T. L. Neff’s Sons, 179 – 181 Powers St. Brooklyn N. Y.

 

This Post was updated on January 30, 2024

Theron L. Neff, and later T. L. Neff’s Sons (sometimes T. L. Neff & Sons) were Brooklyn based soft drink bottlers that operated under the T. L. Neff name from approximately 1869 to 1930. Later, the company merged with Kirsch Beverages and  operated as Neff Beverages.

Theron Neff was born in Windham Connecticut in 1842. His obituary, published in the April 5, 1906 edition of the Brooklyn Times Union, mentioned that his arrival in Brooklyn came after his service in the Civil War.

When the Civil War broke out, Mr. Neff enlisted with Company H, of the Twenty -fifth Connecticut Volunteers, and during a number of engagements served as corporal in the Department of the Gulf under General Hanks. He participated in the Battle of Baton Rouge and Port Hudson.

The obituary goes on to say that after the war he settled in Brooklyn and joined the business of Mason O. Fuller, an old-time Brooklyn bottler whose business dated back to the late 1850’s. More on Fuller’s business can be found here:  M. O. Fuller.     Neff ultimately took over the business in the late 1860’s.

Mr. Neff came to Brooklyn in 1865. He went to live in the Fifteenth Ward and accepted a position with Mason O. Fuller, who was the originator of the soda water business. The plant at that time was located in Grand Street near Graham Avenue. Mr. Neff worked for Mr. Fuller for three or four years, and finally took control of the business and afterwards conducted it under the name of T. L. Neff.

Neff’s obituary also credits him as being the originator of bottled root beer.

At that time yeast was used in the making of root beer and the beverage was put in stone jugs. Mr. Neff originated the idea of putting the root beer in bottles under the present carbonated system.

By 1875, and possibly earlier, the company’s factory was located at 105 Maujer Street where according to their 1889 “bottle registration notice, they bottled and sold soda water, root beer and other beverages.

Theron conducted the business until 1895 when he retired. At that point he turned the company over to his sons Lewis (sometimes Louis) and Edwin, changing the name to T. L. Neff’s Sons.

A story featuring Brooklyn’s mineral water industry published in the July 7, 1912 edition of the “Brooklyn Citizen” provided this early  1900’s snapshot of the business:

In the manufacture of soft drinks T. L. Neff & Sons, Inc., 105 Maujer Street, Brooklyn, N. Y., is one of the largest and most prominent in the city. They occupy a two-story building 25 x 100, used exclusively for bottling their drinks, and also maintain a stable at 52-54 Ten Eyck Street where their many horses and wagons are kept.

The plant has capacity of fifteen hundred boxes of soda per day, and employs about thirty men. The business was established about 1858, and has served one customer for forty-six years.

A May 12, 1914 Brooklyn Daily Eagle advertisement, made it clear that the Neff company, with large contracts up and down the east coast, served more than just the New York City area.

Among the customers they are serving are the New England Navigation Company, which operates the Fall River Steamers, the Panama Steamship Company, the Central Hudson Steamboat Company and the U. S. Government Reservations between West Point and Governor’s Island, as well as the American Sugar Refining Company.

It was around this time that the company acquired property at 181 Powers Street and was planning a new upgraded facility. The acquisition was reported in the April 15, 1914 edition of the “Brooklyn Times Union.”

Two two-story frame dwellings, 50×100, at 179-181 Powers Street were sold for the Schultz Bread Company to T. L. Neff & Sons, who will improve the site with a two-story  factory building.

The company  moved to their new accommodations later that year and remained there up until 1930.

A July 17, 1921 “Brooklyn Citizen” story made it clear that the business grew considerably during this time.

Brooklyn soda waters quench the thirst of inhabitants in various parts of the world, a report of the business of T. L. Neff’s Sons shows. The firm which made “Watch Your Thirst” a well-known slogan, manufactures at its big establishment at No. 181 Powers Street, Williamsburg, beverages which find their way into many different climes. Today while many other industries complain of the pinch accompanying the reconstruction period, this company is working full blast.

T. L. Neff’s Company has been a thirst quencher for the past sixty-three years, and the plant has grown to such proportions that it is now numbered among the largest in the city. Its products are of the best and are turned out by the latest devices in every line of the business.

The daily output of the company averages 2,000 boxes of soft beverages, each box containing a dozen bottles,  making 24,000 bottles sent out from the company’s plant each working day. Although the company makes every popular kind of soft drink, it specializes in ginger ale and sarsaparilla, and in these two it ranks with the best made  anywhere. Not  only in Brooklyn are the products of the company supplied to hundreds of dealers in the city, but they are shipped throughout the country and Europe. Steady customers are on the company’s books with their business houses in Japan and other Asiatic countries.

Mr. Lewis Neff is in charge of the business end of the house, and has supervision over all shipments, while Edwin Neff is in control of the manufacturing.

Lewis Neff’s obituary, published in the July 30, 1950 edition of the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle,” stated that the  company  eventually merged with the Kirsch Company. This likely occurred in 1930 when the business changed its name  in the telephone directories to “Neff’s  Beverages” and at the same time moved to 925 Flushing Avenue. This May 31, 1934 “Brooklyn Times Union” advertisement exhibited the new company name.

The company remained listed in this fashion up through the mid-1950’s.

The bottle I found is machine made with a crown finish and an approximate capacity of 28 ounces. “T. L. Neff’s Sons”is embossed on the front, along with their Powers Street address. This dates the bottle no earlier than 1914.

The back of the bottle exhibits their trademarked case of soda bottles.

Today, the building located at 179 – 181 Powers Street appears to be the same building built and occupied by the the company in 1914.