SODA MANUFACTURING IN 1937  

Digger Odell Publications

DIGGER ODELL PUBLICATION 2002

In 1937 the United States soft drink industry was growing rapidly.  The popular brands of the period included familiar and not so familiar names as Coca Cola, 7 Up, Kist, Bubble Up, Cleo Cola, Cheer Up, Orange Crush, Red Rock Cola, Nesbitt's, Sunspot, Double Cola, Canada Dry, Nu-Grape, Mission Orange and Vernor's . The depression was over and people's thirst for all things was up and that included soda.

 It was a time of change in the Carbonated Beverage business.  Applied Colored labels had just recently been invented and the development propelled the industry forward in a burst of color. In his 1939 article Dr. Julian H. Toulouse (click for the article)  wrote on the subject of Applied Colored Labels in which he gives a good description of the process. Glass companies were quick to realize the potential for fused glass labels and heavily lobbied in trade journals for business. There were four major early producers of Applied colored labels.  Owens - Illinois Glass Company of Toledo was probably of the largest company producing of early applied color labels. They advertised, "Applied Color Lettering on your beverage bottles enhances their appearance - labels never soak off in coolers.  Improved methods of application and better colors guarantee high visibility at all times." Glenshaw Glass Co. was another leader in the field.  Many bottles can be found with the letter G inside a circle which they used as their trademark. Laurens Glass Works of Laurens, South Carolina was advertising in 1939, "You can ask for Color, too! Just specify Laurens' beautifully designed bottles with permanent 2-color labels.  Fused into the glass, labels maintain their brilliancy, and can carry your brand name, trademark, and other data-making every bottle a colorful super sales builder."

Glass Company Ads for Applied Color Labels

glenshaw.gif (57445 bytes)

reedglass.gif (122008 bytes)

Click to enlarge

Prior to 1930 almost all soda bottles were either embossed or labeled.  Paper labels although popular, were problematic in that the old labels had to be removed and reapplied every time the bottle was returned to be washed and refilled.  If the bottles were not return, that was even more expensive. Unlabeled unembossed bottles were cheaper but probably had a low return rate.

Bottles had changed in other ways over the last thirty years.  New sizes were offered.  Automatic bottle machines were capable of mass producing bottles of uniform size and capacity.  All over the country one found bottles not just in the old one or two sizes but in 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12 16 and 24 oz sizes.  The 12 ounce bottle was overwhelmingly the most popular size with the six and seven ounce being second most popular.  Collectors these days would do well to specialize in eight, nine ten, sixteen and twenty-four sizes as they are comparatively scarcer.  

The growth of the soda industry paralleled the industrial growth and prosperity in which the entire country found itself in the years prior to World War II.

Mom and Pop operations were still plentiful but their days were numbered as the larger concerns utilized  capital and size to capture the market. Modern trucks could carry more and reach a wider audience than could the old methods.  These trucks were expensive and out of the reach of the small business owner.  With this modern equipment a truck could make nearly 100 stops daily.  Unheard of only a few years before.

 

  The number of bottling establishing showed it fastest growth in the decades between 1899 and 1929 when the number peaked at 8,220 plants. The depression, changes in production and changes in transportation slowly reduced the number of bottling plants.  In 1939, Double Cola scheduled the opening of 43 new plants.  More and more of the plants were being owned and operated by fewer and fewer companies as the large mega-manufacturers gained control of the market and the industry. Smaller companies that were successful were eventually gobbled up by the large ones. By 1937, getting into the business was no small task. 

 

While the number of companies dropped, consumption of soda increased dramatically after the depression.  In 1849 the average person drank only 1.6 bottles per year.  By 1937 the average per capita  bottles consumed was 67.5 per year and that number would more than double in the next ten years. The total output for 1937 was more than 10 million gallons. American were drinking more pop than ever.  Consumption rocketed during the War years.

Advances in cooling meant better means for point of sale advertising and distribution.  Vending machines made their debut. This statement appeared in February 1939, 

"The coin operated vending machine is becoming permanently established in soft drink merchandising market. There is no question about it.  Eighteen months ago the number of coin units operating in the bottling industry was of little consequence.  Today thousands of them are in use."

They helped meet the demand and made soft drinks available somewhere besides the local drugstore soda fountain.  Now consumers could buy soda at work in the factory, in large department stores, bakeries, and placed not previously reached by the bottlers. 1937 was a very good in fact over 8 billion soda bottles were manufacured.  It is not wonder there are a few left.

 

The Data tables and charts below are interesting in looking at the growth the soft drink industry by state.  Collectors might wish to reference these charts as a guide to what might be common and what might be rare.  Obviously smaller states would have had fewer plants. Western states while larger had fewer people and so also had fewer plants.

 

1937 Production of Bottled Carbonated Beverages 
By Quantity and Value By State
      24 bottles to case     12 bottles to case   Bulk Goods  
Carbonated Beverages Total cases 6- and 7- oz, bottles 8-,9-, and 10- oz, bottles 12- oz, bottles 16- oz, bottles 24- oz, bottles and over  Value  Gallons  Value
United States 354,478,839 226,680,272 22,492,022 519,232,326 39,452,700 50,621,519 271,722,992 10,804,350 $3,807,365
Alabama 9,701,525 7,094,583 547,828 1,563,118 334,859 161,237 7,058,862    
Arizona 1,207,543 786,215 179,373 1869952     907,995    
Arkansas 59,750,204 4,588,429 489,626 582,595 24,543 65,011 4,486,748    
California 15,951,840 9,923,952 1,080,821 2,373,463.00 36,463 25,379,141 119,909,798 3,632,036 1,427,938
Colorado 1,819,301 1,154,028 264,68 354,997 12,605 32,991 19,386,931    
Connecticut 3,097,067 165,601 334,474 246 8,078 822,914 2,474,465 105,528 29,735
Delaware 614,154 311,518 89,147 148,440 7,500 57,549 431,081    
District of Columbia 3,043,218 1,673,398 226,246 228,231 2079199 706,144 2,261,395    
Florida 9,330,485 6,902,984 573,267 1,400,868 17,144 436,222 7,308,050    
Georgia 1,582,886 12,793,530 524,777 1,972,471 135,943 402,139 12,460,879    
Idaho 459,436 374,594   68,263   169579 356,162    
Illinois 19,627,403 9,225,031 1,256,970 2,663,986 21,669 6,459,747 14,265,629    
Indiana 11,247,978 7,910,473 764,735 2,072,448     8,659,062 381,494 194,327
Iowa 4,419,911 3,573,252   492,230   261,451 3,259,833    
Kansas 3,256,319 2,472,051 343,625 372,729   67,914 2,404,259    
Kentucky 7,910,818 6,062,565 372,112 1,189,140 93,222 193,779 6,171,983    
Louisiana 11,876,599 9,241,585 563,959 1,337,068   733,987 9,004,184    
Maine 11,095,005 706,706       337,505 851,129    
Maryland 6,341,319.00 3,454,653 309,212 1,075,729 390,020 1,111,704 4,807,912    
Massachusetts  . 10,894,810 2,890,524 1,377,030 995,413 382,246 5,249,597 9,109,601 498,073 120,944
Michigan 10,215,262 5,262,715 1,866,466 1,866,466 52,857 2,069,769 7,624,341 1,484,426 467,462
Minnesota 4,549,838.00 3,379,864   274,058   746,935 3,459,902 46,326 15,765
Mississippi 7,942,379 6,372,022 293,676 921,203 7,839 1,347,639 6,099,921 -1 -1
Missouri 12,274,732 8,676,379 538,132 1,636,796 164,334 1,259,091 9,003,809 85,131 46,438
Montana 623,022 504,812 35,583 51,621     538,975 16,969 9,466
Nebraska 1,984,436 1,347,371 282,692 206,756 20,356 127,261 1,487,481    
New Hampshire 696,464 432,255 126,246 32,462   105,501 521,274    
New Jersey 8,896,750 2,705,166 376,230 1,719,979 7,663 4,087,712 7,615,986 420,995 117,545
New Mexico 1,059,591 820,497                         184,436                    33,223                       21,435 834,951      
New York 26,220,731            11,952,237          1,689,826          4,951,999          290,688 7,435,992 20,058,418 1,123,225 357,658
North Carolina 17,732,845 12,807,890 1,037,236 3,636,552 126,192 124,975 13,981,217 --  
North Dakota 770,959 622,480 93,725 27,993 26,761 587,103      
Ohio 19,667,198 12,663,889 11,607,793 2,760,709 22,481 2,612,316 14,584,716 890,176 305,546
Oklahoma 5,193,181 3,941,142 496,216 617,145 48,122 90,556 4,030,948    
Oregon 949,463 677,064 114,072 91,139     787,853 34,976 9,650
Pennsylvania  22,099,863  9,871,118 1,249,401 5,018,426 584,642 5,386,276 15,546,211 600,589 194,588
Rhode Island    1,517,935 845,355 212,420 41,857 9,128 409,175 1,238,073 55,304 19,091
South Carolina  6,704,220 5,227,406 182,445 1,210,911 6,000 77,457 5,530,502    
South Dakota  585,503 407,628 10,256 43,315     432,727    
Tennessee 11,107,095 9,083,031 530,611 1,252,942 65,019 175,492 8,700,646    
Texas 25,431,868 20,947,517 1,613,040 1,989,424 205,153 676,734 19,522,849, 56,712 32,601
Utah 933,696 711,773 126,624   56,878 750,571    
Vermont 271,463 130,818 63,709     64,416 216,886    
Virginia 10,091,577 79,332,039 470,91 1,696,695 106,120 485,823 7,853,990    
Washington 1,611,131 1,010,281 14,990 275,013 3,550 307,297 1,373,449 90,164 39,593
West Virginia 4,598,504 3,660,642 330,197 421,644 46,393 139,631 3,460,872    
Wisconsin 6,766,112 1 3,142,091 297,039 895,990 4,797 2,426,195 5,828,445 193,010 75,441
Nevada Wyoming 516,137  429,118   64,384     412,713    
Undistributed     294,499 42,880 9878 704 591 1,089,226 353577  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chart below shows the steady growth of soft drink industry.

BOTTLING PLANTS PRODUCTION
Year Number of Plants Value of Production Total Cases Bottles in Millions Per Capita Consumption (Bottles)
1849 64 $760,000 1520,000 36 1.6
1859 123 $1,415,000 2,830,000 67 2.2
1869 387 $4,222,000 8,444,000 202 6.4
1879 512 $4,742,000 9,484,000 227 4.5
1889 1377 $14,354,000 26,098,180 626 9.9
1899 2763 $23,269,000 38,781,660 930 12.2
1904 3468 $30,251,000 46,540,000 1116 13.3
1909 4916 $43,508,000 62,154,280 1491 16.2
1914 5463 $58,401,000 77,868,000 1868 18.9
1919 5194 $135,341,000 169,176,200 4060 38.4
1921 6038 $152,627,791 193,969,078 4650 42.1
1923 6818 $153,729,867 195,331,227 4688 41.1
1925 7556 $167,652,098 213,039,079 5113 44.1
1927 7630 $185,633,446 235,923,072 5662 47.6
1928 7800 $199,409,372 253,475,746 6083 50.5
1929 8220 $214,322,238 272,428,486 6538 53.1
1930 7646 $207,815,353 252,570,921 6062 49
1931 7592 $172,574,269 197,784,584 4747 38.3
1932 7537 $120,671,139 141,020,384 3385 27.1
1933 6728 $144,815,583 173,120,843 4155 33.1
1934 6460 $138,192,088 168,116,896 4035 31.9
1935 6092 $159,939,553 196,859,084 4725 37.1
1936 6035 $229,768,450 293,221,605 7037 54.9
1937 6056 $278,616,036 362,796,882 8707 67.5
1938 6121 $311,713,267 411,774,461 9883 75.4
1939 6155 $361,690,917 482,995,676 11592 88.6
1940 6118 $411,699,200 550,400,000 13210 100.1
1941 6309 $553,879,040 740,480,000 17772 134.1
1942 6324 $526,185,088 703,456,000 16883 125.4
1943 6061 $580,351,200 773,801,600 18571 135.3
1944 5922 $623,681,250 804,750,000 19314 140
1945 5834 $579,420,000 724,275,000 17383 124.5