John J. Riley: Organization in the Soft Drink Industry: A History of the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages (1946)

Faced with significant production challenges during World War II, members of the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages (ABCB) sought to review and learn from industry experiences during World War I.  Unfortunately, there was little documentation to be found.  As a result, the executive board authorized John J. Riley, long-time ABCB secretary, to document the organization’s and industry’s history.  The end result was Organization In The Soft Drink Industry: A History of the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages, self-published by the ABCB in 1946.  In addition to research support provided by the ABCB staff, Riley received considerable input and assistance from many long-time bottlers.  He also had full access to the ABCB files and records of the National Bottlers’ Gazette and American Carbonator and Bottler magazines, virtual treasure troves of information.  Considering the sources of information Riley had available, the credibility of the information in his book seems to be quite high.  Portions of Riley’s comments about the early development of the industry are included here to help set the stage for further discussion about the Hutchinson era:

Historic events marked the industrial progress of the new republic during the early years of the 19th century.  American genius was establishing a record in the creation of those things which were to make it great – the steamboat by Fulton (1807), street gas lights in Baltimore (1821), the first passenger railroad (1828), the first telegraph line (1844), the Atlantic cable (1858), the Pacific railroad (1869), the Bell telephone (1876), Edison’s incandescent lamp (1878), the Brooklyn Bridge (1883) and many others.

Important economic and political phases of the country’s progress were experienced.  The war with Great Britain had been fought on land and sea (1812-1814).  In 1837 the nation passed through its first financial crisis.  Then followed the war with Mexico in 1846-1848.  Discovery of gold in California in 1848 did much to expand national commerce and extend industrial life westward.  The Civil War brought its periods of disaster and victories, its depression and its period of war prosperity…

Those are events to be found in the history books.  Not of sufficient importance to be so recorded, but developing the early stages of a growth which would make it one of the Nation’s important industries, was the bottling of flavored carbonated waters – identified by various names, such as 'aerated waters,' 'mineral waters,' 'soda water,' and 'pop.'

In America, as in Europe, intensive interest in the duplication of natural effervescent waters during the later years of the 1700s, by scientists such as Venel, Black, MacBride, Cavendish, Priestly, Bergman, Lavoisier, Scheele, and others, had been followed by successful efforts to commercialize them.  Compounded in the pharmacies and in factories producing the bottled products, with flavors added as a novel variation, they rapidly became one of those things characteristic of metropolitan life in Europe and, of course, in America.

Philadelphia, then the leading city in the United States, has been given recognition as the location of the earliest manufacturers of the bottled carbonated drinks in America.  Certainly its Joseph Hawkins and its Elias Durand were among the first, with their recorded production of bottled soda waters about 1835 – perhaps a little earlier.

Hawkins, in 1809, had been granted the first United States patent on the preparation of imitation mineral waters; he received another in 1823.  To Charles D. Simons and Jean J. Riondel, of Charleston, S.C., which city makes claim to the second pharmacy in the American colonies, the government also issued a patent in 1810 for a method of 'saturating water with carbonic acid gas, or fixed air.'

Charles Lippincott in Philadelphia, and John Matthews in New York, started the manufacture of soda water apparatus, also about 1835, although of necessity their earlier operations were largely confined to the fountain type of equipment, for bottling plants were not numerous.  Others soon entered this field, including A. D. Puffer of Boston (1842), Wm. Gee of New York (1847), G. D. Dows of Boston (1854), and James W. Tufts of Boston (1863).

Equipment for the preparation and bottling of soda water at this time was principally of European manufacture, or followed its design.  By 1860, however, the bottling plant seems to have reached a position of sufficient importance in the soda water business to justify special consideration by the American equipment manufacturers, and to require their attention to development of apparatus better adapted to the bottler’s needs.  Whereas in 1849 there were only 64 bottling plants with production value approximating $760,000 according to the 7th United States Census, by 1859 the number of plants bottling “Mineral Waters and Pop” had been increased to 123 with corresponding rise in value of annual production to $1,415,000.  Of these 123 plants 9 were in Philadelphia, 2 in Pittsburgh, 14 in New York City (including Brooklyn and Williamsburg), 5 in Boston, 5 in Cincinnati, 2 in Cleveland, and 1 in Chicago.

Devices for the bottler’s use began to appear in ever-increasing numbers among new inventions being patented…Names of bottlers later identified with industry organization activity also appear among those of early patentees of bottling apparatus, showing their interest in the mechanical advancement of their chosen field…

Glass bottles, hand-blown, were long in use.  It was early in the 19th century that one of the glass factories was specializing in bottle manufacture.  And, of course, the stopper or corking process was one of the bottler’s early problems to which many were devoting their inventive and mechanical abilities.

Most widely used in the closure field as this history begins, however, and as successors of the common cork and wire fastener patented by Putnam in 1859, were Hutchinson’s patent stopper of 1879 and the Putnam Lightning stopper of the same period.  There were many others, of course, including the various types of internal stoppers making use of a glass ball or a rubber ball (such as the Codd stopper of 1880 and a similar device of the Matthews firm), but none of these acquired prominence.

In the bottled soft drink trade the Hutchinson internal stopper predominated, no doubt because of its simplicity, low cost, and easy adaptation to the structural variation in hand-blown bottles.  Although William Painter’s patent on his revolutionary crown cork was issued in 1892 and Michael J. Owens obtained his first patent in 1899 on a glass blowing machine, both the hand-blown bottle and the Hutchinson stopper were typical of the industry for several years after the turn of the century.

By 1900 the new crown corks were popular to a degree only in New England and in the Midwest, with only twenty bottling concerns using them in the New York City area.  But the transition was hastened when the first beverage bottles were made on the Owens machine in 1907 and began to reach the market in volume by 1910.  Manufacture of the Hutchinson stopper was abandoned in 1912 (note: see comments refuting this statement in the "Demise of the Hutchinson Era").

As for the kinds of drinks produced, the bottlers in 1880 had quite a variety to offer the consuming public.  Soda water in siphons, and several types of mineralized carbonated waters, offered as duplicates of waters of the famous springs, were popular items.  Flavored drinks were numerous, too, even though the bottler was limited to a greater extent than the fountain operator.  The latter was able to use many kinds of fresh syrups, including those made from fruits, or from milk or cream.

Ginger ale was the leading bottled flavored drink, but sarsaparilla, root beer, cream soda (vanilla), lemon soda, and a type of strawberry soda were also popular, and were prepared from flavoring extracts, sugar syrup, and carbonated water.  Among the drinks which were occasionally brewed and bottled, were birch beer, spruce beer, hop beer, ginger beer, and a kind of carbonated mead.  Many bottlers supplemented their regular line of these “temperance” drinks with weiss beer, while others bottled lager and other malt brews…

As late as 1880 manufacturers of bottled 'soda water’ were numerous only in the metropolitan areas of the East and Midwest.  Many years were to elapse until the South would attain its present position of prominence.

In 1879, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, manufacturers of Mineral and Soda Waters operated 512 factories, and had capital invested totaling slightly over $2,500,000.  Of this number of plants 159 were located in 15 of the larger cities – Baltimore had 17; Boston 8; Brooklyn 21; Chicago 13; Cincinnati 11; Cleveland4; Louisville 7; Milwaukee 6; Newark 8; New Orleans 7; New York City 27; Philadelphia 13; Providence 3; St. Louis 11; Washington 3.  Annual production was valued at approximately $4,750,000 and slightly less than 3,000 wage earners were employed.  But even with this modest aggregation the industry was showing that growth which has been typical of it since the beginning, having increased from the 387 plants recorded in 1869.

In the eighties the…bottle, rather than the product, seems to have been the factor wielding the greatest influence toward community of interest.  A large proportion of those engaged in the bottling of carbonated beverages also bottled beer; but those who bottled either product used bottles, and preventing misappropriation of those bottles was the principal problem, or so it appeared to them.  Thus we have the one matter of common interest which was to be a most compelling motive in the organization of industry associations…The United States Bottlers’ Protective Association was the result of this initial effort.  Short-lived, it nevertheless formed the background for its successor organization: the American Bottlers’ Protective Association (1889-1918), the National Bottlers’ Association (1918-1919), and…the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages.

The following table from Organization in the Soft Drink Industry details industry growth up to and during the Hutchinson era.  The number of bottling plants and production values were actually higher than these figures indicate because small bottling plants were not required to report data for the manufacturing census.

Industry Growth Table