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Ayer's Sarsaparilla, circa 1880

The back of this advertising card claimed: "Without doubt the discovery of America is Ayer’s Sarsaparilla...This is a compound concentrated extract composed of the Sarsaparilla-root of the tropics, Stillingia, Yellow Dock, Mandrake, and other roots held in high repute for their alterative, diuretic, tonic, and curative properties. An economical and reliable blood-purifying medicine."

In fact, this remedy was nothing more than a simple beverage of sweetened, herb-flavored water. It was dispensed as a "tonic" (still the general term for soda pop in certain areas of the country) but it was little different from the drink we now call root beer.

Dr. J.C. Ayer & Co., Lowell, Massachusetts

(Front cover, advertising card)Front cover of trade card for Ayer's Sarsaparilla, circa 1880

Hagley Museum and Library

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Wilmington, DE 19807