Explainer: The hidden (and not-so-hidden) meanings of 12 brands' favorite numbers

  • Image: 501s

    In the 1870s, when Levi Strauss invented his famous blue jeans, they were known simply as "XX."

    Two decades later, they were given the lot number "501®" and to this day, that three-digit number is synonymous with the Levi's brand. Levi Strauss isn't the only company with close ties to a specific number. Read on to learn the stories behind other brands' famous numbers.

  • Rolling Rock: The Mystery of 33

    Image: Rolling Rock

    Drinkers of this small town brew, have long debated the meaning of the "33" printed on each green bottle of Rolling Rock. A page of the Rolling Rock Web siteis even devoted to the mystery. Some say it signifies the number of steps it took to get from the brewmaster's office down to the brewing floor. Others theorize that it takes 33 steps to turn water into Rolling Rock. But the most persistent legend is that it was merely the result of a typo. The story goes that the original pledge of quality sent to the printer contained 33 words and this was noted at the end of the text by writing "33." The printer, not realizing the "33" was a word count, printed it along with the pledge text. The company has embraced the 33 and even suggests that citizens should celebrate March 3 (or 3/3) by enjoying Rolling Rock with friends.

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  • KFC's 11 Herbs and Spices

    Image: KFC 70th Anniversary packaging

    When Colonel Sanders developed his secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices in the 1930s, he couldn't have guessed that one day that same formula would be one of the food industry's most closely-guarded trade secrets. Portions of the spice mix are said to be made at different locations to keep the secret safe and the only complete handwritten copy of the recipe is kept in a corporate vault.

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  • Formula 409

    Image: Formula 409

    As the official Formula 409 Web siteexplains, "Formula 409 didn't get its name from the area code where it was developed. It's not the birth date of the creator's daughter. Formula 409 got its name from perseverance." It's true. It took a lot of work. After 408 tries, two Detroit scientists finally got the formula for their cleaner right.

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  • WD-40

    Image: WD-40

    Luckily for the inventors of WD-40, it didn't take 409 tries to get their formula right! The folks at Rocket Chemical Company perfected their water-displacement mix on the 40th try. Fun fact: Police officers used WD-40 to remove a naked burglar trapped in an air conditioning vent.

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  • Dr Pepper's 23 Flavors

    Image: Dr. Pepper
    Dr. Pepper

    A pharmacist named Charles Alderton created Dr Pepper in 1885. And if you've ever wondered why you can't quite put a finger on what flavor the unique soft drink possesses, it's because his patented formula consists of a blend of 23 different flavors (there is a faint "23" under some Dr Pepper logos). While the actual flavors are kept a secret, we do know that prune juice is not one of them. The "prune rumor" dates back to the 1930s, but was debunked on the beverage's official Web site in 2000. The company stated: Dr Pepper is a unique blend of natural and artificial flavors; it does not contain prune juice.

  • Jack Daniel's Old No. 7

    Image: Old No. 7

    It's one of the most-often-asked questions about the well-known Whiskey: Why did Jack Daniel name his product "Old No. 7"? Unfortunately, no one really knows, and the theories are many. But according to "Whiskey Business: The Many Myths of Jack Daniels", the most reasonable explanation may be the one offered by Jack Daniel biographer Peter Krass. He explains: Jack was originally assigned a district tax assessment number of 7. But when the IRS consolidated districts within Tennessee, they arbitrarily assigned him the number 16. Jack didn't want to confuse his loyal consumers and he certainly didn't want to bend to the government, so he began labeling his bottles "Old No. 7."

  • Heinz 57 Varieties

    Image: Heinz 57

    Simply put by the Heinz.com site: While riding a train in New York City in 1896, Henry Heinz saw a sign advertising 21 styles of shoes, which he thought was clever. Although Heinz was manufacturing more than 60 products at the time, Henry thought 57 was a lucky number. So, he began using the slogan "57 Varieties" in all his advertising. Today the company has more than 5,700 products around the globe, but still uses the magic number "57."

  • 7-Eleven

    Cassandra Hubbert / AOL

    In an age where 24-hour grocery and convenience stores are now the norm, it's interesting to remember that 7-Eleven stores were so named to highlight their "extensive" hours. In 1946, the stores were open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. Today, many would find those convenience store hours to be limited and well, inconvenient.

  • Baskin-Robbins' 31 Flavors

    Image: Irvine Robbins

    In the ice cream chain's logo, you'll notice how the pink portion of the "BR" creates the number "31." This is a nod to Baskin-Robbins long-standing identity as the home of 31 flavors — one for every day of the month. To the right, co-founder Irvine Robbins, celebrates 31 years of selling ice cream in 1976.

  • A.1. Steak Sauce

    Cassandra Hubbert / AOL

    According to the A.1. Steak Sauce Wikipedia page, the original steak sauce upon which A.1. is based was created in 1824 by Henderson William Brand, one of the chefs to King George IV of the United Kingdom. Legend has it that the king declared it "A1" and the name was born.

  • 84 Lumber

    Image: 84 Lumber
    84 Lumber

    The original 84 Lumber opened in 1956. It was a "cash and carry" lumber yard located in a rural town 20 miles south of Pittsburgh. That town was named Eighty Four, Pa., and where 84 Lumber got its name. (How the town got its unusual name is another story. It was originally named Smithville, but due to postal confusion with another town of the same name, its name was changed to "Eighty Four" on July 28, 1884. There are many competing theories about why that strange name was chosen.)

  • MGD 64


    If you're watching your calories, but still want to indulge in a nice cold one, you might want to consider a bottle of MGD 64. The "64" stands for 64 calories. By contrast, a regular bottle of Miller Genuine Draft has 143 calories.


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