Sweet, earnest Miriam Josefsohn shows a bit of the Wild West in her when she tells her suffrage friends from Chicago,
I do have a hankering for a sarsaparilla soda…. Let’s share a bottle.
Sarsaparilla soda in the early 1900s was often made in the U.S. from the root of the prickly vine Smilax regelii. The root of that plant and other related species had medicinal uses and, at that time, was thought to be a cure for the sexually transmitted disease syphilis. (Blush, Miriam, blush!) Still the root extract, mixed with sugar and carbonated water–perhaps from the White Rock beverage company–made for a tasty soda similar to root beer.
But the other side of the story is that White Rock back in Miriam’s time was considered a most respectable beverage company. White Rock started in 1871, when pharmacist H. M. Colver purchased the land around mineral-laden White Rock natural spring in Waukesha, Wisconsin. People believed that the water from this spring had healing powers–and it likely did.
The company bought the rights to a painting of “Psyche at Nature’s Mirror” from artist Paul Thumann and, in 1894, put Psyche on the label of its sparkling water. Psyche has been on White Rock ever since.
Did White Rock make a sarsaparilla in 1912? Good question.
Check out recipes and other delights from the early 1900s on the Just For Fun page. Enjoy!