Bottle & Product Histories Soda & Mineral Waters

As compared to beer bottles, soda bottles are a relative newcomer. Although beer was brewed and bottled in ancient times, the manufacture and bottling of artificial mineral and soda water did not start until the end of the eighteenth century.

Since the ancient times man had used naturally carbonated mineral springs for medicinal purposes. Early European springs were documented in 77 A.D. by Pliny, the great Roman historian. Starting in the sixteenth century, early scientists and alchemists tried to unlock the secrets of these springs and their carbonated waters. If these secrets could be discovered, then artificial waters with the same properties could be produced.

The Reverend Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen, is credited with unlocking the secrets of the natural mineral springs. In 1768, he carbonated a glass of water by pouring the water from one tumbler to another over a vat of fermenting beer at a near by brewery. The water absorbed some of the carbon dioxide, a by product of fermentation, and thus became effervescent. During the next couple of years, Priestley perfected the process and in 1772 published the first book on how to produce artificial Pyrmont water, a popular mineral water of the time. The book, Directions For Impregnating Water With Fixed Air, served as a basis for the manufacture of soda and artificial mineral waters that is still in use today.

In 1770 or 1771, a Swedish chemist named Torbern Bergman, expounded on Priestley's work and created an apparatus for making artificial mineral water. This apparatus used chalk and acid to produce the carbonic gas and charge the water. Bergman also analyzed the popular mineral waters of the day and discovered the minerals that were in them. Bergman added these minerals to the water before impregnating the water with the gas to produce a facsimile of the natural waters.

Both Priestley's and Bergman's processes could not sustain a viable business. It took Jacob Schweppe, a German born Swiss jeweler, to perfect the process of making artificial mineral waters in 1783. He partnered with Nicholas Paul, an engineer, and M. A. Gosse, a scientist, to produce artificial mineral waters in Geneva, Switzerland in 1790. Prior to this partnership, they were his competitors. Later Schweppe would continue the business alone. Due to the popularity of his waters in England, Schweppe brought the his process to London in 1792. Over 200 years later the Schweppe name is still with us.

In Great Britain, the production of artificially carbonated waters exploded. Patents were issued in 1807 to Henry Thompson of Tottenham, England and in 1809 and 1814 to William Hamilton of Dublin, Ireland for processes of manufacturing these artificial waters.

In the United States, Valentine Seaman of New York City discovered a process to make artificial waters resembling those of Saratoga, a popular mineral spring of that time, in 1793. As early as 1806, Benjamin Silliman of New Haven, Connecticut was experimenting with impregnating gas in water and did bottling to a limited extent. Silliman, a professor at Yale, had spent four years in Philadelphia and England learning chemistry and geology and undoubtedly was exposed to these waters at either of these locations. In 1807 Cohen & Hawkins began to manufacture artificial mineral and soda waters on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. Joseph Hawkins was an Englishman that received a patent for an improvement to the Schweppe's process. They tried to establish a company called the "Philadelphia Mineral Water Association" but failed in the scheme. Cohen carried on the business at various locations during the next few years. In 1807 Towsend Speakman, also of Philadelphia, began making and selling a fruit flavored carbonated drink that he called "Neophyte Julep." He bottled the waters for Dr. Philip Physick, who sold them to his patients for $1.50 a month for one glass a day. In 1808, A. Thaddeus Sherman set up a soda fountain in New Haven under the direction of Benjamin Silliman. In 1809, Joseph Hawkins, now of the firm of Shaw & Hawkins, received the first American patent for producing artificial mineral waters. The first United States patent for mineral water apparatus was issued to Simons and Rundell or Riondel of Charleston, South Carolina in 1810.

Although soda was bottled in the early days, those containers were undoubtedly unmarked, at least in America. The English had adopted an egg shaped or torpedo bottle for their artificial mineral waters. This shape is credited to Nicholas Paul, who was an original partner with Jacob Schweppe. The rounded shape would not stand up and thus kept the cork wet at all times. A dry cork would shrink and allow the charged gas in the water to escape. This style of bottle is mentioned in various early English patents. The earliest of these bottles were made of stoneware, but later glass was used.

In the United States, there were early attempts to bottle artificial mineral waters in marked containers.  The first was John Cullen in 1818.  He patented a "liquid magnesia" and sold it at the fountain and in egg styled bottles embossed "CULLIN'S PATENT LIQUID MAGNESIA." Perhaps the first successful bottler of artificial mineral waters was Elias Durand of Philadelphia, who produced a marked bottle in 1835 and another perhaps earlier. However, it was a French immigrant, Eugene Roussel, who started the bottled soda water craze.

Roussel came to Philadelphia from France in 1838 and immediately set up a perfume shop on Chestnut Street. At this location he served and bottled mineral waters. He is credited with producing the first flavored soda waters in this country, but I have seen evidence that most soda water fountains of that day added fruit juices to their product. Roussel claimed to provide his artificially charged waters on the French plan. At this time, he also introduced a new bottle for his product, this form is called the early pontil shape soda.

What ever his secret was (I believe it was the use of sugared syrups rather than fruit juices), his bottled soda waters took off. Just to give you an idea of the magnitude of this craze, in late 1842, Henry Seybert reopened the Dyottville Glass Works, in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, primarily to make bottles for Roussel. Bottles produced at the newly reopened factory were of a different color and shape than the previously ones, which are attributed to South Jersey manufacture. The new shape is called the late pontil shape. By 1843, William Heiss, John Diehl, Peter Hall, Dr. F. W. Hartley, Henry Croasdill, and David Bentley & Son were all competing with Roussel in Philadelphia. Heiss and Bentley were coppersmiths who also manufactured mineral water fountains. In the spring of that same year, three bottled soda water businesses were opened in one week by Philadelphia area natives in New York City. They were Adam W. Rapp, John Tweddle Jr., and Thomas W. Newton. Rapp advertised prepared soda and mineral water with a variety of syrups put up "in Glass Bottles" and was listed as a teacher and confectioner prior to leaving Philadelphia. Henry B. Rapp, a relative, was listed as an agent for the Dyottville Glass Works in 1844. Tweddle was the son of John Tweddle, who was an long established brewer and soda bottler in Chester County, just outside of Philadelphia. Thomas W. Newton was listed as a plumber in Philadelphia prior to moving to New York during 1843.

By 1845, Roussel was advertising about all of his imitators and how he was forced to change the color and style of his bottles so that the public would easily recognize his product. It was in this year that the soda shape was created. It was also at this time that Roussel first used cobalt glass for his soda water bottles and collectors today thank him. Soon everyone was using the soda shape and blue bottles. By 1847 there we at least nine competitors to Roussel in Philadelphia and by 1850, there were twenty.

During the ensuing decades, the soda water industry became firmly rooted.  With the introduction of "Cronk's Compound Sarsaparilla Beer," in mid-1840s, named products start to emerge and were franchised. In the 1860s, Smith's White Root Beer (1866) is introduced,  In the 1870s, Haley's California Pop Beer (1872) and Hires Root Beer (1876).  During the 1880s, we have Coca-Cola (1886), Moxie (1885), and Dr. Pepper (1885) arrive on the scene.  Later named products include Pepsi-Cola (1898).

To learn more about soda and mineral water bottles and their producers, see the articles by following the soft drink articles link.

Soda Bottles
Eugene Roussel Bottle
Circ: 1840
William Heiss Bottle
Circ: 1845
Peter Hall Bottle
Circ: 1850
Charles Grove Bottle
Circ: 1855
 J. & J. M. Ensinger Bottle
Circ: 1860
Johnston & Co. Bottle
Circ: 1865
George Weller Bottle
Circ: 1870
San Francisco Glass Works Bottle
Circ: 1875
Dwight Brinton Bottle
Circ: 1880
Cunningham & Co. Bottle
Circ: 1885
Currier Bottle
Circ: 1890
Biedenharn Candy Company First Coca Cola Bottle
Circ: 1895
Distilled Soda Water Co. Bottle
Circ: 1900
Henry Weigel Bottle
Circ: 1905
Jacob Frank & Son Bottle
Circ: 1910
Palmer Bottling Co. Bottle
Circ: 1915