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Detroit Historical Society to celebrate Vernors' 150th anniversary with weekend bash

Vernors, the ginger ale that has become one of Michigan’s oldest and most celebrated brands since a pharmacy on Woodward Avenue began offering it in 1866, is a century and a half old this week.

The Detroit Historical Society is celebrating with a full slate of events centered around the Mitten State’s favorite soft drink, including a June 11 party at the Detroit Historical Museum.

That event will feature appearances by James Vernor V and James Vernor VI, the great-great- and great-great-great grandsons of James Vernor, who invented the drink, as legend has it, by accident.

James Vernor circa 1910.
Credit Courtesy of the Detroit Historical Society
James Vernor circa 1910.

According to the Detroit Historical Society, Vernor, who in 1862 was working as a junior clerk at a Detroit drugstore, had been toying with a recipe for a stomach-calming recipe when he enlisted to fight for the Union in the Civil War. When Vernor returned in 1866, he discovered that the wood cask he left the drink in had aged it into a delicious product -- one good enough to sell at the pharmacy he opened that year.

The brand has come a long way in the last century and a half. It shifted from "Vernor's" to an apostrophe-free "Vernors" in 1959. More significantly, Vernors is now manufactured by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, but the soft drink remains a Michigan favorite.

Festivities for the Vernors 150th Anniversary Party on June 11 are scheduled to last from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"The Vernors Collectors Club is an enthusiastic group of Vernors collectors around Detroit."

There’s also a "ginger beer crawl" the night before. And an exhibition of historical Vernors artifacts is already on display and lasts through June 11, coupled with Vernors-themed specials at 14 downtown restaurants.

“The Vernors Collectors Club is an enthusiastic group of Vernors collectors around Detroit,” said Sarah Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Detroit Historical Society. “They approached us. The thought is that Vernors used to be located just down the street from us on Woodward (Avenue).”

Murphy said the museum, located at 5401 Woodward Ave. in Detroit, is expecting big crowds for Saturday’s event.

“We’re just excited that there’s really something for everybody that day,” Murphy said. Attendees can expect to find a volunteer dressed as the iconic Vernors gnome, arts and crafts available for children, and, of course, “Vernors floats, cream ales and Boston Coolers” for sale at the museum during the afternoon.

More information can be found here.

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