Similar to gum, "sassafras-flavored" drinks can be traced back to the early 1800s, but it was Philadelphia pharmacist Charles Elmer Hires that first had the idea to sell it commercially in 1875. For some historical perspective: back then pharmacists would sell medicinal teas made with all sorts of ingredients -- tree bark, dandelion, ginger, coca, you name it. Hires started selling his sassafras-based "root tea” out of his shop at Sixth and Spruce, and decided it would be more marketable as “root beer” a year later. The rest is history.
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