Pepper's line of products. How coincidental (or not?) that starting in the same year of 1885, McLennan County began having elections to prohibit alcohol. McLennan County finally went dry on December 1, 1917, and parts of the area still remain dry to this day.

Early 20th Century Chicago Drugs Milk Glass Sign at Industrial Artifacts

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10 - 2 - 4

In the early 1900s, many drug stores, general stores, and butcher shops offered free delivery services. Around the country, and especially in the midwest, deliveries for many of these stores happened at 8 am, 10 am, 2 pm, and 4 or 4:30 pm. Oddly enough, this didn’t apply to Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store - they had a motorcycle delivery boy who went out as needed. Even if a home or business didn’t follow the 8-10-2-4 schedule, chances are everyone was effected by these scheduled moments of break in routine. Over 100 years later, we find out the neurology of “brain drain” in that 2 pm time slot.

Various newspaper ads featuring 10, 2, 4 delivery times

Obviously, people drink coffee at 8 am. However, the 10, 2, 4 o’clock slots were up for grabs, and Dr Pepper felt it was a better alternative as it's not a cola, has less caffeine than coffee, has more fruit juice, and an unknown combination of healthy anti-alcoholic supplements from our favorite Confederate surgeon from Virginia. Dr Pepper was breaking the cycle of the American norm of drinking coffee up until 4:00 pm, ending work at 5:00, then having that “after 5 o’clock” alcoholic beverage to end the work day.

Vintage Dr Pepper adds featuring the 10, 2, 4 on their bottles and advertisements

5 years into Prohibition, Dr. Pepper leaned into the situation with their 10, 2, 4, campaign. They weren’t the only drink to do so. Howdy orange drink also ran with the 10, 2, 4 in the 1920-30s. But in the end, Dr Pepper's "Drink a bite to eat" ran quite a successful campaign to the working class, and the 10-2-4 branding stayed with Dr Pepper for decades.

You know, maybe there's something to that "3 Dr Peppers a day" routine.

1930s John Dugdill and Co Wall-mounted Lamp at Industrial Artifacts

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In the 1960s, Dr Pepper realized another great benefit of not being a cola. Did you ever think about warm Dr Pepper? Dick Clark says, "Yes, please," and (if you're over 21) you should too. With sincerest apologies to Brother  Alderton, it tastes great with rum or whiskey, and is perfect around Christmas time.

With perhaps one of the most famous jingles of the 1970s, here's American Werewolf in London's Peter Naughton dancing across America, featuring Popeye the Sailor.

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1 comment

  • Lee451

    I have loved this beverage for decades and drink them more frequently than 10, 2 or 4.

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