Updated: November 18, 2014

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Given the quantity of unsubstantiated misinformation that has been published (and subsequently plagiarized and republished ad nauseum) for many years, documentation of facts detailing the Hutchinson bottling process is long overdue.  Although the barn door is wide open and the horse has long since vanished over the horizon, hopefully on a go-forward basis people will reference and share this accurate information, and stop spreading Hutchinson myths.  Many of the volumes in my library of soda-related books relate “engaging and provocative narrative” tales similar to those presented in Frederick Allen’s Secret Formula: How Brilliant Marketing and Relentless Salesmanship Made Coca-Cola the Best-Known Product in the World.  Allen may have done his homework concerning the history of the Coca-Cola Company, but his negative descriptions of the Hutchinson bottling process seem to be an attempt at entertaining prose, rather than factual documentation.  Here is how Frederick Allen described the Hutchinson bottling process (parenthetical comments are mine):

During one of his visits to Doc Pemberton’s ramshackle headquarters, Dobbs (Samuel Candler Dobbs, Asa Candler’s nephew) spotted the primitive bottling operation under the coal shed out in the backyard, and he was fascinated.  The Matthews machine was little more than a wooden table with tubes connected to a generator and a pair of crude metal cylinders.  It had hand and foot levers that were used to lower a valve, squirt syrup and carbonated water into a bottle, and secure an internal rubber disk and wire contraption known as a Hutchinson stopper as a seal.  The carbonation was provided by the old-fashioned, malodorous method of mixing sulfuric acid and marble dust, and then forcing the escaping gas into water held under pressure in one of the cylinders.  The process was ‘typically unsanitary, dirty, and antique,’ Dobbs had to admit…Bottles with Hutchinson stoppers were notoriously hard to clean and sanitize, and few of the early bottlers even bothered to try.  It was not unusual for a bottling machine to be placed in the stable, conveniently near the wagons, on a floor covered with straw and horse manure…

Thomas (Benjamin Franklin Thomas) scraped together several hundred dollars and opened a bottling plant in Chattanooga within a few weeks, but it was ‘crude in the extreme,’ as one worker later recalled.  Fitted into a narrow space on the ground floor of an abandoned pool hall in one of the city’s poor neighborhoods, the plant had a jury-rigged ‘contrivance’ that lifted a ten-gallon keg overhead, allowing gravity to feed syrup down a rubber tube to a small, foot-powered bottle filler.  One day a pulley broke, sending the keg crashing to the floor and showering the plant manager, Billy Hardin, with sweet, sticky syrup.  And that was not the only hazard.  The bottles occasionally exploded under the pressure of carbonation; early workers learned to wear narrow-mesh wire face masks that made them look as if they were outfitted to go fencing.

Customers faced a different sort of danger: spoilage.  The Hutchinson bottle was sealed by a rubber gasket held in place by a long, looping wire.  Soda pop got its nickname from the ‘pop’ that resulted when the wire and stopper were pushed down into the bottle.  Because the mechanism was internal, the bottles were difficult to clean and impossible to sterilize, and Thomas and Whitehead (Joseph Brown Whitehead) soon discovered that in hot weather their product had a shelf life of only ten days or two weeks before it turned rancid.

Good grief!  The author’s reprinting of the tired old myth attributing the term “soda pop” to Hutchinson’s Patent Spring Stopper causes one to question the quality of his other research.  (See the “Origin of the term ‘Soda Pop’” discussion on the Industry History page for additional comments.)  Considerable effort has gone into the research necessary to identify the extensive, factual bottling information that follows.  We believe it presents an accurate description of the identified items and processes. 

Given the volume of material and illustrations included in this portion of the site, the topical outline that follows is designed to function as a road map that will hopefully allow users to find and access desired information more quickly.  Clicking on an underlined heading opens a separate window displaying additional information about that specific topic.  Close the window to return to the previous page you were reading.

The American Bottling System

Today’s consumers give little thought to soft drink bottling; product pricing and packaging convenience are their primary considerations.  Most of us probably envision computer-controlled processing lines of fast moving bottles (and cans) being filled by automated dispensing machinery, followed quickly by automated sealing and packaging.  Obviously, soft drink bottling has evolved greatly during the past two centuries.  Soda bottling processes utilized during the 1879 – World War I "Hutchinson era" have remained a mystery for too long.   Many people are content simply knowing Hutchinson bottles were somehow filled, their stoppers pulled into place sealing the bottles, and the finished products were delivered.  For the benefit of those of us who hunger for as much information as possible about Hutchinson bottles, the following detailed description of the soda bottling process will hopefully fill some knowledge gaps. 

Pre-Hutchinson Era Soft Drink Bottling

During the earliest days of the soda and mineral water industry, consumers traveled to the source of the products, rather than the products being packaged for delivery to them.  This included people going to spas located at or near mineral water springs, and also purchasing drinks dispensed from soda fountains that were typically operated in conjunction with drug stores.  The concept of packaging soda and mineral water in glass and stoneware bottles for delivery to customers didn’t develop as an industry and catch on with consumers until the 1830s-1840s. 

Hutchinson's Patent Spring Stoppers

W. H. Hutchinson and Son advertised their Hutchinson's Patent Spring Stoppers as "perfect," and "sure to become the only Stopper used for Soda and Mineral Water Bottles."  Although their stoppers weren't perfect, they were by far the closure of choice for a majority of North American soda bottlers and their customers during the Hutchinson era.  The enormous success enjoyed by W. H. Hutchinson and Son was the end result of a closure methodology accepted by bottlers and customers, plus a consistent and prolific advertising program.  The following pages include information about how Hutchinson's Patent Spring Stoppers were marketed, descriptions of stopper-related tools, and day-to-day hints provided by bottlers who used Hutchinson stoppers.

Hutchinson Bottles

Several tidbits of information incorporated into W. H. Hutchinson and Son’s advertising materials provide clues concerning design of the bottles that utilized Hutchinson’s Patent Spring Stoppers.  Another source of information is David Whitten’s “Glass Factory Marks on Bottles” web site ( providing information about the many manufacturers who produced Hutchinson bottles.  For the most part, however, specific information about Hutchinson bottles is very elusive.  Additional material will be added as a result of on-going research.  

The Hutchinson Bottling Process

The extensive information presented here was gleaned from very-difficult-to-obtain, original source materials.  Each sequential step in the Hutchinson bottling process is described in considerable detail, with illustrations provided wherever possible.  We believe this is the most accurate and detailed explanation of the Hutchinson bottling process that has ever been documented.