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The “Black Cow” (Root Beer Float) Was Invented In 1893 And Named After A Colorado Mountain

On August 6, float a scoop of vanilla ice cream in an ice cold mug of frothy root beer.  It’s National Root Beer Float Day!

Also known as the “Black Cow,” the root beer float got its start in Colorado in a mining camp.

  • Frank J. Wisner of Cripple Creek, Colorado, gets the credit for inventing the “Black Cow”  in August of 1893. One night Wisner, owner of the Cripple Creek Cow Mountain Gold Mining Company, was staring out the window and thinking about the line of soda waters he was producing for the citizens of Cripple Creek when he came upon an idea.
  • The full moon that night shined on the snow-capped Cow Mountain and reminded him of a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  He hurried back to his bar and scooped a spoonful of ice cream into the children’s favorite flavor of soda, Myers Avenue Red Root Beer. After trying, he liked it and served it the very next day.  It was an immediate hit.
  • Wisner named the new creation, “Black Cow Mountain” but the local children shortened the name to “Black Cow”.
  • Root beer is made out of 16 Roots, and herbs.
  • Colonists were actually the first people to make root beer.
  • Roy Allen purchased the root beer formula for A&W root beer from an Arizona Pharmacist.  The first batch was made in June of 1919.
  • The A and W in A&W stand for Alan and Wright. Roy Allen would team up with Frank Wright in 1922.
  • A&W is the number one selling brand of root beer in America.
  • Charles E. Hires was the first person to produce and market root beer throughout the United States
  • Charles Hires initially marketed his beverage as “root tea.”
  • By 1876 Charles Hires had changed the name of his beverage to Hires Root Beer, and he presented the drink at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, celebrating America’s 100th birthday. The Philadelphia exhibition also included Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, Heinz ketchup, and the Remington typewriter.
  • Root beer accounts for 3 percent of America’s Soft Drink Market.
  • The most original ingredient was Sassafras. It comes in an alcoholic drink also.
  • In 1960 a key ingredient (the sassafras root) came to be known as a carcinogen and its use was banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • The first ice-cream soda was sold in 1874.
  • In 1927 John and Alice Marriott purchased an A&W franchise in Washington, D.C.  The Marriotts named their root beer restaurant The Hot Shoppe.  Their restaurant expanded and eventually led to the creation of Mariott Hotels.
  • The Sonic chain of drive-in restaurants began as a hamburger and root beer stand in Shawnee, Oklahoma, in 1953
  • A reverse root beer float is made with root beer ice cream and vanilla soda.
  • Both Benjamin Franklin and George Washington were fans of small beer, the precursor to root beer.


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