Bolen & Byrne, New York

The initial proprietors of the business were John Bolen and John Byrne. The “History” section of corporate documents, prepared in 1929, stated that the original partnership of Bolen & Byrne was established in 1857 and that they were the first manufacturers of ginger ale in America.

The first listing I can find for the business is 10 years later, in the 1867-68 NYC Directory, listed as soda and located at 235 East 28th Street. Census records show that John Bolen was born in 1840 and would have only been 17 years old in 1857 so while it’s possible that he established the business at this young age, I’m leaning toward a start date closer to 1867 based on this initial listing.

The business remained at East 28th Street through 1877. Over this period they listed themselves in the directories as either chemists, soda or waters. This is confirmed by a company receipt from 1875 that was listed on e-bay.

The receipt listed their address as 220, 231 and 233 East 28th Street. It also names them as the proprietors of the American Mineral Water Co., located on President Street in Brooklyn. I can’t find any mention of the American Mineral Water Co., or Bolen & Byrne in the late 1870’s Brooklyn Directories. It’s possible that this may have been their factory location but who knows?

Around 1879 Bolen & Byrne moved from East 28th Street to 415 East 54th Street where they remained listed through 1902. Both Bolen and Byrne were also listed individually at this location until 1893, when Byrne’s listing disappeared. Most likely, he either passed away or left the business around this time.

During this time the business also maintained a Philadelphia location. They were listed in the Philadelphia City Directories between 1888 and 1896 as bottlers located at 813 North 11th Street.

A brief description of the size of the business around this time was provided by John Bolen himself, as part of a statement he made to the Senate Committee of Finance in 1888 regarding tariffs:

My concern, Bolen & Byrne, is the most extensive in this country. We have over 200 hands employed in our two establishments in New York and Philadelphia.

It looks like the business formed a New York Corporation in the late 1800’s. In 1898, the business was listed for the first time as Bolen & Byrne Mfg. Co. (NY).  John Bolen was listed as President and his son, John K. Bolen as secretary up until 1902. After this it appears that both father and son disassociated themselves from the company.

In 1904, Bolen & Byrne moved to 514 West 36th Street with Abraham Karlsson named as president. The carbonated beverage firm of S.A.Ludin operating under the registered trade name of New York Bottling Co. was also listed at that address and it appears that they merged or at least formed an association with Bolen & Byrne. Although listed separately in the NYC directories, they advertised together quite a bit. The advertisement below is from the December, 1907 issue of the Druggist Circular.

S.A.Ludin, New York Bottling and Bolen & Byrne are all listed with the same 36th Street address through 1915. In late 1914, five New York bottling firms, including S.A. Ludin consolidated into a new corporation called the New York Bottling Co., Inc. Neither Bolen & Byrne or S.A. Ladin were listed in the 1916 directory. I believe that Bolen & Byrne was included with S.A.Ludin as part of the consolidation but I can’t prove it.

Bolen & Byrne, if not the first, was certainly one of the first U.S. ginger ale manufacturers. An advertisement from 1882 is the earliest advertisement I can find for a ginger ale called “Belfast Ginger Ale”

Pronounced by connoisseurs superior to the imported. Our Ginger Ale is not fermented – it is as sparkling as champagne – It is refreshing and invigorating, and we candidly believe the most wholesome drink in existence.

Prize medal awarded at New York, Vienna, Centennial and Paris Expositions.

For sale at all leading Hotels, Drug Stores, Groceries and Wine establishments in the United States.

Around this time, Bolen & Byrne’s competition in the ginger ale market came from a firm called Cantrell and Cochran who had places of business in both Dublin and Belfast, Ireland. They did business in Great Britan and Ireland, as well as throughout the United States. In the late 1870’s and early 1880’s they brought suit against Bolen & Byrne on the grounds of infringement of their trademarks. According to an article in the 1882 issue of Bonfort’s Wine and Spirit Circular:

This infringement was not confined to a mere timid attempt or colorable imitation of Messrs. Cantrell & Cochrane’s packaging, but was as close and elaborate copy of the original bottles, labels, corks, etc., as could be executed.

Bolen and Byrne went so far as to have the words Dublin and Belfast stamped or blown on the rounded bottoms of their bottles, regardless of the fact that they had no facilities whatsoever overseas.

The court ruled in Cantrell & Cochran’s favor stating in part that Bolen & Byrne’s packaging was:

calculated to deceive and mislead purchasers and others into the belief that the article of liquor called ginger ale of the said defendants is the article of liquor known as ginger ale of the manufacture of the said plaintiffs…

A decade later, Bolen & Byrne found itself on the other side of the fence and brought suit against Rudolph Jonasch and others for adopting a trade mark so similar to their’s that it would be likely to deceive consumers. According to court records:

Prior to March last the defendants were all employed by the plaintiff (Bolen & Byrne) or its predecessors, in various capacities, for periods ranging from 13 to 30 years. Shortly before April last, the defendants apparently by common consent, all left employment of the plaintiff, and a few weeks afterwards united in the business of manufacturing goods of the same kind as those made by the plaintiff. In putting their goods upon the market, the defendants adopted labels for their goods which the plaintiff alleges are imitations of his labels.

In this instance, Bolen and Byrne prevailed.

One final note:

On January 14, 1929, a corporation called the Bolen & Byrne Beverage Corporation, incorporated under Delaware laws, was registered with New York State as a foreign business corporation. Documents associated with their stock offering published in the January 29, 1929 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle stated that the new corporation was a successor to the original partnership of Bolen & Byrne, established in 1857. It went on to say that its president, Ehler Meyer, was a descendant of the founders (but they don’t say which one). The document also stated that the corporation will own all the stock of both the Orange Crush Bottling Company of New York and the Piping Rock Corporation of New Jersey.

Other than reviving the name “Bolen & Byrne” I don’t see much of a connection between this corporation and the original business.

As best I can tell, today, the Bolen & Byrne Beverage Corporation is still an active corporation registered with the NYS Department of State. However, their last listed address of 502-04 West 45th Street is currently a Hess Gas Station. So who knows?.

The bottle I found is mouth blown with an applied lip. It has a rounded bottom and is embossed Bolen & Byrne, New York. There’s no mention of Dublin and Belfast. It was probably manufactured in the 1880’s, after they moved to East 54th Street.





Corona Bottling Co, 109 – 111 53rd Ave, Corona, L.I., L Aledort & Son, Props. Telphone: Newton 2399.

corona        corona1

The first listing I can find for the Corona Bottling Works is in the Brooklyn and Queens Section of the 1924 NYC Telephone Book. There’s no address listed but the phone number – Newtown 2399  matched the one on the bottle. In the October 1925 edition of the phone book they changed their phone number from the Newtown Exchange to a Havmeyer exchange.

In 1927 and 1928 they listed 103-13 53rd Ave as an address. This isn’t the same location etched on the bottle but it makes sense that they moved at the same time they changed phone numbers.

During this period, Louis Aledort and the business of L Aledort & Co. are also listed and both always share the same phone number with Corona Bottling Works so they are probably one and the same business. The listing for L Aledort & Co goes back to the 1917 edition of the phone book so it appears the business started around this time. I can’t find enough information to determine the end date of the business.

The bottle I found is an etched 26 oz siphon bottle. It probably dates to the early 1920’s when they started using the Corona Bottling Works name but no earlier than 1917 when the business started.

J Wittmann, Woodhaven, New York

wittmann           wittmann1      wittmann-2

The J stands for Joseph Wittmann.

Joseph Wittmann, Queens Ward 4, appears in census records from 1900 to 1930. Over that period, he listed himself as a bottler, proprietor, manufacturer and retail merchant of mineral/soda water. According to a September 28, 1940 Brooklyn Daily Eagle article announcing his death, Wittmann was born in Brooklyn and lived in Queens for 46 years. He died in 1940 at the age of 76.

The business apparently started in Brooklyn in the late 1880’s. Joseph Wittmann, bottler, was listed in the 1889 and 1890 Brooklyn directories, with an address of 729 Flushing Avenue. He was not listed in the 1887 Directory.

Sometime between 1891 and 1898, the business moved to Thrall Pl, corner of Broadway, Woodhaven, where it’s listed in the 1899, 1903,1907, 1908-1909 and 1912 Trow Business Directories of the Borough of Queens under mineral water. It was also listed in the Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island Section of the New York Telephone Directory as Carbonated Beverages through at least 1928. By this time, the address was 97-40 91st but I don’t think the location changed because Thrall Place was renamed 91st Street. Based on the census records the business could have lasted into the 1930’s.

I found three mouth blown bottles, all embossed “Woodhaven”. Two are large (28 oz); one has a tooled blob finish and the other a tooled crown finish. The third is smaller (8oz) with a tooled crown finish. The larger bottles used slug plates while the smaller one is a private mold. All three fit the earlier years that the business was in Woodhaven

I’ve also observed machine made (28oz) bottles in the bays as well.

Jas T Weeks, Rockville Centre L.I.

weeks      weeks-seltzer

James T Weeks listed his occupation as mineral water manufacturer and as soda water in the 1900 and 1910 census respectively. In the 1920 census, he had moved to Islip and was employed as a driver. The “Annual Report of the Factory Inspectors of the State of New York in 1898 indicated Weeks had a mineral water business that had 3 employees during that time, all male (no address). The same report in 1903 showed water bottling at a Centre Avenue location (no employee information).

Based on this information, he was in business from at least the mid-1890’s to sometime in the 1910’s. There’s not much else to go on.

All the bottles I’ve found were mouth blown: two 27 oz with a tooled blob finish, several 8 oz tooled crowns and one siphon bottle. Haven’t seen a machine made bottle, even on the Internet. This supports the time frame of the business as estimated above.



VER-VAC was the first cola concentrate made by the H R Nicholson Co. of Baltimore Maryland.

They first appear in the Baltimore directories in 1917, listed as the Ver-Vac Company, Roy T McFadden and Geo Murphy props, soda water, 111 s Gay. It looks like the H.R. Nicholson Co. got involved soon after. In the 1918 directory Frank A. Hyde, the secretary-treasurer of Nicholson is listed with The Ver-Vac Co., and McFadden and Murphy are not.

The following information on VER-VAC came from “The House of Quality: The History of the H R Nicholson Co.” by Harry R. Nicholson as summarized by the web site Five Star It confirms the H.R. Nicholson Co.’s involvement.

Nicholson developed and invested in VER-VAC, a cola designed to compete with Coca Cola. It’s growth was hindered by increased sugar prices and sugar rationing associated with World War I. The amount of sugar businesses were allotted was based on their usage prior to rationing and since Ver-Vac was a relatively new venture, Nicholson didn’t get enough to run the business. As a result, the company went flat around this time.

VER-VAC apparently survived World War I and incorporated in late 1919. The December 30, 1919 issue of the Chemical Color and Oil Daily stated:

the VER-VAC Company of 11 South Gay Street, Baltimore has been incorporated with $50,000 capital to manufacture flavoring extracts by Harry R Nicholson, Carl Murbach and W Howard Hamilton.

Several months later, in April of 1920, the VER-VAC Company advertised a public offering for 40,000 shares of stock. The documents associated with that offering provided an overview of the business at that time.

The VER-VAC Company of Baltimore was organized in the Fall of 1919 for the purpose of manufacturing the soft drink known as “VER-VAC.”


VER-VAC is a non-alcoholic beverage, distinctive, refreshing, pleasant in taste and non-injurious. It is the result of years of effort and is today recognized by numerous bottlers and others familiar with its quality as being the most palatable cola drink on the market and since it has been offered the public, has met with instant success and popular approval.

The VER-VAC Company does not bottle its own product and not unlike other soft drink manufacturers, distributes its syrup in concentrated form to bottlers throughout the country, who in turn distribute the bottled beverage. It is also sold in concentrated forms to druggists or wherever soft drinks are sold over the counter.

VER-VAC is distributed by bottlers only under the name of VER-VAC and it is the intention of the VER-VAC Company that all bottling concerns having the exclusive distribution, will be known as the VER-VAC BOTTLING COMPANY of their respective localities.


The Company’s plant is located at 111 South Gay St., Baltimore, Md., and occupies the entire warehouse with floor space of over 12,000 square feet.

The plant is fully equipped with new and modern machinery for the manufacture of VER-VAC Syrup. The entire equipment is glass-lined throughout, of the most sanitary type, the system installed enabling the company to start its raw materials on the top floor of the building and gravitate through the various stages of manufacture to the first floor of the plant where it is ready for shipment, thereby reducing the cost of manufacturing to a minimum expense.


The present capacity of the plant is 750,000 gallons of finished VER-VAC Syrup annually and the demand for this beverage is far in excess of this capacity owing to the increasing demand for a good soft drink, particularly since prohibition has become effective.

The July 1920 issue of the Beverage Journal stated under “Maryland Notes” that “the Ver-Vac Bottling Co is now in operation, operating nine trucks in distributing Ver-Vac to the retail trade.

An advertisement in the May 15, 1921 issue of the Newport News, Va. Daily Press identified that area’s local bottler as Epstein Brothers.

VER-VAC appears in the Baltimore directories through 1931 as the VER-VAC Products Co., listed as either syrups or extracts. They were always located at 111 s Gay. By the mid 1930’s they are no longer listed.

The one VER-VAC bottle I found is machine made and similar to the one in the Virginia advertisement. Near the base, it’s embossed “Ver-Vac Bottling Co. of New York.” I haven’t been able to find a listing for them or identify which company that was.

D J Walsh, Far Rockaway, NY


Walsh was a long time Far Rockaway bottler but there’s very little hard information available on him.

An Irish immigrant, he listed himself as a bottler and/or mineral water manufacturer and proprietor of his own shop in the 1910,1920 and 1930 census. A couple of his young sons were also listed as bottlers or bottler helpers, leading me to believe it was a small family run operation.

In the 1900 census records I can’t make out his occupation but it does not appear related to bottling or mineral water. This would put him in the bottling business for 20 + years from pre-1910 to the early 1930’s. I did find him listed on Cornaga Avenue in several Queens County telephone directories between 1925 and 1928.

A Walsh “for sale” classified ad in a 1922 issue of the “Re-ly on Bottler” also listed their address as Cornaga Avenue in Far Rockaway. They were selling a Hammond bottle washer (60 boxes per hour) and a liquid carbonic generator.

Walsh was reportedly one of the first to make charged siphon club soda bottles according to local historian Emil Lucev, a contributer to “The Wave” a local Far Rockaway newspaper.

I found one large (27oz) tooled crown and several smaller (8oz) tooled crowns. Several machine made bottles (8oz) have also been observed. No blob top bottles have been found to date but I’ve seen photos on the Internet (both 8oz and 27oz). I’ve also seen D J Walsh siphon bottles on the Internet.

W&T, 57 Downing St., NY

tw-1 tw-2 tw-3 tw-4

Soda water manufacturers, the proprietors were William Wills and Anson B Taylor.

The business is first listed in the 1859 NYC directory as Wills, Taylor & Co., with an address of 49 Greene Street. In 1865 the name of the business in the listing was changed to Wilson & Taylor and around the same time they moved to 57 Downing Street where they remained through 1874.

Anson Taylor continues to be listed individually as waters through the early 1880’s with an address of 119 East 124th Street.

On a side note, Anson B Taylor played baseball for a pioneering baseball club called the Mutual Baseball Club. Organized in NYC in June 1857, they were named after Mutual Hook and Ladder Company #1. A book entitled “Baseball Founders: The Clubs, Players and Cities of the Northeast that Established the Game”provided the following brief biography of Taylor:

Anson B. Taylor was born in Connecticut around 1827. He played a few games for the Mutuels in 1858, then was a regular for the next three seasons. He had served as club treasurer while an active player and began a four year tenure as club president in 1861. Taylor, who was partner in a mineral water business, died in New York on June 2, 1884.

The bottle I found is an 8 oz pony with an applied blob top finish. It’s embossed “W&T” with the 57 Downing Street address so it most likely dates between 1865 and 1874.

Fred vonDohln & Son, 348 West 36th St. NY

vondohlen        vondohlen-1

I have to believe that the name is miss-spelled vonDohln on the bottle. There is a Fred vonDohlen listed as a grocer in the 1897 Trow NYC Business Directory at the same address that’s embossed on the bottle, 348 W 36th Street. He was also listed in every NYC general directory I could find between 1876 and 1909 and always at that address. Interestingly enough the 1900 Directory (and only this Directory) lists him as Fred vonDohlen & Son (as embossed on the bottle) and lists him as water not grocer. All other directories list him as a grocer (and no & Son).

The 1900 census records recorded a Fred vonDohlen living at 348 W 36th Street so it appears that he operated a small grocery store and probably lived above or in the rear of the store. He had four sons, the oldest of which, Karl, listed his occupation as clerk. I assume he was the clerk in his father’s store and is the son referred to on the embossed bottle. The other three sons listed unrelated occupations.

Looks like he was in business from at least 1876 to 1909. He could have been in the bottling business that whole time as well or maybe he gave it a go with his son for a year and it didn’t work out?

The current building at 348 W 36th St was built in 1936 so it doesn’t date back to the time frame of the business. The adjacent building is older and may go back that far.

The bottle I found has a tooled blob finish (8 oz) that probably dates to the  latter half of the business time frame, including  1900, the year he was listed in the water business. I’ve yet to see one of these bottles anywhere on the Internet.

United Bottling Co., P F O’Neill, 508 Greenwich St., New York


The United Bottling Co. / P. F. O’Neill was in business for over 40 years, always located within lower Manhattan.

Paul F O’Neill (waters) was first listed in the 1887 NYC General Directory at 185 Franklin St. but the September 1, 1883 “City Record” included him on a list of First Assembly District members as Paul F. O’Neill, mineral waters, with the 185 Franklin address. So it looks like the business extends back at least that far.  In the 1891 NYC General Directory, O’Neill’s address changed to 508 Greenwich St. where the business remained until at least 1925.

O’Neill began using the United Bottling Co. as a company name as early as 1890. The 1890 Copartnership and Corporation Directory listed the business as: United Bottling Co. (Paul F. O’Neill, propr.) 185 Franklin.

The Annual Report on Factory Inspections in New York State – 1898 listed the business with 5 male employees.

The 1917-1918 NYC Directory of Directors listed O’Neill as a Director for both the Bottlers and Manufacturers Association and the Bottlers and Manufacturers Collecting and Distributing Co.

By 1933, Paul F. O’Neil was listed at 74 Varick with the occupation of real estate.

Today 508 Greenwich is a four-story walk-up with a bar/restaurant at street level and an ornate exterior fire escape.

“Street Easy says it was built in 1900 but O’Neill was using it as his address continuously since 1891. I assume that the 1900 date was probably the construction date of an addition. It must have housed the business.

The bottle I found is a tooled blob (8 oz) embossed with the 508 Greenwich Street address. Although O’Neil moved to 508 Greenwich in 1891, I’ve seen 2 different variants of this bottle on the Internet and this appears to be the newer version, so I’d say it’s early 1900’s.

Although the business extended into the mid-1920’s, I’ve not yet seen a tooled crown finish or machine made bottle associated with this business.

Suydam Bottling Co., 135 Suydam St, Brooklyn, NY

suydam          suydam-1

Suydam Bottling Company was listed in the Brooklyn Telephone Directory from 1917 through 1940, always at 135 Suydam Street.

Suydam advertisements in the 1920 Cassified Phone Book (Yellow Pages) stressed “pure, healthful mineral waters” and “pure fruit juices used.”


Suydam was one of many Brooklyn and Long Island Bottlers of Beverages that “patriotically contributed” advertising space in the June 27, 1918 edition of the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle” that contained a plea from Uncle Sam to Brooklynites to sign a pledge card to purchase war savings stamps to fund the war effort.


In 1941 the company declared bankruptcy and their assets were sold at public auction on November 18, 1941.


Today, 135 Suydam Street is a one-story brick building with several garage door openings that dates back to and was probably used by the business.

The bottle I found is machine made (27 oz); probably from the 1920’s. I haven’t seen a mouth blown example of this bottle on the Internet.