In 1916, Colorado instituted a statewide prohibition act. This law meant people could not buy or sell alcohol throughout the state. Before Colorado even created the statewide mandate, some cities had already opted to go dry. Greeley and Fort Collins both had outlawed alcohol before then. While they would not allow alcohol purchase, these cities did not leave their citizens without things to drink. Due to the laws of prohibition, the popularity of soda fountains increased.

Before continuing, it is important to address what a soda fountain was. Soda fountains were places that sold soda, usually out of drug stores. Early on, soda was viewed as a medicinal item. It came from hot springs and fell into the category of miracle tonic. Many advertisements promised a drink of the water could cure any pain that ailed a person. From here, the soda industry took off. People would put fresh fruit in the bottom of their drinks for flavor. After that, syrups became popular. This produced a variety of flavors, including chocolate, vanilla, and wet grape-nut.

Storefront of J. F. Fezer Druggist with horse and carriages parked in front.

J. F. Frezer Drugstore in Greeley, CO. with a few men and wagons. This drugstore was one of many that had a soda fountain inside.

At some point, the soda went from being a medical tonic to an everyday drink. In the late 1800s, fountains moved from drug stores to candy shops, dinners, and other frequented locations. Both the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley and the University of Colorado in Fort Collins had soda fountains on campus. By the 1920s, most of Greeley’s fountains were still in drug stores. However, quite a few had moved into candy stores. Some of the more common names were The White Lily Co., Dickman’s Confectionary, and J. F. Frezer Druggist. Fort Collins had just as many soda fountains as Greeley, with places like The Sugar Bowl, Smith Sweets, and City Drug Store.

With these stores abounding, Greeley and Fort Collins were not lacking in the drink department. In 1909, it was reported that 140,000 sodas were sold in Greeley monthly. In 1910, before Fort Collins enacted temperance, it boasted of 450,000 drinks sold a year. That would average out to 37,500 drinks a month. The already dry Greeley was ahead by 102,500 drinks a month. The difference between dry Greeley and wet Fort Collins was dramatic.

Fort Collins would see its boost as well. In 1919, after Fort Collins enacted its temperance laws and the whole state was dry, soda sales jumped to 200,000 sodas sold per month. The change in ten years was fast. As a Denver newspaper reported, “Ladies and gentlemen, the national bar of the United States!” Indicating that the soda fountain had taken over the position the bar once held. Now, it was not only another drink option. It had become the most popular drink in both Fort Collins and Greeley.


Written by Lilah Barth, Historic Sites Interpreter

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