According to company legend, prior to the start of the American Civil War, while a clerk at the Higby & Sterns drugstore in Detroit, James Vernor experimented with flavors in an attempt to duplicate a popular ginger ale imported from Dublin, Ireland.
Vernor's Ginger Ale - 'Woody'the Vernor's Gnome has been the brand's mascot used from the turn of the century until 1987. He returned after a hiatus in 2002.
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 oaken cask. Vernor joined the 4th Michigan Cavalry on August 14, 1862 as a hospital steward, was promoted to second lieutenant on September 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 1968, a Vernors advertising artist (Ron Bialecki) decided to grow out his beard and become the gnome (a.k.a Noble Fellows).
The Home of ’Vernor’s Ginger Ale,’ Detroit, Mich. The view shows the Vernor’s Ginger Ale storefront which was located in a 4-story brick building at 33 Woodward Avenue. The sign has eight hundred and sixteen lamps constantly moving, filling the glass with the finest drink ever. They sell the Extract; Anyone can make the ale. c. 1900 (Detroit Hist. Soc.)
He decked out a yellow AMC Pacer in Vernors swag, including a barrel, called it the Gnome Mobile, and became the unofficial mascot at James Vernor Elementary School.
Vernor’s Ginger Ale delivery trucks parked in front of the company bottling plant located on the west side of Woodward Ave just south of Woodbridge St. Mariners Church, located at the n.w. corner of Woodward and Woodbridge, can be seen in the center right area of the photo. c. 1925 (Detroit Hist. Soc.)
Graves of James Vernor, inventor of Vernor's Ginger Ale, and family at Woodmere Cemetery in Detroit, MI