A Brief History of...7Up in a Down Economy

28, January 2010
7Up advertisement from the May 16, 1949 issue of Life magazine7Up advertisement from the May 16, 1949 issue of Life magazine

Two weeks before the stock market crash of 1929, a St. Louis ad man named Charles L. Grigg introduced a new beverage with a not-so-catchy name: “Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda.” “Bib-label” referred to the use of paper labels resembling bibs that would be placed over the tops of unlabeled bottles, and “lithiated” advertised the ingredient lithium citrate, a mood-enhancing drug. Although the drink was pricy compared to the other 600 lemon-lime sodas on the market, it still managed to draw strong sales.

Perhaps as the Depression wore on, Grigg thought he needed to be more economical in his verbiage; he changed the name of his caramel-colored drink to the more memorable “7Up” and renamed his Howdy Corporation (which also manufactured the popular Howdy Orange drink) the Seven-Up Company. After being bought and later sold by Philip Morris, the company moved to Dallas in 1987 as a subsidiary of Cadbury Schweppes. A manufacturing plant remains in St. Louis on Page Avenue.

While there are many theories as to the origins of the name 7Up, none has ever been confirmed—Grigg kept mum on the topic. Perhaps he chose the name after seeing a cattle brand with a 7 and a U. He could have come up with it during a game of dice. Or, it could be a reference to the drink’s seven flavors and bubbly carbonation. Loyal drinkers of the “uncola” can believe what they want; they’re probably just grateful it outlasted the Depression and got a shorter name!