Remembering the Man Who Gave Michigan Its Favorite Cold Medicine
If you were to ask your fellow Michigander about what cold medicine they would recommend, it would be safe to assume that at least one of the answers would be, "Vernors."
The ginger pop, Vernors, can be found in any major grocery store in Michigan. In fact, as all Michiganders know, it was invented right here in Michigan by a man named James Vernor.
Vernor, who was born this week in 1843 (4/11/1843), originally moved to Michigan when he was about five years old. He went on to become a clerk at Higby and Stearns Drug Store where he apparently began to experiment with different flavors in order to change/improve the taste of ginger ale.
A Few Fun Facts about James Vernor:
Perhaps "fun" isn't the right descriptor.
- Vernor enlisted in the 4th Michigan Calvary for the Civil War in 1862 and served until 1865 when he was discharged
- During his time in the Civil War, he rose to the rank of second lieutenant
- If he hadn't served in the Civil War, he may have never discovered the perfect recipe for the delicious drink we all now know as Vernors.
As the legend goes, Vernor had left an experimental ginger ale recipe in a sealed oak barrel. Four years later, when he returned from the Civil War, he opened the barrel and discovered that the aging process had produced a delightful new ginger ale/pop.
Vernor went on to open his own drug store where he sold his version of ginger ale. With the growing popularity and success of Vernors Ginger Soda, he was eventually able to close his drug store and, instead, open a plant in the Detroit area in 1896. Read more here.
After a successful life and career, James Vernor passed away at the age of 84 in October of 1927. He's currently buried in Woodmere Cemetery in Detroit.
Unfortunately, although Vernors is a Michigan staple, it is no longer produced within the state. In the 1980s, production in Detroit was ended. The production rights switched hands a couple of times before eventually being acquired by Dr. Pepper in the 90s.
Even with Vernors being produced out of state, Michiganders' love for the soda has not ceased. A quick search of "Vernors" on Instagram yields a number of interesting posts like this incredible vintage clock:
This Vernors wallet:
And perhaps the most Michigan Instagram post that's ever been posted...cherry pie paired with Vernors:
This week, the week of his birth, people have been remembering James Vernor with various posts on social media detailing stories about his life. However, one of the most impressive tributes comes from a Dana J. who created this incredible video using My Heritage Life Story to, almost literally, bring James Vernor to life:
While we're remembering...are you ready for a throwback? Check out this early 90s commercial for Vernors:
Today, if for some reason you can't find Vernors in your local Meijer, you can shop their products on their website.