City Bottling Company?

Found this bottle while cleaning out the old dump by our house. It’s an annual event where I commune with our forbears — white folks scratching out a living decades ago on stolen land and tossing all their garbage into the wetland.*

Most of their old junk is rusted, smashed, crumbled beyond recognition. But occasionally there’s a gem like this one — still intact and hard to part with.** Curious if any history buffs out there have any info on the City Bottling Company? I can find all kinds of posts about where to buy one and how to sell this one, but precious little about the manufacturer.

* Our modern family of white folks now lives on the stolen land and we are trying to tidy up. One day we will need to grapple seriously with the fact that we are living on this stolen land and what we are going to do about that. But this post is about the bottle, so I will leave it there for now.

**The rest of the thrown-away junk goes to the WLSSD Materials Recovery Center. A lot of it can be recycled. That makes me really happy.

15 Comments

Mike Creger

about 4 months ago

I found a few newspaper references to City Bottling, one of several such Duluth companies in the 1940s.

Meredith Cornett

about 4 months ago

Thanks! I'll check it out.

Allen Killian-Moore

about 4 months ago

I actually have a crate from Duluth Bottling Co. that also says City Soft Drinks on it! I believe that I read somewhere (can't remember where) awhile back that during prohibition Duluth City Bottling Company made sodas (soft drinks). Not sure if it was actually municipally owned or if that was just the name of the operation.
  

Meredith Cornett

about 4 months ago

That is really cool, Allen! Thank you for sharing the photo and the info!

Matthijs

about 4 months ago

It seems like the company was around well past the 1940s. I found it listed in a business directory from 1967 and the company took out the attached ad in the UMD Statesman on Dec. 5, 1958. That's well within the living memory of a lot of people in Duluth, but I guess still long enough ago to be from a time when nobody took any issue with a cigarette company using Sunday comic style cartoons to sell their product.
  

Meredith Cornett

about 4 months ago

Truly fascinating, thank you!

Allen Killian-Moore

about 4 months ago

So, it seems that People's Brewing Co. was renamed People's Bottling Company during prohibition, and when it was over, they kept making soda and they produced alcohol again as well. Also, according to an article in the Growler, they were a politically active socialist company.

"Corporate bosses were so incensed by increasing union organizing that they got together to formulate a plan to punish workers... They went to Fitger’s and demanded the brewery stop selling beer west of Lake Avenue, where the majority of the organizing was occurring... This discriminatory practice provided additional impetus for the establishment of People’s Brewing."

And on Pg. 2 of the article: "People’s Brewing was operational from 1908 until Prohibition in 1920. From 1920–1933, they produced soft drinks like 7-UP. When Prohibition ended, they brewed again up until 1957, when they fell victim to the price wars"

Allen Killian-Moore

about 4 months ago

And maybe when the two split at some point (the brewery and the soda company) the soda wing was renamed to City Bottling Company (or maybe that happened during prohibition ... it's unclear).

Meredith Cornett

about 4 months ago

Great article. I love this suggestion of the origin story -- two lines stemming from the Peoples Brewing Company, with strong socialist roots ... one discarded bottle, so much history -- both confirmed and supposed!

Matthijs

about 4 months ago

These other City Bottling Company ads from 1950s issues of the UMD Statesman list the specific drinks that it bottled. In addition to Pepsi, the comapny also bottled O-SO soda (whose most popular soda was O-So Grape with the slogan “Oh! So Good”), Nesbitt’s (whose most popular soda was Nesbitt’s California Orange, a soft drink advertised as being made from real oranges), and Hires Root Beer (the second longest continuously made soft drink in the United States after Vernors ginger ale).
 

Matthijs

about 4 months ago

As they were the local bottler of Pepsi until at least 1967, I thought one way of learning something about the end of the City Bottling Company would be to see who the current Pepsi bottler is and work backward. Bernick’s, a St. Cloud company that has been bottling Pepsi since 1952, acquired the Duluth bottling rights for Pepsi in 1976. Whether or not the City Bottling Company is directly related to the People’s Brewing Company, issues of unionization seem to central throughout Duluth bottling history. The only information that I could find about the change in Duluth Pepsi bottlers came from a call in the 2005 Labor World News to boycott drinks bottled by Bernick’s. The reasons given include Bernick’s ending union involvement in Pepsi bottling when it moved to Duluth, at least suggesting that the City Bottling Company operated with union support.
  

Paul Lundgren

about 4 months ago



Allen apparently isn't the only person out there with a crate. One of the rotating photo banners on Perfect Duluth Day is of a City Bottling Company crate. It looks like the same style, but not the same specific crate.

Meredith Cornett

about 4 months ago

This has been really fascinating -- clearly brought this question to the right place! Thanks to all.

Paul Lundgren

about 4 months ago



One of the products bottled by City Bottling Company was White Cap Lemon Sour.

Meredith Cornett

about 4 months ago

That's cool, Paul! Sounds like they had a huge variety ... I'll keep an eye out for more.

Leave a Comment

Only registered members can post a comment , Login / Register Here

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Read previous post:
Videos: Homegrown 2021 Day Six

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JM1zA92R69k A bit more than two hours of local rawk and/or roll comprise the Homegrown Music Festival's Friday content.

Close