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James Vernor, Sr. (April 11, 1843 – October 29, 1927) was an American pharmacist and druggist who invented Vernor's ginger ale in 1866.


Vernor was born in Albany, New York and moved with his parents to Detroit, Michigan in his youth. While employed at Higby and Sterns' Drug Store in Detroit, Vernor began experimenting with ginger ale . With the emergence of the American Civil War in 1862, he enlisted and served with the 4th Michigan Cavalry until 1865, becoming a Second Lieutenant before being discharged.[1]

When he returned from the war, Vernor opened a drug store of his own on Woodward Avenue, at the corner of Clifford Street,[2] and sold his ginger ale at its soda fountain advertising it as Vernor's Ginger Ale.[3]

According to company legend, when Vernor left to serve in the war, he had stored his experimental ginger ale syrup base in an oak cask. After returning four years later, he opened the keg and found the drink had been changed by the aging process. He declared it "Deliciously different," which became the drink's motto. In a 1936 interview, however, his son, James Vernor Jr., suggested that the formula was not developed until after the war. This was confirmed in a 1962 interview with former company president, James Vernor Davis. According to the 1911 trademark application on "Vernor's" as a name for ginger ale and extract, Vernors did not enter commerce until 1880, five years after Vernor returned from the war.[4]

In 1896 Vernor and his son, James Vernor, II., closed the drugstore and together opened a new soda fountain on Woodward Avenue south of Jefferson Avenue near the riverfront ferry docks, and organized a manufacturing plant.[5] By 1915 had expanded operations to include a bottling company, which widely manufactured Vernor's Ginger Ale. Vernor was one of the original members of the Michigan Board of Pharmacy, formed in 1887, and held License No. 1 throughout his career.[6] Vernor also served on the Detroit City Council for 25 years.

In 1927 Vernor died in Grosse Ile, Michigan at age 84 from pneumonia and influenza.


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