New Bern, NC is known as the “Birthplace of Pepsi” and for good reason. In his pharmacy, Bradham created “Brad’s Drink,” which was renamed Pepsi-Cola, in 1898. Mr. Bradham’s final resting place is located just blocks from the site of his famed pharmacy.
Born in Chinquapin, North Carolina, Bradham graduated from UNC and then attended the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He returned to North Carolina where he taught public school for a year, and then opened a drug store in New Bern. As with most drug stores of the period, a soda fountain and lunch counter were main attractions. One afternoon in 1898, he experimented with a concoction of vanilla, kola nut extract, and other “secret ingredients” that he initially called Brad’s Drink, but was soon called Pepsi-Cola. The drink was named by combining the terms Pepsin and Cola, as Bradham thought the drink aided digestion like the pepsin enzyme.
The drink soon became popular, and Bradham decided to have it manufactured. He patented the drink and began a syrup company in 1902, incorporating the company on December 24, 1902, Six months later he registered the Pepsi-Cola trademark. The syrup was sold to other drug stores for use at soda fountains, where mixed with soda it became Pepsi-Cola. By 1905, the company was so successful that Bradham moved into bottling the product and selling it to grocery stores. That year, he hired two bottling companies to keep up with the growing consumer demand. Bradham was active in civil life in North Carolina; besides his growing soft drink company, he was President of the People’s Bank of New Bern, and served on the County Board of Commissioners.
In 1923, near the peak of his success, Bradham and the Pepsi-Cola company declared bankruptcy after Bradham purchased a large quantity of sugar for the company at a record price of 28 cents per pound, and in the following weeks, the price dropped to just five cents a pound, leaving him stuck with high-priced sugar that the consumer would not purchase. The company was sold for $35,000, and Bradham returned to his drugstore.
Bradham died in 1934, after a long-term illness. He was buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery in New Bern.
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