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W. H. Hutchinson & Son

William Henry Hutchinson was born in 1812 to Joseph and Sarah Hutchinson of Lebanon, Connecticut.  During the 1830s he lived in Williamsburg, New York where he established and operated a rooming house known as the Williamsburg Inn.  In 1840 he headed west to Chicago, Illinois and spent the next several years working at odd jobs.   

W. H. Hutchinson opened a small Chicago bottling plant in a dwelling on West Randolph, between Clinton and Jefferson Streets, in 1848.  “Hutchinson & Company’s” first bottled products included spruce and lemon beers, cider, soda, and mineral water.  Oak barrels full of fresh water for carbonating were hauled by wagon from Lake Michigan.  The beers and cider were put up in 10 and 12 sided stoneware bottles with brown glazing.  They have HUTCHINSON & CO.  and HUTCHINSON & CO. NO. 1 debossed into their sides, and are marked HUTCHINSON’S / LEMON BEER and HUTCHINSON’S / SPRUCE BEER on their shoulders.  Sodas and mineral waters were bottled in cobalt blue, long-neck, blob top, iron-pontiled bottles embossed HUTCHINSON & CO. / CELEBRATED / MINERAL / WATER / CHICAGO or HUTCHINSON & CO. / CELEBRATED / MINERAL WATER / CHICAGO.  These bottles are believed to have been blown by William McCully & Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.      

In 1851 operations were moved to the corner of Randolph and Peoria Streets (8 & 10 North Peoria Street).  The Hutchinson & Company name was changed to “W. H. Hutchinson & Company” in 1855 and their new cobalt blue soda bottles were embossed W.H.H. / CHICAGO.  These newer bottles were similar to the earlier examples, but have smooth bases.  Some of them have “Wm. McC & Co.” maker’s marks on the back heel, confirming their manufacture by McCully.  Variants have been found with both round and 10 panel bases.  (Our thanks to Joel Ferguson, Slidell, Louisiana, for permission to post the illustrated image of this bottle on the right.)

An interesting and very rare bottle from this era is a beautiful, squat, cobalt blue, blob top soda embossed W. H. H. / PITTSBURGH PA.  It is unknown whether W. H. Hutchinson & Company established a branch operation in Pittsburgh, or the embossing on these bottles was an error.  (Our sincere thanks to Orion-BottleHunter in Monaca, Pennsylvania for permission to post the beautiful image of this bottle on the left.)

In 1858, William H. Hutchinson and T. O. Dunn formed a partnership known as “Hutchinson & Dunn.”  They bottled soda water, ale, and porter.  No bottles are known listing this business name or their 242-245 West Randolph Street address.  In 1863 Dunn sold his interests to William H. Hutchinson’s sons, William A. Hutchinson and George C. Hutchinson.  The sons became company officers, and the company name was changed to “W. H. Hutchinson & Sons.”  The “W.H.H.” trade mark, however, continued to be used for several years thereafter.  W. H. Hutchinson & Sons’ bottles in the late 1860s/early 1870s included amber and aqua W.H.H. pint porter beers, amber W.H.H. / CHICAGO wine-style quarts, round bottom ginger ales, and amber and green Saratoga-style W.H.H. mineral waters.

Fortuitously, the W. H. Hutchinson and Sons’ bottling plant was located west of the business district devastated by the great Chicago fire of 1871.  One of the fire’s major casualties was Chicago’s post office.  The Hutchinsons responded by donating thousands of wooden soda delivery cases that were used for sorting mail at a makeshift post office.  Although W. H. Hutchinson and Son survived the fire, the firm struggled as an economic depression hit the country and most of the company’s holdings had to be sold to stave off bankruptcy.  Fortunately, business was picking up again by 1873 when the Industrial Interests Directory listed “W.H.H. & Sons, manufacturers of soda water, cider, beer and syrups doing business in excess of $100,000 per year.”  The firm employed about 75 workers at the time. 

In early 1879, William H. Hutchinson died and his son William A. Hutchinson retired.  Ownership of the firm then passed to George C. Hutchinson and his younger brother, Charles Grove Hutchinson.  How unfortunate that William H. Hutchinson didn’t live the see the enormous success his firm achieved following Charles G. Hutchinson’s invention and registration of “Hutchinson’s Patent Spring Stopper” April 8, 1879.  Hutchinson’s stopper gained widespread popularity with bottlers and consumers as corks and most other types of external and internal bottle closures were rendered obsolete and Hutchinson’s inexpensive internal stoppers became the North American soda bottling industry’s standard closure.  The “Hutchinson Era” lasted from 1879 until just before World War I.  Hutchinson’s Patent Spring Stopper is second only to Painter’s Crown Closure in terms of total industry impact. 

In 1882, Hutchinson’s bottling operations were sold to the Hayes Brothers, Chicago soda bottlers since 1871.  This major change in operations allowed W. H. Hutchinson & Son to focus on manufacturing and distributing Hutchinson’s Patent Spring Stoppers, syrups and extracts, and other major components of the bottling process.  The plant was moved to 196-198 South DesPlaines Street, Chicago, in 1882.  A branch office was established at 60 Park Place, New York City, New York, specifically for marketing to East Coast customers.  W. G. Smithers managed the New York City branch.

The Chicago Fountain Soda Water Company was established in 1887, with Charles G. Hutchinson as president.  This branch operation focused on selling soda fountain supplies, allowing W. H. Hutchinson & Son to concentrate on manufacturing and selling stoppers and extracts.

In their 1889 Bottlers Supplies catalog, W. H. Hutchinson & Son advertised:

By favoring us with their orders, Bottlers will get the benefit of our forty (40) years’ continuous experience in the bottling of every description of Carbonated Beverages…Our Patent Spring Stopper is now in successful use by over twenty-five hundred (2,500) Bottlers, with the number constantly on the increase…We have an immense number of testimonials on the merits of the Hutchinson Stopper from Bottlers all over the country, but prefer not to print them, as the frequent abuse of testimonials, a great many of which, as a general thing are manufactured, has inspired a universal distrust in the value of such evidence.

In addition to heavy promotion of Hutchinson’s Patent Spring Stoppers, the 1889 Bottlers Supplies catalog also included this full page advertisement:

Over 3,000 North American bottlers were purchasing Hutchinson’s Patent Spring Stoppers from W. H. Hutchinson and Son by 1890.  Although there was competition from several “imitators,” W. H. Hutchinson and Son clearly had the lion’s share of the soda stopper business. 

When the following full page advertisement appeared in an 1897 issue of Western Bottler, W. H. Hutchinson and Son had dropped the price of Hutchinson’s Patent Spring Stoppers to $1.25 per gross.  Note they were also selling Lightning Stoppers at the same price.

The New York branch office had been moved to 157 Duane Street when the following April, 1900 National Bottler’s Gazette advertisement appeared:

Following George C. Hutchinson’s death in 1897, Charles G. Hutchinson became president of the firm.  When Charles G. Hutchinson passed away in 1903, Mrs. George C. Hutchinson became president, with Douglas W. Hutchinson (W. H. Hutchinson’s fourth and youngest son) serving as secretary-treasurer (and later as vice-president and general manager). 

The W. H. Hutchinson and Son 1908 Bottler’s Book included the following facsimile copy of a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture indicating the firm’s products complied with the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906:

The title page of the W. H. Hutchinson and Son 1908 Bottler’s Book also provides what is so far the only known documented use of the corporate emblem illustrated at the right.  It is included here for future reference and possible use in dating marked items.

The page headers in the 1910 Bottlers’ Supplies catalog identified W. H. Hutchinson and Son as “The Only Exclusive Bottlers’ Supply House” and identified their address as 319 South DesPlaines Street, Chicago.  The title page of their catalog included the following business motto that speaks volumes about their long-standing approach to customer service:

 

The introductory comments to the “Soda Water Flavors” portion of the 1910 Bottlers’ Supplies catalog mentioned:

During an experience of fifty-eight years in the bottling and supplying of Flavors, manufactured by ourselves, we have accumulated many valuable formulas.  Much attention has been devoted to this branch of the business and no expense spared; the result is one of the finest equipped laboratories in the world devoted to the manufacture of Soluble Flavors for the exclusive use of the bottler, and the popularity of our goods is well known in all localities.  Our aim has always been quality rather than price…Take our advice: Buy only the best.

The development of Owens’ Automatic Bottle Machine, passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906, and the economic reality that crown seal closures (bottle caps) were sanitary, easily applied, and significantly less expensive than Hutchinson’s Patent Spring Stoppers were factors that led bottlers to gradually phase out Hutchinson bottling equipment and convert to crown seal machinery.  Circa 1912 W. H. Hutchinson and Son halted production of Hutchinson stoppers in favor of manufacturing crown caps.  Douglas W. Hutchinson assumed control of the firm in 1913.

In 1916 W. H. Hutchinson & Son’s operations were moved to 2101-2109 West Walnut Street, Corner Hoyne Avenue, Chicago. 

A full page advertisement in the June 5, 1920 National Bottlers’ Gazette provides additional insight into W. H. Hutchinson & Son’s business practices:

MR. BOTTLER:

You are either a customer of ours, or a prospective customer, at least we hope so.

If we tell you that we will supply you with better goods than anyone else in the world at lower prices than others are able to get for poorer quality, you will naturally suspect that we are either liars or fools, perhaps both.

We give you credit for having reasonable intelligence, and believe that you would readily detect the “bunk” if we should try to put anything over on you.

Honesty ought to be the best policy in advertising as well as in trade, and for that reason we endeavor to avoid extravagant claims and bombastic statements…

We take an honest pride, not only in our products, but in our long record of fair dealing and legitimate business success, a record which we ask you to accept as proof that our products are meritorious, our dealings honorable, and our service good.

Here’s a portion of an August 15, 1925 National Bottlers’ Gazette advertisement picturing W. H. Hutchinson & Sons’ Chicago plant:

W. H. Hutchinson & Son merged with G. J. Arnold’s Bottler’s Supplies Company in 1929 and moved to a new plant at 1031 North Cicero Avenue, Chicago.  The W. H. Hutchinson & Son business name was retained.  Douglas W. Hutchinson retired (and subsequently passed away) the same year and his son-in-law, Noble E. Snyder, became president of the firm.

This full page advertisement is from the September 15, 1933 National Bottlers' Gazette:

Here’s the cover of W.H. Hutchinson & Son's 1935 catalog:

Noble E. Snyder retired in 1943 (he died in 1944) and Joseph S. Kelly became president. 

W. H. Hutchinson & Son, Inc. was a major manufacturer of beer and soft drink crown caps when the firm was sold to the International Silver Corporation (Insilco) for $9 million in 1962.

W. H. Hutchinson & Son, Inc. was purchased by the National Can Corporation in 1974 and became their closure division.