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Updated: August 1, 2013

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Industry History

Researching the origins of the present day soft drink industry is quite challenging.  The artificial carbonation of water has been a business pursuit long enough that factual documentation about its early development is limited.  Many authors have tackled this subject, but most of them apparently considered the challenge of original research too great and consequently their works provide minimal information.  Unfortunately, a great number of writers have reviewed and plagiarized or rewritten other authors’ material into their own words, often repeating errors.  An in depth, historical analysis with original research would be great fun, but for this discussion a brief overview covering the period leading up to and thru the Hutchinson era will have to suffice.  Consequently, I am joining those authors who reviewed the research and writings of others, but with an unusual twist: I am providing observations strictly from a limited number of high quality, informative, and very early sources.  Because the material is dated, it is my belief that the information is mostly likely more accurate, and at a minimum this approach definitely provides a different view of the subject matter.  Click on the following headings for links to information based on the writings of the cited sources (years of publication shown in parentheses):

The Hutchinson Era (1879-WWI)

Charles G. Hutchinson, the son of William H. Hutchinson, a long-time Chicago, Illinois soda bottler and equipment manufacturer, patented his "Hutchinson's Patent Spring Stopper" April 8, 1879.  This stopper gained widespread popularity with bottlers and consumers, rendering other closures obsolete, and revolutionizing the soda bottling industry.  Several factors (discussed below) combined to prompt bottlers to shift to crown seal bottling equipment by World War I.  Click on the following headings for links to detailed information about the Hutchinson era:

Origin of the Term "Soda Pop"

The tired tale that Hutchinson bottles are the source of the term "soda pop" is not true; this is one of several Hutchinson myths!   Hutchinson’s Patent Spring Stopper was introduced in 1879, several decades after the term “soda pop” had entered common English language usage.  For a factual discussion about this term, click on this link:

Stopper Patents

(Note: Portions of the information about stopper patents are quoted from Collecting Soda Pop Bottles by Ron Fowler, Seattle History Company, Littlerock, Washington, © 1984 and 2006 [visit the "Bottle Books For Sale" listings in the "Collecting" section for additional information and ordering details].  Permission is granted to quote from this material only if credit is provided by properly citing the source, including the URL.)

Natural mineral waters have been considered good for the human digestive system for over 2,000 years.  For most of that time, however, no easy means was found to deliver the water to consumers.  People had to go to the water, thus stimulating the development of resort spas and mineral water baths.  Widespread demand encouraged the development of "bottled mineral water" much earlier than most people realize.

In The Illustrated Guide to Collecting Bottles, author Cecil Munsey documents that "as early as 1767 the waters of Jackson's Spa in Boston were bottled and sold.  About 1800 the waters of the mineral springs in Ballston near Albany, New York, were bottled commercially.  In 1819 Thomas W. Dyott, 'M.D.,' of Philadelphia...advertised Congress Spring Water, 'bottled and wired at the spa.'"  These early bottles are generally referred to as "blob tops" (visit www.SodasandBeers.com for additional information and illustrations of the various bottle shapes that fall under this term).

Blob top soda bottles were blown in molds and utilized thick walls to withstand the pressure exerted by their carbonated contents.  The top, a large and distinctive "blob" circle of glass, was applied separately around the neck of the bottle.  In the strictest sense of the definition, there also exist "blob top" Hutchinson and even "blob top" crown sodas.  These were all bottles with applied tops which were not finished ("tooled"), leaving a distinct seam line where the top was applied.  Common usage has dictated that only the cork‑stoppered style soda bottles are referred to "blob tops."

Once a blob top soda bottle was filled with mineral water or artificially carbonated soda water, a cork was inserted into the opening and usually held in place by either a Putnam Stopper or a wire looped over the top and twisted around the neck beneath the blob.  These externally-stoppered bottles were phased out as Matthews Gravitating Stopper, Hutchinson, Roorbach, Baltimore Loop Seal, and other internally‑stoppered bottles gained increasing popularity with bottlers and consumers.

The following patents were carefully selected to facilitate tracking the evolution of external and internal soda bottle stopper usage between the U.S. Civil War and 1900.  They are presented in order by patenting date.  Each listing includes copies of the images that  accompanied the original filing, portions of the inventor's description detailing exactly how the stopper worked, and additional comments.  Clicking on a listing opens a separate window displaying specific details about that patent.

W. H. Hutchinson & Son

Hutchinson's Lawsuits

Review of the accompanying bottle stopper patent information strongly suggests several inventors either blatantly copied someone else’s patent, or at a minimum received “strong inspiration” from others’ ideas.  The motivation for doing so was simple: money.  Shortly after Hutchinson’s Patent Spring Stopper was patented, W. H. Hutchinson & Son sold their long-established Chicago bottling business in order to focus on manufacturing Hutchinson stoppers and other supplies for the bottling industry.  Given the sheer number of North American bottlers utilizing Hutchinson style bottles and stoppers, sales of Hutchinson stoppers was certainly a very lucrative business.  As the Hutchinson stopper increasingly gained acceptance with bottlers and consumers, other industry suppliers took notice and “imitations,” as W. H. Hutchinson & Son called them, began to appear.  Several manufacturers concocted “improvements” and filed their own bottle stopper patents, while other firms didn’t bother with patents and simply started manufacturing and selling knock-off stoppers for Hutchinson bottles.  Click on the following headings for links to detailed information about Hutchinson's lawsuits:

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