Little Bits of History

Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 21, 2011

Alka-Seltzer dissolving in water

February 21, 1931: Miles Laboratories introduces Alka-Seltzer to the world. Dr. Franklin Miles began Miles Laboratories in 1884 in Elkhart, Indiana. He marketed some patent medicines that remained on the market for years. In 1928 there was a severe flu epidemic. Hub Beardsley, then president of Miles Lab visited the local newspaper to find that the men working there were remaining healthy. Tom Keene, the editor, told Beardsley that they took aspirin and baking soda at the first sign of illness and did not succumb to the flu.

Beardsley asked his chief chemist, Maurice Treneer, to come up with a concoction that the company could market. Treneer made up something. Beardsley took 100 of the tablets with him on a cruise and as people became ill with the flu, he passed out his free samples and found that they worked. One Alka-Seltzer dropped into water made a refreshing drink.

The mixture is effervescent, caused when an acid mixes with the baking soda whose chemical name sodium bicarbonate. It worked well to ease indigestion while the aspirin in the drink helped to ease minor pains. The brand mascot was a funny little guy made of an Alka-Seltzer tablet and wearing a second one as a hat and was named “Speedy” to help get the idea across about how quickly the drink worked. Speedy had a high-pitched voice provided by Dick Beals.

By the 1960s, the popularity of the drink was waning. Hip young people thought of it as an old person’s remedy. It was associated with hangovers and indigestion and was just uncool. A new ad campaign blitz helped to increase sales for a few of reasons. First the campaign was catchy with a new tune, “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz / Oh what a relief it is.” Secondly, the spots were original and entertaining. And most of all, they recommended dropping two tablets into the water instead of just one. Miles Laboratories was bought by Bayer in 1979. Today there is plain Alka-Seltzer along with nine effervescent varieties of Alka-Seltzer Plus, four kinds of liquid gel caps, and three varieties of liquids. Most brands do not contain aspirin today, but instead use acetaminophen.

“If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.” – Satchel Paige

“I have never developed indigestion from eating my words.” – Winston Churshill

“Culture is a little like dropping an Alka-Seltzer into a glass-you don’t see it, but somehow it does something.” – Hans Magnus Enzensberger

“Alka-Seltzer has some of the most famous advertising of all time and the brand has withstood the test of time. This was a way to tap into the 75th anniversary. Tapping into the familiar, tried and true seemed a very natural place to go.” – Jay Kolpon

Also on this day:
The Washington Monument – In 1885, the Washington Monument was dedicated.
Communist Manifesto – In 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published their seminal work.

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