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."
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.
|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|
|District of Columbia||3,043,218||1,673,398||226,246||228,231||2079199||706,144||2,261,395|
The Chart below shows the steady growth of soft drink industry.
|Year||Number of Plants||Value of Production||Total Cases||Bottles in Millions||Per Capita Consumption (Bottles)|