Vernors pop ("soda" if you aren't from Michigan) advertisement. This wall is in Ann Arbor, Michigan on North Main. Photo by Scott Buel 1999.
According to company legend, prior to the start of the American Civil War, while a clerk at the Higby & Sterns drug store in Detroit, James Vernor experimented with flavors in an attempt to duplicate a popular ginger ale imported from Dublin, Ireland. When Vernor was called off to serve in the war, he stored the syrup base of 19 ingredients, including ginger, vanilla and other natural flavorings in an an oak cask. Vernor joined the 4th Michigan Cavalry on Aug. 14, 1862 as a hospital steward, was promoted to second lieutenant Sept. 20, 1864, and was discharged on July 1, 1865. After returning from battle four years later, he opened the keg and found the drink inside had been changed by the aging process in the wood. It was like nothing else he had ever tasted, and he purportedly declared it "Deliciously different," which remains the drink's motto to this day. 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.