The antique pop bottles on display are from the Macomb Bottle Works and the Horn Bottling Plant, both local bottling companies. Produced during the late 19th and early 20th century, the bottles tell a story about the past, and illustrate a by-gone era when carbonated beverages produced in the local area came in glass bottles.
The origin of drinking what we refer to as “soda pop” began long ago when people visited mineral springs and drank the mineral water that was considered beneficial to one’s health. Scientists eventually learned how to create imitation mineral water by adding minerals and carbonation and people no longer had to travel to a mineral spring to get a healthy drink, they could purchase it anywhere.
In 19th century United States mineral water drinks were sold at drug stores just like medicine. Pharmacists began adding flavorings to the water such as sarsaparilla, to make it more flavorful and marketable, the most well known being caffeine. Going to the drug store to get a drink to pep you up became very popular. The pharmacy counters evolved into a place with stools and elaborate dispensing systems, where a customer could sit and enjoy a healthy drink. Thus was the birth of the “drugstore soda fountain.”
Drugstore soda fountains became even more popular in the United States after 1919 when Prohibition began and all taverns, bars, and pubs stopped serving alcoholic beverages causing many to closed. The new place to go to get a “soft”drink (i.e. not hard liquor) was the drugstore soda fountain. Soon soda pop from the fountain began to be packaged in glass bottles and cardboard carry cartons so that folks could enjoy drinking their pop at home.
On display are a number of bottles labeled “Macomb Bottling Works”, a bottling business that began over one hundred years ago. The Macomb Bottling Company was originally located on the corner of east Jackson and Monroe Streets. Opened in 1883 by W.A. George and D.N. Bryan, it was eventually sold to D.W. Bryan, the brother. This bottling company manufactured lemon, sarsaparilla, and strawberry soda water, birch beer, Buffalo mead, Belfast ginger ale, Little Daisy, cream soda, and champagne cider.
In time this bottling company was sold to Frank J. Horn and was renamed The Horn Bottling Company. Some of the bottles on display are stamped “Pappy’s Soda” which refers to Frank J. Horn, whose nickname was “Pappy”. Horn owned the bottling plant for a number of years and produced “Pappy’s Soda”, “Horn’s Best” soda and “Pure Pop”, all in a variety of flavors. The Horn Bottling Company also distributed Coca-Cola products.
In 1920 there were over 5,000 bottling plants in the United States most of which were small business. The success of the local bottling plants was due to their partnership with major soda producers such as Coca-Cola, who would ship the soft drink syrup, or concentrate, for bottlers to mix with local water and add carbonation, which save on shipping costs. Local bottling plants would also often distribute their own products to appeal to the local specialized market, such as “Pappy’s Soda.”
“Pappy” Horn was known in the Macomb community as an involved citizen and a member of numerous local civic organizations. The Horn name is still well known in Macomb today because of the Horn Field Campus owned by WIU. In 1965, WIU purchase Mr. Horn’s 92-acre tract of wooded land located south of the Macomb High School, off Johnson Road. To honor Mr. Horn, WIU named the property the Frank J. Horn Field Campus. Since that time, WIU has maintained the property, which includes a brick lodge, cabins, climbing tower and challenge course and is managed by the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Administration. At Horn campus, numerous outdoor educational activities are offered throughout the year for WIU students as well as public events, such as the ever-popular Annual Corn Maze.
Once considered “quaint” and old-fashioned, glass bottles have gained a comeback lately as a “green” alternative to plastic soda bottles. Glass bottles are easily recycled and are sustainable packaging.
From an essay by Heather Munro