Duhme & Meyer was a New York City mineral water manufacturer and a bottler of soda and beer that operated in lower Manhattan during much of the 1870’s and 1880’s. The proprietors were German immigrants Henry Duhme and Wiliam Meyer.
Census records indicate that Duhme arrived in the United States from Hanover, Germany in 1848. By the early 1850’s he had apparently joined his brother Martin in the grocery business under the name “Duhme & Brother.” The 1851 N.Y.C. directory listed the business in lower Manhattan with an address of 17 Grand Street. By the mid-1850’s the name “Duhme & Brother” had disappeared from the directories however, both Duhme’s continued to be listed as grocers at several lower Manhattan locations up through the mid-1860’s.
It was around this time that Henry Duhme opened a saloon at 198 Bleeker Street as evidenced by the occupation he listed in the 1870 census records: “Lagerbier Saloon.” This likely occurred in 1868 when his occupation in the directories changed from “grocer” to “liquor.”
Sometime in the early 1870’s Duhme partnered with William Meyer and together they established Duhme & Meyer. Meyer had immigrated to the United States from Prussia and I suspect he had recently arrived in New York City after first settling in New Jersey.
The business of Duhme and Meyer was initially listed in the 1871 N.Y.C directory at 112 Prince Street where they remained for over ten years. Early directories (1871 to 1875) referenced the company as a “soda” business while later directories called them “bottlers.” They were certainly bottling beer as well as soda in 1875 as evidenced by a Duhme & Meyer bottle found in a collection presented on brucemobley.com. The bottle is embossed “Lager Beer” on the front, with the year 1875 embossed on the back.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if the bottling business was actually an outgrowth of Duhme’s saloon business and they were bottling beer from the start but that’s entirely conjecture on my part.
Sometime in 1883 Duhme & Meyer moved to 115 Christopher Street where they were listed in the N.Y.C. directories until 1886 when Duhme apparently left the business. He ultimately moved to Brooklyn where 1900 census records listed his occupation as a real estate agent. He passed away in March 1909.
The bottling business continued to operate under the management of the Meyer family after Duhme’s departure. In 1887, both William Meyer and Henry W. Meyer, were listed with the occupation “waters,” at 115 Christopher Street. Henry was almost certainly William’s son, who, according to 1880 census records, was born in 1871.
The following year William Meyer was no longer listed, apparently leaving the business in the hands of his son who continued to operate it at 115 Christopher Street up until 1898.
A bottle embossed Henry W. Meyer exhibiting the 115 Christopher Street address was found in the collection of Mike AKA Chinchillaman1 at http://mikesbottleroom.weebly.com (no relation to this web site).
Sometime in 1898 Meyer moved the business to 218 West 22nd Street. The move was almost certainly associated with New York State’s enactment of their 1896 liquor tax law, popularly referred to as Raines Law. Among other things, the law included an $800 license fee making it difficult for much of Meyer’s small business clientele to remain in business.
Shortly after the move the business came to a tragic end when Henry W, Meyer committed suicide. A story in the May 21, 1899 edition of the New York Tribune provided the sad details.
Henry W. Meyer, head of the firm Henry W. Meyer & Co., manufacturers of soda water, committed suicide yesterday afternoon at his home, No. 215 Tenth Ave., by taking muriatic acid. The shrinking of his extensive business to a condition of poor trade by the closing up of many small dealers with whom he had a monopoly of trade is thought to have caused Myer’s act. Myer lived with his wife and four children on the second floor of the Tenth Ave. house. His factory is in Twenty second Street between Tenth and Eleventh Aves. The man had built up a large business among the small saloons in the city, especially on the East Side. The Raines Law license drove a great many of these dealers out of business, and Meyer’s trade suffered, as he found himself unable to compete with the larger dealers.
The bottle I found is a pony with an applied blob finish that includes the embossed Christopher Street address. The monogramed back includes the embossed year 1883, suggesting it was manufactured specifically to reflect Duhme & Meyer’s move to new quarters that year.
Streeteasy.com reports that today the building at 115 Christopher Street was built in 1904, so it does not date back to the time frame of the business.