The present label the Tom Tucker Mint Ginger Ale, a clip of western Pennsylvania pop drinkers. Courtesy that Brian Butko.

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Pittsburghers love quirky traditions, so as soon as cruising the soda popular music aisle in local stores, she bound come see eco-friendly bottles that Tom Tucker Mint Ginger Ale squeezed between the major brands. The logo design of a dapper man in optimal hat and bow tie has been smiling earlier at united state for practically 90 years from pop bottle labels and also painted wall surface signs—but whose face is it?

Mention Tom Tucker these days and also most civilization think that the TV anchor on “Family Guy.” enlarge generations psychic Tommy Tucker, a huge band leader who might pass because that the pop-bottle icon. Long-time baseball fans could recall a star first-baseman the a century ago. The origin of the soda pop name, however, might be simpler than those.

Tom Tucker to be one of many soft drinks to emerge in the 1920s, born as options to outlawed liquor throughout Prohibition. Iconic local brand Regent was established in 1919, together were numerous others, as the half on alcohol loomed.<1> some drinks also had names suggestive the liquor, choose Tom Collins Jr. Soda pop. Pittsburgh’s Independent brewing switched indigenous making Silver height beer to pop, consisting of one referred to as Wine-Ola.<2> Ginger ale to be the most well-known alternative: Pittsburgh imminent turned to making tech Ginger Ale,<3> and Canada dry (introduced to the U.S. In 1919) referred to as itself “The Champagne that Ginger Ales.”

A 1920 sector article noted about Pittsburgh, “Scores of previous saloons have actually been transformed right into ‘soft drink’ places and also the change, while rather startling, is being welcomed in good nature by the one-time habit patrons of the areas in the days as soon as beer and also other alcoholic beverages to be liberally dispensed.” also taverns in large hotels prefer the ft Pitt and also William pen were turned right into soda fountains (whether or no they offered illicit options too).<4> after Prohibition ended, numerous of the soft drink makers brought on by producing mixers because that cocktails, choose Regent’s 4% and also its supreme Mint Ginger Ale.

A 1929 advertisement for Tom Tucker ginger ale did not yet encompass the iconic guy in height hat. Courtesy the Brian Butko.

The Tom Tucker brand is very first seen in an advertisement from October 1929 because that its Pale dry Ginger Ale—though no man is pictured top top the bottle. It was made by Keystone Bottling and also Supply,<5> which ago in 1922 make the news twice: a raid top top the Keystone plant discovered a still and also two gallons the moonshine,<6> and also a pedestrian to be struck through Keystone truck driver Sidney Harris, 28, who was arrested.<7>

The still is of little consequence—many an separation, personal, instance experimented v making moonshine during Prohibition—but from this incident, we learn Keystone’s proprietor was wilhelm Americus.

Harris is more crucial to ours tale: he and his mother are recognized as the founders of the Tom Tucker Beverage company and for inventing the renowned Tom Tucker Mint Ginger Ale.<8> However, the paper trail speak a somewhat various story.

Bottle do by Glenshaw Glass, c. 1935, through a young-looking Tom top top front and also “It’s Tom Tucker Time” ~ above back. History Center museum collections, 2011.7.1.

A trademark because that the top-hatted imagery was filed in 1935 because that soft drinks made by the “Tom Tucker Beverage firm composed that the complying with members, wilhelm Americus and also Sidney Harris” at 433 Melwood St., site of old Luna Park.<9> The drawing is lined because that black and flesh tints and the trademark is described as “a fanciful portrait the a person head with peak hat.”<10>

Americus and also Harris also trademarked the term “Southern Style” because that ginger ale in 1933 but claimed first use in 1929.<11> The will was that southerly meant sweet choose a mint julep, not mild like dry ginger ales.

Much later, in 1949, the firm trademarked Tom Tucker lettering “outlined in green” but claimed very first use even further back, on Dec. 28, 1927.<12>

At some suggest in the at an early stage 1930s, Tom Tucker ended up being an elevation company. Through 1932, Tom Tucker Beverages was making not just ginger ale yet flavors like Tom Tucker Raspberry and also Root Beer.<13> Contradicting that, in may 1933, Keystone Bottling had actually bought a one–story brick structure on Melwood Street and was named as “manufacturers and also distributors of Tom Tucker ginger ale.”<14>

The bigger question is: why had Tom Tucker Beverage agency even been formed? had the brand been Harris’s idea at Keystone therefore he broke off to begin his very own company? If so, why to be Americus part of the new company? Whatever attracted them to use the name, they no the first: Tom Tucker has been provided for every little thing from steel fabricators come churches, youth cheerleading come hotel chains.

The impetus behind all these is most likely little Tommy Tucker, one 18th-century nursery rhyme about a young singing for his supper. The name came to represent any orphan, and by the 1910s had actually spawned a garments fad, specifically shirts, hats, and also corduroy suits all influenced by the character. To anyone looking to surname a company, it to be familiar, in the public domain, and also it had the power of alliteration.<15>

Tommy Tucker make the sheathe of Billboard magazine numerous times, this one indigenous 1942. In ~ Kennywood, that holds the record for the largest crowd to view a musician as soon as he played over there on decoration Day, 1936. Indigenous Billboard.

Another logical impetus for the image could have to be popular large band leader Tommy Tucker, who played the glass run floor in ~ Sanders Inn, Aspinwall, as early as 1929. By 1932 he was a constant on Pittsburgh radio and also played Kennywood so often in the ’30s the he was called the park’s band leader. His radio appearances are usually detailed as Tom Tucker, and newspapers in 1936 joked the he sings for his supper at the park, similar to the nursery rhyme. He also opened every performance through the announcement, “It’s Tommy Tucker time,” i beg your pardon was similarly the tag line because that Tom Tucker pop. It’s logical the he could lend his picture to a drink that the same name—yet no connection can be found.<16> The oddest tangential connection was a file of Adam West (TV’s Batman) in the Pittsburgh Press years later that stated he’d “emceed Tommy Tucker’s TV show and also delivered milk on the next (instead the ginger ale).” Tracking under Tommy’s daughter, Trudy Thomson, she similarly said the naming was coincidence, that her dad had actually no connection to the popular music business.<17>

Whoever that was intended to be, Harris embraced the imagery by driving his sales route in a Chevy coupe with a Tom Tucker mannequin alongside him, finish with height hat and also tuxedo. Together self-promotion offered the company well and it thrived steadily. In 1940, Tom Tucker announced plans to build a bottling plant on center Avenue close to Shadyside Hospital. In 1957, it started selling Tom Tucker Dietetic.<18> through 1960, Tom Tucker was the regional bottler the Schweppes, and also when Squirt Bottling offered its regional plant on the east End because that a school, Tom Tucker gained that franchise too. Companion Robert Harris claimed then the Tom Tucker was also now franchise-bottling Diet-Rite Cola, Hires root Beer, and also Orange Crush.

Bottling more brands was a requirement for an independent bottler since customers to be by then selecting cans, plus Pittsburgh was known as a “soft” soft drink sector with every capita consumption half that the Philadelphia. Franchising several brands also enabled one-stop sales-and-service on a variety of products. Through the late 1960s, with most local bottlers out of business, Tom Tucker had grown come 60 employees and sales topping $1 million.<19>

Natrona’s Mint Julep and Mint Ginger Ale: same formula yet with and without green food coloring. Obtainable in the background Center museum shop, picture by Brian Butko.

With consolidation a constant in the industry, Tom Tucker was sold in 1978 to a bottling company in Ohio.<20> not liking retirement, Sidney Harris went ago to work-related at Natrona Bottling, one of the rare neighborhood bottlers quiet operating.<21> Paul Bowser and also his brothers had bought the company in 1939, which was known, then and also now, for its Red Ribbon-brand sodas.<22>

Natrona bureaucratic Manager mar Jane Zdilla started with the agency in 2002 once Paul Bowser asked she to leave her hairdresser job. She recalls, “Sidney was such a character. He and also Paul were finest friends.”

Mary Jane says the catalyst for Tom Tucker to be the nursery rhyme: “Sidney had two sons, therefore they knew Tom Tucker the storybook character.” Sidney’s son Leroy Harris agrees: “My father told me the the surname Tom Tucker came from a nursery rhyme.”<23>

Sidney carried two formulas v him to Natrona—the well known Mint Ginger Ale and also Champayno, which had actually been motivated by among those Prohibition-era drinks, Cham-Pay indigenous Wilmington, Delaware.<24> They renamed the mint ginger ale together Plantation format Mint Julep but still used green bottles favor the original. They used 28-oz. Bottles with little recipe books attached featuring concoctions favor Mint Cranberry Punch, Mint Julep Apple alcohol Cooler, and Mint Flavored Spicy Burgundy Sauce for Apple Pie.

Bauser (“bow-ZAY”) Champayno native Natrona Bottling. Photo by Brian Butko.

For Champayno, Bowser included Bauser come its name—his critical name yet spelled in different way so it might be express “bow-ZAY.” Paul joked that “it was named for his French cousin.”<25>

Tom Tucker founder Sidney Harris passed away at age 100 in 2003. After Natrona owner Paul Bowser passed away in 2008, an investor purchase it and the company has been run because 2010 by Vito Gerasole. It’s quiet made in the same former Nash car garage, and also Natrona continues to offer a range of spices under its Red Ribbon brand. They also still usage an old technique for developing bubbles: decide carbonation, excellent by dropping dry ice into the mix (as opposed to just adding CO2 gas from a tank), which makes the bubbles smaller and the sensation smoother.<26>

Meanwhile, the Ohio firm that to buy Tom Tucker Mint Ginger Ale had actually been to buy by Beverage Management, Inc., which was then to buy by Brooks that Holland, Michigan, i m sorry was later bought by Cadbury Schweppes.<27> parts of the were spun off to form the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, of i m sorry the Brooks plant is one of 22 bottling framework producing nearly 50 brands consisting of 7UP, A&W, Canada Dry, Hires, IBC, RC, Schweppes, Stewart’s, and also Vernors.<28> Tom Tucker is lost among those better-known brands however sells well enough to continue to be on local store shelves. (The company did not respond for comment come this article.)

Tom Tucker proclaiming signs have actually faded and also been painted over in recent years, consisting of a popular ghost sign on Carson Street near 10th Street. One has been revived in Springdale at Flashback Pinball, and also a beautiful new one has been included to a wall surface in Braddock by prolific mural artist Anthony Purcell.

Natrona still makes the Mint Julep, though when green bottles ended up being unavailable, a environment-friendly coloring was included to the drink.<29> The company has began making a Mint Ginger Ale through the exact same formula that’s clear, with no included coloring.<30> mar Jane states both are popular as a mixer for highballs, come baste hams and kielbasa, and also as a cure for upset stomachs, a long-time Pittsburgh remedy.

Champayno was decreased to smaller 6.3-oz. Bottles, and also now has been discontinued other than for what remains in stores. Natrona’s flagship product, Red Ribbon Cherry Supreme, is popular together with Jamaica’s finest Ginger Beer—regular and also hot. Less typical flavors room Pennsylvania Punch and Almond Cream.

So which is better—Tom Tucker or Natrona’s Mint Julep/Mint Ginger Ale? The accurately decide carbonation and use of street (instead of corn syrup) in Natrona’s drinks make the locally made popular music smoother and an ext flavorful. But for traditionalists, Tom Tucker tho lines supermarket shelves.

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A brand-new Tom Tucker wall surface sign to be painted in 2012 by muralist Anthony Purcell ~ above the next of Comet News in Braddock. He’s painted and restored dozens of wall surface signs transparent the city. Courtesy the Anthony Purcell.