Chelmsford Golden Ginger Ale

Digital Manager on September 12th, 2017

In the early 20th century, the Chelmsford Spring Co., established by Canadian-American C. George Armstrong, was rivaled in brand popularity only by Coca-Cola. Its key moneymaker was ginger ale, a soothing, golden elixir thought to be a cure-all that could ease ailments from general fatigue to the common cold. Armstrong promised customers that the ale would always be made of “pure water, drawn from a spring near Robin’s Hill,” according to a 1901 article in Lowell’s “Daily Courier.” The predominantly medicinal tonic was hailed as non-habit forming, clean and of high “food value,” and was advertised as such. A map of New England was used in its labeling to denote the strong local following behind the brand.

Chelmsford Golden Ginger Ale at first provided an alternative to alcoholic beverages; however, over time the ale became more and more popular as a drink mixer. Armstrong sold the company, along with his recipes, to Canada Dry in 1928. The loyalty of New England customers kept the Chelmsford factory producing the golden ginger ale, but eventually the Chelmsford Golden Ginger Ale brand started to decline in popularity, and the plant shut down in the 1950s. Cadbury Schweppes acquired Canada Dry, along with the original recipe for the ale. The recipe was never revived. Cadbury Schweppes became Cadbury in 2008, and they own the rights to the recipe to this day.

But in 2003, the DeMoulas supermarket chain, based in Tewksbury, partnered with Polar Beverages of Worcester to re-create the formula. Though its flavor was not yet exact, Chelmsford Golden Ginger Ale was back on the shelves at DeMoulas’ Market Basket stores, making the brand name of this local favorite more than 100-years-old.

The Chelmsford Ginger Ale plant as it looked in the early part of the 20th century. The plant was located on Route 110 in Chelmsford. Photo courtesy Chelmsford Public Library. Top of page: Two vintage ginger ale bottles alongside the beverage’s modern containers. Photo by Adrien Bisson.

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