Old Corner Drugstore

The Old Corner Drugstore is the birthplace of Dr Pepper. In 1885, Morrison’s Old Corner Drugstore introduced Dr Pepper to customers who eagerly drank the sweet concoction of twenty-three different flavors.  Located at 329 Austin Avenue on the bottom floor of the McClelland Hotel, there could be no better first home for the future “King of Beverages” than the heart of Waco’s financial district.

Throughout the early 1880s, Waco drugstores such as Tucker’s Lion Drug Store, Risher’s Drug Store, and Castle and Company vied to win the affection of customers. During this period of intense competition, Wade Morrison moved to Waco to become a partner in Castle and Company. In what turned out to be a fateful business move, Morrison hired Charles Alderton, another recent arrival in Waco, to be the pharmacist at his drugstore now exclusively known as Morrison’s Old Corner Drugstore.  

While the pharmaceutical offerings of the Old Corner Drugstore were its mainstay, its soda fountain became a popular hangout for children and adults alike. At a time when people widely believed in the medicinal properties of carbonated drinks, it is not surprising that Alderton devoted as much time to devising interesting drinks for customers to try as he did dispensing medicine. One day by chance he hit upon the perfect combination of twenty-three flavors, creating the popular drink that customers at the Old Corner Drugstore originally referred to as “a Waco.” Morrison named the drink Dr Pepper and applied for a patent stating the original date of creation as December 1, 1885. Eventually outside demand for the Dr Pepper syrup outstripped the ability of the Old Corner Drugstore to meet it, so Morrison relocated the syrup’s production to a building on the corner of Fifth and Mary, the site of the current Dr Pepper Museum.

Sensing that the business landscape of the community was changing, Morrison decided to move the Old Corner Drugstore away from the McClelland Hotel. In 1912, he opened the doors to the new Old Corner Drugstore location next door to the towering Amicable Life Insurance building (now known as the ALICO building). Relocating the Old Corner Drugstore next to Waco’s only skyscraper proved to be an astute business move for Wade Morrison, as the then tallest building west of the Mississippi River and south of the Mason-Dixie line drew in significant foot traffic to the storefront. 

Morrison’s death in 1924 did not lead to the immediate closure of the Old Corner Drugstore. The store continued to operate over the next twenty years under various owners.    

Although the memory of the Old Corner Drugstore lives on today, both of its physical locations are no more. In 1953, both sites suffered severe damage as a result of the F5 tornado that struck downtown Waco on May 11. The former location of each now serves the Waco community as part of its parking infrastructure. 

For more information about the Old Corner Drugstore, visit the Dr Pepper Museum. To learn more about the museum, visit www.drpeppermuseum.com

Images

"Finest Drug Store in Texas" (1908)

"Finest Drug Store in Texas" (1908)

Situated on the bottom floor of the McClelland Hotel, the Old Corner Drug Store promised customers not only an extensive selection of merchandise but "only the best" for their medicinal and sundry needs. In an age of intense retail competition, the storefront's striped awnings, bright signage, and visible displays helped it stand out amongst its competitors. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Interior (329 Austin Avenue)

Interior (329 Austin Avenue)

The original location of the Old Corner Drug Store was divided evenly between the merchandise counters and the soda fountain. The display cabinets featured rows of meticulously arranged goods ranging from medicinal oils to cigars. The pennants on the wall reflect Waco's status as the "Athens on the Brazos" in the late nineteenth century as Texas Christian University, Baylor University, and Paul Quinn College were all located within city limits. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Advertisement (1909)

Advertisement (1909)

Owner Wade Morrison wanted his drugstore to be more than just a simple dispensary. The soda fountain, as run by pharmacist Charles Alderton, became a major social hub thanks to Alderton's inventive drink mixes. One of these mixes, known as "a Waco" went on to become Dr Pepper. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

New Location

New Location

In 1912, Wade Morrison relocated the Old Corner Drug Store next to the newly built Amicable Life Insurance building at 423 Austin Avenue. The new store included an expanded soda fountain, two levels of display cabinetry, and marble accents. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Thriving Business

Thriving Business

The Old Corner Drug Store attracted customers from all walks of life. On a daily basis it was not uncommon to see cigar aficionados, amateur photographers, servicemen, and children intermingling around its counters. The crowd here likely was drawn by the store's famous one-cent sale. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Front Display Window

Front Display Window

Around 1913, the Old Corner Drug Store licensed the Rexall brand name. This enabled the drugstore to remain independently owned while still offering customers products under the Rexall name. It also was an official retailer of Kodak photographic supplies (film, chemicals, and paper). | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Fighting for Hygiene

Fighting for Hygiene

In addition to filling prescriptions, the Old Corner Drug Store carried various products designed to improve cleanliness within the home. This display places the Frederick Disinfectant Co. line of pesticide sprays alongside an illustrated chart titled "A Day in the Life of a Fly" whose images were meant to reveal the unsavory habits of this common household pest. The small placard at the bottom urges viewers to "Clean up, keep clean. Bear in mind if you see a fly— there is FILTH near you." | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Joy Summar-Smith, “Old Corner Drugstore,” Waco History, accessed July 26, 2017, http://wacohistory.org/items/show/86.

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