Charles Herman Sulz: A Treatise on Beverages

One of my favorite early references was authored by Charles Herman Sulz, a technical and analytical chemist in New York City.  His book, A Treatise on Beverages or The Complete Practical Bottler (subtitled “Full Instructions for Laboratory Work with Original Practical Recipes For All Kinds of Carbonated Drinks, Mineral Waters, Flavorings, Extracts, Syrups, Etc.), was published in 1888.  Although Sulz didn’t document his reference sources, his material was written 120+ years closer to the actual events he described, and that alone strips out a century’s worth of potential distortion of the facts. 

Another plus is that Sulz's book was written from the viewpoint of a chemist who also had a thorough working knowledge of the bottling business.  Using the third person to describe his own qualifications to publish this massive 818 page tome, Sulz said “The author, having traveled in various parts of the globe, has handled all kinds of machinery and manufactured all sorts of beverages, and having acquired a great deal of practical information and experience, he has concluded to take upon himself the task of gathering together all the practical hints, suggestions and points, pertaining to the subject.”  It is also important to note that Sulz’s book was written and published during the heart of the Hutchinson era, so his comments pertain directly to the bottling industry as it was being experienced by North American bottlers and consumers using Hutchinson bottles on a daily basis.  Here are several of the observations from the Introduction to Sulz’s book:

Three centuries ago the manufacture of artificial mineral waters was a thing but little known to the public; and scientific men of all nations have since made efforts to imitate the healing effects of various natural mineral waters, distinguished for their beneficial action on the human system.

These waters are now partly imitations of natural ones, prepared according to the results of the most accurate chemical analysis, and partly certain saline solutions prepared according to an empirical formula for medicinal purposes.

The historical data bearing upon this point are interesting, and at the risk of repeating facts, presumably familiar to the trade, a few of the leading events are briefly referred to here.

The first attempt was made by Thurneisser, in 1560, which was followed by those of Hoffmann in 1685, and Geoffroy, in 1724, but without success.  Van Helmont, in the early part of the Seventeenth Century, first discerned carbonic acid gas as a gas entirely distinct from common air.  Dr. Black, in 1757, distinguished carbonic acid from all other gases under the name of “fixed air;” and Lavoisier identified it and gave it its true name, as a compound of carbon and oxygen.  It was only, however, on suggestion of Venel, in 1750, to employ a solution of carbonate of soda in muriatic acid in a closed vessel, that the production of carbonic acid gas can be fairly said to have taken a step in the right direction.  In 1772 Priestly first suggested the employment of water impregnated with carbonic acid gas.  (Note: Joseph Priestly’s book was entitled Directions For Impregnating Water With Fixed Air; In order to communicate to it the peculiar Spirit and Virtues of Pyrmont Water, And other Mineral Waters of a similar Nature.)  In 1787 Meyer had already commenced the manufacture of Selters waters in Stettin, Germany, on a large scale.  Paul erected a similar factory in 1799 in Paris, and introduced the use of a pump.  Somewhat later the business began to spread in Great Britain, in 1807 the first patent for impregnating water with gas having been granted.  About the same time the subject commenced to attract attention in the United States, and a patent to Simmons & Rundell of Charleston, S.C., was granted for saturating water with “fixed air” in 1810.

Struve (note: Frederick Adolf Struve was a medical doctor and proprietor of the “Salomoni’s Apotheke,” in the City of Dresden, Germany) first commenced their manufacture in 1815, in Dresden, where he introduced numerous improvements, and was the author of several important observations on the constitution of mineral waters; and to him belongs the credit of having produced the first artificial mineral water, exactly identical with the natural, and to him also we owe the introduction of artificial mineral waters into medical use.  However, it was reserved for the progress of Chemistry of the Nineteenth Century to ascertain by most careful analyses the ingredients contained in the natural mineral waters, and to enable us to imitate such waters, which are refreshing for the sick as well as for the healthy, and to combine those substances which are of medicinal importance and refreshing, and to omit those without use or advantage to the consumer. 

The present use of artificial mineral waters is very large, and constantly increasing, and, in the course of time, the manufacture has become a formidable industry, which requires a great deal of skill, intelligence, and knowledge to successfully conduct the business.  Nearly all branches of industry have their separate literature, from which the trained manufacturer gathers his references and refreshes his memory, and from which the beginner is enabled to obtain directions and suggestions for the start.  The mineral-water trade, at its present development, has not yet found the proper consideration in literature it is deservedly entitled to.  In regard to natural and artificial mineral water, the German literature comprises valuable works, such as those of Hager and Hirsh, but with the contents (the former being written in Latin), the average bottler is probably unfamiliar.

The modern mineral-water manufacturer differs from those of former times.  The latter knew but one class of mineral water, viz.: the real mineral or medicinal waters or their imitations.  The present time comprises also under mineral waters those kind of carbonated waters which we know under the collective name of carbonated saccharine beverages,” the number or variety of which has reached considerable prominence.  The compounding of these beverages, the scientific comprehension or understanding of the principles governing their composition, the acquaintance with the various apparatus and appliances necessary for their manufacture, and the knowledge of their ingredients, and directions for a systematic process, have hitherto not found the appreciation they are entitled to.  Faint efforts have been made, by some writers, it is true, to cast some light on the subject, but they have rather muddled the question…

In laying this work before the trade and public in general, the author begs to state expressly that it has been made up and written for the practical manufacturer, and not for the theoretical student of the trade.

In his chapter on “Cork and Patent Stoppers,” Sulz briefly mentioned Hutchinson’s Patent Spring Stopper (see accompanying illustration), William Stewart’s Floating Ball Stopper, Codd Stoppers, and William Painter’s Loop Seal.  Sulz’s 1888 comments included:

Patent Stoppers.  Probably nothing has contributed more to the popularizing of carbonated beverages than the different kinds of stoppers which have been so successfully developed.  As may be expected, the system of corking or stoppering has undergone some changes, which pertain, however, more to the design of the stopper than anything else.  There is a great difference of opinion still respecting the merits of the old and familiar method of corking and the use of patent stoppers.  The latter are designed for a particular purpose, outside of all considerations of economy in the purchase of corks, and fill a limited field of usefulness.  Beverages intended for shipment, or to be stored and preserved any length of time, are stoppered with corks almost exclusively.  The system of patent stoppers is chiefly for home consumption only, where the beverages are soon to be consumed, and for this purpose they can be recommended and are a welcome contrivance for fast bottling.  The material of the patent stopper must be a substance free from objectionable properties, and non-corrodible, so as to have no influence whatever on the beverage.  Numerous kinds of patent stoppers are competing, and many of them have been favorably introduced in the trade

Sulz Hutchinson illustrations