The A stands for Anton Liebler. Joseph Liebler, presumably the son, was also heavily involved in the business.
The “History of Commerce of NY 1891” highlighted the A. Liebler Bottling Co as a representative business house of NY at that time and provided the following information.
The manufacture of ginger ale, soda water and kindred beverages and the bottling of beer constitute, as it is scarcely necessary to remark, an extensive and highly important branch of industry in this city. The growth of the business has been especially notable during the past decade or two, and a number of big concerns have come into existence within the period indicated. Among those referred to may be mentioned that of the A. Liebler Bottling Co., Nos. 402 and 404 W. 126th Street, near Ninth Avenue, and than which no establishment of the kind in New York is more widely or more favorably known. They are bottlers and exporters of D.G. Yuengling Jr.’s extra fine lager beer, also manufacturers of superior ginger ale, sarsaparilla, club soda water, etc. and their trade is exceedingly large. The concern is the largest and leading one in the line indicated in Harlem, the bottling capacity being fifteen thousand dozen per day and the beer is exported all over the world. The lager put up here is of distinctly superior quality, noted for its purity, choice flavor, tone and general excellence, while the other products, which are maintained at a uniformly high standard, are unsurpassed by anything of the kind made in the city. The flourishing enterprise was started in 1876, the business being conducted at the present location about six years, and from the first the venture has been a positive and permanent success, the demand for the goods growing apace. The works occupy a three-story brick structure, 75 x 100 feet in dimensions, and are perfectly equipped in every department. Sixty in help are employed, with twenty wagons in regular service supplying customers throughout New York and environs, the trade in soft drinks being principally confined to this city and the country surrounding for a distance of fifty miles. A very large and first-class stock is constantly kept on hand, and all orders receive prompt attention, while the very lowest possible prices are quoted, exceptional inducements being offered both the home and export trade. Mr. Liebler, who is the general manager, is a gentleman of middle age and a native of Germany, but a resident of this city over a quarter of a century. He is a man of energy and enterprise, and is one of Harlem’s solid citizens, being president of the West End Co-operative Building and Loan Association.
The NYC Directories confirm the company’s start date. Liebler was first listed in the 1876-1877 NYC Directory as Liebler, Anton, beer, Lawrence and 9th. Shortly thereafter he began his relationship with the D G Yuengling Brewing Company. In the 1880-81 directory his address was listed as West 128th Street, corner of 10th Avenue, which also happened to be the address of the Yuengling Brewery.
The business incorporated in September of 1887 as the A. Liebler Bottling Co., with capital of $150,000. The 1888 Copartnership and Corporation Directory listed Willian J. G. Yuengling as president and A. Liebler as treasurer. Around this time they began listing their address as 402 West 126th Street. A year later, the 1889 Copartnership and Corporation Directory listed John J. Schmitt as president but the relationship with Yuengling continued.
An undated post card advertisement shows several young guys drinking Yeungling from a Liebler case, having fun and being caught and scolded by an older woman, apparently either a mother or neighbor. The advertisement would not work today!
The 1895 and 1897 editions of Goodwin’s Official Turf Guide, a horse racing publication, contained a Yuengling advertisement that stated: “Bottled for Hotels, the Trade and Families by A. Liebler Bottling Co., 402 & 404 West 126th Street, New York.”
It’s not clear how long Liebler was the bottler for Yuengling but it appears that they may have parted ways around 1912. That year Schmitt was no longer listed with the business in the Copartnership and Corporation Directories and the business capital dropped from $150,000 to $35,000. Joseph Liebler was listed as president and Anton Liebler as secretary.
Ultimately the business was one of the firms that consolidated to form the New York Bottling Co., Inc. According to the January 15. 1915 issue of the American Bottler:
A consolidation of the following prominent New York City bottling concerns took place on April 1: A. Ludorff, S.A. Ludin & Co., (New York Bottling Co), W.E. Seitz & Co., John F. Hughs, Henry Kracke (Globe Mineral Water Co) and the A. Liebler Bottling Co. The new company is called the NY Bottling Co., Albert Ludorff is president and J. E. Ludin is Tres.
The A. Liebler Bottling Co. remained listed under their name until 1916, after which they disappeared from the directories.
Anton’s son Joseph remained in the bottling business. A 1917 issue of the American Bottler stated:
The quarter-of-a-century old business of M.J. Cantwell, Yonkers, has been sold by Mrs. Sarah Cantrell to J.A. Liebler of New York City. The sale took place a few days ago. The reason for Mrs. Cantwell selling out was that her son Michael J Cantwell, who has been managing the business since the death of his father three years ago, wished to go into the electrical contracting business. The firm will run under the same name, and the same quality of service rendered under the old management will be carried out. Mr. Liebler has been in the bottling business for over 25 years, being at one time connected with his father’s firm, A. Liebler Bottling Company. It was through this firm that he formed many business relations in Yonkers, where he is now well known. Mr. Liebler will take up his residence there shortly.
Today most of the area in the vicinity of 402 and 404 W 126th St is vacant. Small, older structures do exist (with garage door openings and offices upstairs) with addresses of 400 and 412 W 126th Street. These buildings could have been used by the business at one time (there’s very little distance between the two buildings and it looks as though they were connected at some point).
The bottle I found is a champagne style tooled blob (12 oz) with the A. Liebler Bottling Co embossing so it dates between 1887 and the early 1900’s (probably a Yeungling??). I’ve also see pre 1887 bottles on the Internet embossed A Liebler & Co. I’ve never seen a crown finish.