History of soda fountain covers not only the entire time when soda drinks were present in popular culture, but also the pivotal early years when only small-scale devices were able to create carbonated drinks and carbonated water. The origin of soda fountain can be find in early 1770s when Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman and English scientist Joseph Priestley invented first equipment for saturating water with carbon dioxide. Idea for that came from numerous previous scientific studies of natural springs that contained carbonated water, and advances in chemistry that enables easier manipulation of carbon dioxide. Early successes Bergman and Priestley were quickly adapted by several more inventors, who managed not only to improve the process of creation of soda drinks, but also create foundation of creation of first Soda Fountain machines.
First models of soda fountains appeared in Europe, but they were not manufactured and marketed a lot. However Benjamin Silliman, an US chemistry professor from Yale saw the potential of carbonated water, kick-starting organized business of soda machine manufacture and sales of drinks across New York City and Baltimore, Maryland in 1810s. His efforts are today recognized as crucial for making soda drinks not only popular with US population, but also viable business avenue. Organized production of soda fountains began in 1832 in Philadelphia, and ever since then many other manufacturers and improved designs started being formed all across US and Europe.
Soda Fountains came in two forms of serving drinks - premix and postmix. Premix soda fountains just stored pre-made drinks that were cooled down with ice (and later on modern refrigeration), while postmix soda fountains mixed the ingredients directly on the spot. This type of soda fountains is most popular today, and can be found in public concession stands, restaurants, convenience stores and many other locations (originally they were most used in candy stores, pharmacies, ice cream parlors, dime stores, milk bars and train stations). No matter what type of soda fountain drink mixing setup was used, very large amount of these devices were later used for serving other additional products – mostly ice cream and other types of cold drinks. First appearance of self-serving soda fountain machine was introduced in 1950 in US chain store Walgreens, which were the years when soda fountain machines were at the heights of their popularity. After 1960s, majority of people who purchased soda drinks switched to vending machines that dispensed glass bottles or aluminum soda cans.