If you have ever seen a Dr Pepper advertisement or logo from 1927 to the 1970s then you likely have seen a clock dial with the numbers 10-2&4. If not, I’d like to take a moment to encourage you to look directly beside this paragraph and around this blog for examples.
See them? Great! But do you know what they are all about? I’ve had tour groups suggest that maybe these numbers represent the address of a store or the times it was open. Others have said that maybe it was the time Dr Pepper was delivered. This guess is closer to the correct answer which is that 10am, 2pm, and 4pm are the ideal times to drink a Dr Pepper. The next question becomes “why this set of numbers?” Certainly our 10-2&4 numbers have a set significance and are not random numbers picked just to sound good. If that were the case my vote would have been for 2, 4, and 8, but math is not everyone’s cup of tea (or dare I say Dr Pepper) and would not appreciate powers of 2 the way I do. No, the true answer lies back in the 1920s and would be cemented in the early 1940s during World War II.
For many years J.B. O’Hara, chairman of the board of the Dr Pepper Company, believed that Dr Pepper and all soft drinks containing sugar provided an essential energy boast that was needed to help a person get through the day. Essentially he argued that Dr Pepper was food in a liquid form and that this snack should be part of everyone’s daily diet. As a result of this belief Dr. Walter H. Eddy, a professor of Physiological Chemistry at Columbia University in New York, performed a study that showed that a person had a drop in energy and blood sugar levels at 10:30, 2:30, and 4:30. This new found information was taken to the advertising agency Tracy-Locke-Dawson, Inc. of Dallas with the task of coming up with a new slogan for Dr Pepper. The company held an internal contest offering a $25 bonus to whoever came up with an acceptable slogan. Earl Racey made the phrase “Drink a Bite to Eat at 10-2&4 O’Clock” winning the $25 and creating Dr Pepper’s most successful slogan.
The 10-2&4 slogan helped sell a lot of Dr Pepper, but may have seen its greatest benefit during World War II. During the war time many materials and products were rationed so that the military could have all the supplies it needed to fight the war. Sugar became one of the key items that the U.S. Government restricted due to its usefulness in creating explosives. Soft drink bottlers did not meet the exception of the rationing and drastically had their sugar supplies cut back. With O’Hara’s belief in soft drinks being an essential part of a person’s daily diet and armed with the study by Dr. Eddy he took the matter to the Rationing Board saying that Dr Pepper (and all soft drinks) were essential to helping workers perform at peak performance. After hearing the evidence the Rationing Board agreed and gave carbonated drink bottlers a quota for sugar allowing them to stay in business and continue making the sugary drinks.
The 10-2&4 slogan would stay on Dr Pepper bottles and aluminum cans until the 1970s when Dr Pepper changed to an oval logo and launched their next big advertising campaign with “Be a Pepper.” The 10-2&4 slogan continues to live on in many of the old advertisements, Imperial Pure Cane Sugar Dr Pepper cans, and the 10-2&4 Dr Pepper Collector’s Club that meets every March here at the Museum. It will forever be remembered for spreading Dr Pepper to new households and helping to keep the soft drink industry afloat during the Second World War.
The Dr Pepper Museum is located at 300 S. 5th Street in downtown Waco. The Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM and Sunday from Noon until 5:00 PM, last ticket sold at 4:15. For more information, visit us on the web at drpeppermuseum.com. To purchase your own
Dr Pepper memorabilia, visit the Museum’s online gift shop.