In 2016, the U.S. Postal Service celebrates soda fountain favorites—the cold, sweet treats beloved by people of all ages. The act of savoring cool, fizzy confections is a national pastime that dates back generations. Feast on these stamps without gaining an ounce. Another big plus – they’ve got plenty of fiber.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, scientists and physicians touted the curative properties of mineral water. In 1806, Yale University chemistry professor Benjamin Silliman began pumping water full of carbon dioxide gas with the intention of replicating the effervescent liquid found in natural springs. An apothecary in New Haven, Connecticut, peddled his concoction, as did two soda fountains he opened in New York City.
Competitor George Usher one-upped Silliman by keeping his soda fountains open on Sundays. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Joseph Hawkins and Abraham Cohen successfully sold monthly subscriptions to their shop. Customers paid $1.50 per month for a daily glass of bubbly liquid.
Initially, soda water—named for the sodium bicarbonate it sometimes contained—was pumped out through gooseneck-shaped metal faucets. The formerly simple dispensers soon became more elaborate, as manufacturers started making ornate marble fountains that wowed patrons. As the 19th century progressed, thousands of soda fountains sprang up inside American restaurants, candy shops, department stores, and pharmacies.
By the late 1800s, Americans had long since begun drinking carbonated beverages for their pleasant taste, rather than their supposed health benefits. Soda jerks, the skilled operators of the nation’s bustling tile-floored, chrome-accented soda fountains, offered a wide variety of ingredients and syrups to flavor their product. Thirsty customers could choose from options such as vanilla, lemon, raspberry, pineapple, sarsaparilla, cola, and egg cream.
The ice cream soda’s precise origin is not clear, but by the turn of the 20th century it had become a fountain staple. Adding a creamy scoop or two of chocolate or strawberry to a soft drink only added to its already considerable allure. The rise of refrigeration helped establishments produce, serve, and store frozen confections, whose popularity surged. After all, it was difficult to resist thick milkshakes, malteds, and sundaes topped with syrups, sauces, whipped cream, and cherries.
In cities and towns across the United States, the soda fountain was an important gathering place. When Prohibition banned alcohol sales, people flocked to soda fountains. During World War II, soda fountains popped up at military bases in the U.S. and abroad, because drinking a soda or indulging in a sundae reminded soldiers of simple pleasures at home.
After World War II, the country’s collective attitude toward dining out began to change. Speed and convenience were prized over service, and by the 1960s, the number of soda fountains had dramatically decreased. Soda fountain culture, however, still lives on in homes, restaurants, and ice cream parlors. The joy of sharing a soda or a sundae is an indelible American tradition.
Each of the Soda Fountain Favorites stamps features one of these five illustrations by artist Nancy Stahl of New York City: a double-scoop ice cream cone, an egg cream, a banana split, a root beer float, and a hot fudge sundae. Art director Ethel Kessler of Bethesda, MD, designed the stamps.
Evoking a classic chrome-accented soda fountain you will find geometric silver-toned patterns in the selvage and on the booklet cover which will also have the words “Soda Fountain Favorites” appearing across the top of the booklet cover. The words “FOREVER*USA” are featured along the right edge of each stamp. Forever stamps will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce price.
Soda Fountain Favorites stamps will be available soon, so watch for them next time you make a trip to the post office!