The City Bottling Works of New York, Henry Downes 1873

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According to his obituary in the December 15, 1905 edition of “The American Bottler” Henry Downes was one of the first makers of ginger ale in the US.

Henry Downes, the veteran bottler, died at his home, 429 Henry Street, Brooklyn on the 23rd, at the age of 72 years.

He was a native of County Clare, Ireland, and came to this country when a young man, and as a pioneer in the soda water business was one of the first manufacturers of ginger ale in this country.

He was one of the original members of the Bottlers’ and Manufacturers’ Association of New York.

Henry Downes was first listed in the 1870/1871 Trow New York City Directory at 411 1st Avenue with the occupation minerals. A year later, he was listed as a bottler at the same address. In 1873-74 he changed his address to 404 E 25th St. (on the same block but on the other side of First Avenue) with the following description:

manufacturer of Belfast Ginger Ale, Honey Mead Soda, Sarsaparilla, Fruit Syrups and Extracts; also original manufacturer of Extract of Ginger Ale.

He was still listed at that address through 1888. In 1890/91 he was listed as a bottler in Brooklyn at 98 Wycoff Street. He was still listed at this address in 1897 but as an agent, not a bottler.

Downes held the rights to at least two patents. One (No. 145139), dated December 2, 1873, and held jointly with Frederick W. Wiesenbrock was for “a fountain for soda water.” The other (196437 A) was for improvements in vent faucets for bottles, Filing Date: May 31,1877, Publication Date: October 23,1877.

Another obituary, this one in the November 25, 1905 issue of the New York Sun, said that Downes was a writer and lecturer, and for many years was connected with the Bottlers Gazette.

Today this area of First Avenue in Manhattan is heavily occupied by NYU. Their College of Dentistry occupies the former 411 First Avenue address. The 25th Street address is just east of First Avenue and is also occupied by a modern building.

The bottle I found is a pony style with an applied blob finish. Its embossed  with the date of 1873 which puts it on the bubble between the First Avenue and East 25th Street locations. I’ve seen bottles embossed with the Wycoff Avenue address on the Internet but have not found one.

California Bottling Co, 142 King St, Brooklyn NY

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The first listing I can find for the California Bottling Co. was in the 1922 Copartnership and Corporation Directory for the Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens however, based on the patent application below it appears that the business started around 1920. This is confirmed in a June 10, 1920 article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that described an accident involving a truck owned by the California Bottling Co. The business continued to be listed in various Brooklyn Directories up to and including 1931.

According to 1922 issues of the “Beverage Journal” and the “Soda Fountain” under the heading “soft drinks and syrups” the California Bottling Co patented the design and the word “click” for non-alcoholic, non-cereal, maltless beverages sold as soft drinks and syrups for making same. Used since: February 1, 1920, Filed: February 28, 1922, Published: July 18, 1922 and Registered: October 17, 1922.

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Starting in the mid-1920’s through 1931, the Click Cola Bottling Company was listed in various directories with the same address and telephone number as the California Bottling Co.

I’ve seen bottles on the Internet embossed Click Cola (in script) Bottling Co., with the 142 King Street address looking very much like a classic Coca-Cola bottle. An Internet bottle site stated that Coke sued them for infringement and put them out of business. I can’t confirm this.

Today 142 King Street is a one story building with two garage door size openings. Property Shark.com states that it was built in 1931 so it was most likely not utilized by the business.

The bottle I found is machine made (8 oz) with California Bottling Co embossed inside a large horseshoe. There is no mention of “Click” Cola. It fits with a mid 1920’s time frame.

Bruckner Bros, 408 to 412 E 161st St, New York

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The NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directories listed the Bruckner Brothers as John A and Henry Bruckner. The business bottled mineral water and soda. Henry was also a prominent Bronx politician serving as an Assemblyman in 1901, Commissioner of Public Works from 1902 to 1912, a Congressman from 1913 to 1917 and Bronx Borough President from 1918 to 1933. Bruckner Boulevard and the Bruckner Expressway were named after him.

An early Bruckner Bros bottle listed on the Internet is embossed “Successors to Stephen Garland.” Garland was listed as waters in the Directories between 1875 and 1892. He was located at East 163rd Street near 3rd Avenue through the mid 1880’s, and at Elton Avenue and E 162nd Street until 1892. Bruckner Bros was first listed in the 1894 NYC Directory in the same neighborhood at 668 East 161st Street so they must have purchased and moved the business sometime in 1892 or 1893.

Sometime between 1906 and 1908 they moved to 408 East 161st Street and continued to be listed at that address throughout National Prohibition. In the 1940’s they were still located there but had changed their name to Bruckner Beverages. Henry Bruckner died in 1942 but the business survived through most of the 1950’s. In 1957 they were listed at 450 Thompson Place.

The “American Bottler” contained the following story of a robbery that occurred at the business in July, 1917. The story gives a little insight into Henry Bruckner’s sense of humor.

The Uses of Adversity

Sweet are the uses of adversity. Sometime during the night of July 28th last, burglars forced an entrance to the soda water plant of Bruckner Bros., at 412 East 161st Street, New York City, and blew a large safe in the office on the second floor, securing $1,000 in cash and a number of checks. They then went to the private office of Congressman Henry Bruckner and blew the safe there, securing a number of checks.

Turning his misfortune to advertising account Mr Bruckner immediately furnished the local newspapers with the following copy.

Burglars recently robbed the safe in the establishment of Bruckner Bros. The cracksman drank several bottles of ginger ale before departing. It must be good. Try it. Sold by first class grocers, delicatessen dealers and confectioners in the Bronx.

U-NO-US

Henry Bruckner, Sole Proprietor

Interestingly, Henry listed himself as sole proprietor in the above story but two years later, the 1919 Copartnership and Corporation Directory continued to list both Henry and John as principals. The 1925 NYC Directory listed the business as Bruckner Bros., but only named Henry Bruckner. I guess it’s safe to say that John left the business at some point during this period.

In 1921 they registered the U-NO-US slogan as a trademark (No.148198; Published Date Sept. 27, 1921) although they claimed to have been using it since 1896. They describe the product as non-alchohlic, non-cereal maltless beverages sold as soft drinks. This was their big seller during the prohibition years. I’ve seen bottles listed on the Internet with “U-NO-US”embossed in large letters below the shoulder and the company name and address in smaller letters near the base.

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408 to 412 East 161st Street is located in the Morrisania section of the Bronx, about 10 blocks east of Yankee Stadium. The former addresses are now encompassed by a new apartment building that takes up the west end of the block on the south side.

The bottle I found is a 28-ounce, machine made crown. It has the 408 to 412 address embossed on it but does not have the U-NO-US trademark. They were using this trademark as early as 1916 and it apparently was popular during Prohibition. This leads me to believe the bottle was made before the trademark really caught on; say sometime between 1915 and 1920. It was found with the porcelan stopper still in place but no wire bail.

Bajorath, Long Island City

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Charles Bajorath appears to have been a small-scale bottler of lager beer that worked out of his residence. According to the 1910 census records he immigrated to the U.S. in 1886 but the first mention of him in the NYC Directory was in 1892 as a bottler with just a home listing at 428 E 92nd Street. Subsequently, he was listed sporadically (1903 Trow Business Directory and 1909 City Directory are the only listings I could find) as a beer bottler at 1735 Second Avenue.

In 1910 he moved to 461 Washington Avenue in Long Island City. The 1910 Census Records indicated that he had a beer bottling business that he ran out of his house and the 1912 Queens Business Directory listed him as a bottler of lager beer at the Washington Avenue address. In addition, the Annual Report of the State Commission of Excise listed him as a liquor tax certificate holder for the years 1911 and 1913. He was listed in the 1920 Census Records (name spelled incorrectly) but at this point he’s in his 70’s and did not list a business or occupation.

Washington Avenue was later renamed 36th Avenue in Long Island City. I can’t relate the No. 461 to any specific block.

The bottle I found is a brown champagne style bottle. It has “L. I. City” embossed on it, dating it to after his move to Long Island City in 1910. Interestingly it is machine made but has a blob finish (almost all machine made beer bottles that I’ve found have a crown finish).