Early Soda & Mineral Water Bottles
1830-1839 On the Cusp
During the 1830s several new attempts were made to bottle mineral waters and the introduction of a bottling machine leads to one of the first successful ventures in bottling mineral waters. Up to this point the embossed bottles are only found from Philadelphia, but now we start to see activity in other cities including New York, Charleston, and Albany. Each city will be address separately. At the end of this decade, the fuse is lit that will lead to the explosion of artificial soda and mineral water bottlers.
Charleston, South Carolina
Finley & Phin were druggists in Charleston South Carolina. James Edwards Burr Finley was a physician in Charleston and was the son of James Edwards Burr Finley, a Massachusetts surgeon who served in the Revolutionary War and later removed to Charleston. Finley was an 1829 graduate of the recently established Medical College of South Carolina in Charleston. The college opened November 8, 1824, with the first commencement exercises April 4, 1825. In the 1835 Charleston Directory, he is listed as a doctor at 4 Church. Alexander C. Phin was a Scottish emigrant who was born in Dundee February 17, 1810. He was listed as a chemist in the 1835 Charleston Directory at Chalmers St., op. the Depository. At this point Finley and Phin were not partners.
In the following year, 1836, an update to the Charleston directory was published that listed changes between July 1835 and June 1836. Between these dates a W. G. Benson was listed as an auctioneer at 31 Broad St. and on his departure, Finley & Phin were listed there as druggists. The first ad for Finley & Phin appears in the March 31, 1836 edition of The Charleston Courier and ran for several months. I doubt this bottle dates to 1835 as some have put forth. Bottling of mineral water was basically a summertime business with bottlers primarily operating from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Glass manufacturers also shut down during the summer months between the same dates due to the heat. Since the 1835 Charleston direction was published in July of 1835 and Finley & Phin were not partners at that time, since Benson was at the 31 Broad Street address for some period of time after July of 1835, since the 1835 bottling season was nearly over, and since glass manufactures would not have produced bottles during the Summer of 1835, it just does not make sense that this bottle dates to that year.
By July of 1836, with the publication of the Charleston Directory Supplement, Finley & Phin are listed as druggist at 31 Broad Street in Charleston. In the 1837 Directory, they are listed as both Finley & Phin and Phin & Finley druggists at 31 Broad Street. By the 1840 directory, Alexander C. Phin is listed alone as a druggist at 31 Broad Street and Finley continued on as a physician. The last reference that I have found for Phin alone as a druggist is in selling medicines in Charleston in 1842. By 1849 and possibly as early as 1844, Phin had partnered with Charles H. Panknin under the firm name of Panknin & Phin at 123 Meeting House Street. This partnership continued until at least 1859, as they are listed in the Charleston Directory that year, however Charles H. died soon after and it appears that Charles F. Panknin, son of Charles H., was the sole proprietor by 1861. Charles F. went on to be successful druggists and by 1906 the firm was known as the C. F. Panknin Drug Company and is reported to have operated until 1909. In the 1850 Charleston Census, Phin is listed as a farmer. In the 1860 Census, he is listed as a merchant and in the 1870 Census he is again listed as a farmer. He died on June 5, 1895.
No information was found specifically connecting Finley & Phin with bottling of mineral water and it seems likely that this bottle dates 1836-1838.
Albany, New York
Richard Montgomery Meigs was a druggist in Albany, New York. The following is from a biography found on Ancestry.com:
Richard Montgomery Meigs, third son of Major John Meigs and Elizabeth Henshaw, was born at Middletown, Conn. In 1796 he moved with his father and family to New Hartford, Conn. In 1802 he was sent to Albany, NY and lived for some years with his uncle Daniel Henshaw, on North Pearl Street, near State Street, and was a student in the office and drug store of Dr. Thaddeus Pomeroy, to whose business he afterward succeeded.
In October, 1842, he moved with his family and a part of friends and neighbors of Albany and along the Hudson, to Wisconsin. Some remained in Milwaukee, others bought and took up land between there and the Indian Reservation, mostly between Waukesha and the Nashota Mission, forming a neighborhood of mostly New York State and New Jersey people.
In 1859 he returned East, and spent the remainder of his life between New York City and the village of Knox in the Helderbergs. He lived the quiet life of such a town, and was a very congenial man, and known to every one of that Burgh; held no public position except at Sergeant-at-Arms of the New York State Senate for some years and as Treasurer of the Albany Female Academy...
I found Meigs was born on August 8, 1787 in Middletown, Connecticut. As early as 1813, he is listed in the Albany Directory as a druggist. He married Maria Keeler in 1814 at Albany. From some time prior to 1819 and after 1825 the firm was known as R. M. Meigs & Company. From some time prior to 1830 to1839, Meigs was on his own until he became the Sergeant at Arms in the State Assembly in 1839. The following year, T. Pomeroy was listed as Meigs successor at 4 Exchange Street. In the 1850 Census, Meigs was listed as a farmer in Ottawa, Wisconsin. In the 1860 and 1870 Censuses, he is listed as living in Knox Township, New York. He died there on January 11, 1884.
The Meigs' bottle is somewhat atypical of soda and mineral water bottles of this period. It is also embossed "PURE SODA WATER" on the reverse and this is the earliest appearance of the word "soda" on an American glass or pottery bottle. The bottle appears to be styled after the Saratoga Springs bottles of this period, but on a much smaller scale. Note the use of a double tapered collar, which is rare on soda water bottles, but is prevalent on Saratoga Springs bottles. It was likely manufactured by one of the upstate New York or Vermont glass houses based on the coloration of the glass. The time period that Meigs was in sole control of the business was from 1833 to 1840. Even though I was able to find many ads for Meigs selling products in Albany and moving his store, I was not able to find advertisements of Meigs selling his "pure soda water." He was selling Congress Water both wholesale and retail in 1839, and this was the only advertisement that was found associated with mineral waters. This bottle likely dates to the period 1837-1839.
New York City, New York
Rushton & Aspinwall were leading druggist of their time in New York City. In 1827, William L. Rushton opened a drug store at 81 William Street, which was previously the dry goods store of Reuben & Henry M. Sikes. James S. Aspinwall does not appear in the directories prior to the partnership.
Rushton and Aspinwall joined forces in late 1830 at the 81 William Street location. In 1833 they opened a second location at 110 Broadway. In August of 1833, they first advertise the sale of soda water, but at this point it appears that they only operated a fountain and did not bottle. They sold the water on a ticket system, which appears to have been popular at the time. Fifty tickets could be purchased for one dollar and could be redeemed at the 81 William Street store. It is important to note that they moved their William Street store from 81 to 86 William in 1835 and in 1836 they added a third location at 10 Astor House.
In May of 1836, we find the first mention of soda waters being bottled by Rushton & Aspinwall. Soda and Seidlitz waters were mentioned as being sold. The Seidlitz name comes from the Seidlitz Saline Springs of Bohemia, which were popular as a mild cathartic to assist in bowel movements and were a combination of tartaric acid, sodium bicarbonate, and potassium sodium tartrate. A July 1839 advertisement again mentions soda water in bottles and there is on mention of Seidlitz water. The history of this firms bottling of soda water will be continued in the next chapter.
The 1836 and 1839 advertisements mention that their bottled waters were available for shipping. The English style bottles were conducive to shipping as their bottoms were rounded. This allowed them to be packed on their side, which kept the corks moist and prevented them from drying out. This allowed the contents to retain their charge as dried out corks would have let the pressurized gas leak out causing a flat soda.
As mentioned previously, the move from 81 to 86 William Street is important in dating Rushton & Aspinwall bottles. The earliest bottle bears the addresses of 86 William and 110 Broadway and not the 81 William Street address. This would mean that these bottles cannot date earlier than 1835 as prior to this date the address was 81 William Street, an address that does appear on any known bottle. It is also noted that their first ad that mentions bottling of soda water was in 1836. Therefore, it seems likely that these bottles were manufactured during the fall 1835-spring 1836 glass manufacturing season for use during the summer of 1836, which corresponds with their advertisements. Since the 10 Astor House store was not added until 1836, it would not have appeared on these bottles. Once the mold was cut, it does not appear that they altered it to add the new Astor House address, but chose to leave the address off of their second bottle. The earliest bottle bearing the address comes in at least two color variations, which would indicate two different manufacturing runs. The bottles come in olive green and olive amber colorations. These bottles likely date to the period 1836-1838. The bottle without the addresses is only recorded in olive green and likely date 1839-1840. All of these bottles appear to be of Upstate New York or Vermont manufacture, with Stoddard, Keene or the Mount Vernon factories being strong candidates. Rushton & Aspinwall also have druggist and patent medicine bottles that were manufactured at the same works.
An early bottle marked Byran's Ambrosia New-York has been found. The bottle is a dark olive green color and has a neatly formed double tapered top, which is unusual for soda water bottles. I have not been able to find any historical references to this bottle or its proprietor. Ambrosia was a beverage that is often associated with fruit and honey. A recipe for Ambrosia was mentioned in the Knickerbocker Magazine in 1836.
There are two individuals who may be associated with this bottle. First, there was a John Bryan who was a fruiterer in New York from 1832 to 1837. He was located at 658 Water Street (1832-1834), at 322 Delancey Street (1835), and finally 328 Delancey Street (1836-1837). Jane Bryan is listed as the widow of John in 1838 and no further references were found. Fruiterers are many times associated with the production of small beers.
A second possible proprietor was Richard S. Bryan who was a medical doctor listed in New York from 1820 to 1825, when he left the country to restore his health according to the Proceedings of the American Institute of Homeopathy for 1856, and on his return 1829 to 1834. Dr. Bryan was a pioneer homeopathic practitioner and on his return to New York was in two partnerships with separate individuals as druggists. These partnerships were Bryan & Marvin (1830) and Bryan & Hart (1833-1834). Dr. Bryan left New York in 1834 and ended up in Troy, New York, where he resided until his death. Interestingly enough, Dr. Bryan was listed as a fruiterer in 1822.
Note the similarity of the Bryan bottle to the Rushton & Aspinwall bottlers. The bottle dates from the mid 1830s and was likely manufactured by an Upstate New York or Vermont glass manufacturer. It is possible that this bottle may date to the previous decade. A historical reference will go a great way in dating this bottle.
Much more history of Elias Durand is available in the previous chapter. In 1835, Durand stated bottling of mineral water and opened a large establishment on Sixth Street above Arch. The apparatus for manufacturing the waters, and especially that part of it for bottling under pressure, was his own invention and superior to any then in use in France or the United States. The illustrated advertisements for mineral water in bottles were found in 1835 and 1836 newspaper advertisements. This business was in full and successful operation when the money crisis of 1837 hit and Durand, with a great loss, was forced to close this branch of his business. Correspondingly, no ads were found for the mineral waters in 1837. After this experience, he adhered closely to his pharmacy profession until his retirement and he sent the bottling apparatus to the Société de Pharmacie, where it was placed into use in Paris.
The Durand bottles of this period are small, which matches the description in the period advertisements, were the waters are selling for $1.75 per dozen, with a 75 cent deposit. This would be roughly 8 1/2 cents per bottle. They are also of a unique shape, being almost square in appearance. Perhaps the reason for this was to accommodate his newly invented bottling machinery. There is little doubt that these bottles were manufactured at the Dyottville Glass Works in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. Their dates place it before Thomas W. Dyott's bankruptcy. Additionally, these bottles come with two styles of lips indicating two different runs. The earlier bottles have a tapered collar, while the later bottles have a heavier rounded collar. It seems likely that the newer bottles' collars were modified to better support the bottling apparatus as they are stronger in form.
It also appears that a run of the larger sized bottles was made during this decade. I have excavated a shard of a quart sized Durand bottle, that is noticeably different in color that his earlier bottle. Unfortunately, neither the base nor the lip was found. I have heard of another damaged example of this bottle and perhaps it has a story to tell.
The large sized mold was kept at Durand's drugstore after he abandoned the bottling business in 1837. The business passed into the hands of his son, Alfred B., and Emil Tourtelot as Durand & Tourtelot in 1852. They moved the store to 718 Chestnut to make way for the Howell Building, which was constructed on the site at Sixth & Chestnut in 1854. This building was later modified to become the Public Ledger Building. In 1857, Tourtelot left the firm to start a business of his own in Germantown and Alfred continued the business on Chestnut Street. The following year, he moved to 1228 Chestnut Street and he sold the business to one of his employees, E. R. Perrot, in 1860.
So what does this have to do with the mold? Well Durand's large sized mold, likely brought from France in 1825, and used during the 1830s made its way from the store at Sixth and Chestnut, to the store at 718 Chestnut, and then to the store at 1228 Chestnut, where it was sold to Perrot, who had the mold modified to add his name so he could sell bottled mineral water. That makes this one of the most interesting and likely longest use of a bottle mold of which I am aware.
Eugene Roussel de Prunay was born in about 1811 in France. His family seat was the Chateau de Condi Vailly sur Aisne, which his family held since 1647. During his early years, Roussel worked for the firm of Laugier Pere & Fils in Paris and was the director there. He fought against the French Government and was compelled to leave the country. He left from Harve, France on the ship Sully and arrived in New York on July 11, 1838. He soon after traveled to Philadelphia and established a perfume store at 75 Chestnut Street, below Third Street. For more than thirty years previous, this location was the store of Henry Schively, a cutler and surgical instrument maker.
Roussel started the bottling of mineral water in 1839. His first bottles are aqua in color and unlike later bottles do not have the word "Patent" on the reverse and are very light in weight.
Roussel was soon to unleash a craze the likes of which the soda water business had not seen and whose reverberations would be felt until the present time. The fuse had been lit and the soda water business was about to explode!<<= Previous Next =>>