Breakthroughs in bottling
In the last decade of the 19th century, successful soda fountains served hundreds, and sometimes thousands of sodas a day. But they were only whetting America's great thirst.
Two breakthroughs enabled soda to reach far beyond the soda fountain. First, in 1891, William Painter invented the bottle cap. Before this, soda bottles had cork bottle stoppers like wine. This didn't work so well. Cork is not completely airtight, and so allows a soda's carbonation to slowly escape over time. In addition, if a cork gets dry, which happens when a bottle is stored standing upright, the cork shrinks and the pressure causes the bottle to "pop."
Second, in 1899, the US Patent Office issued the first patent for a glass blowing machine to the Libby Glass Company. At the time, glass bottles used for soda, wine, or beer were each hand-blown. This obviously limited the number of bottles that could be put into circulation. But once Michael Owens, an employee of Libby Glass, invented a machine that could automate the process of blowing glass bottles, it became cost-effective to make bottled sodas. And small soda bottlers quickly popped up everywhere. By 1904 Brooklyn had 50 different soda bottlers and by 1920 the U.S. Census counted more than 5,000 different bottlers.
Each bottler had its own special recipes and techniques, closely guarded secrets that made huge differences in the taste of their sodas and were passed on from generation to generation. Aficionados would have endless arguments over which local company made the best ginger ale, the best cola... and as with the best wines, bottlers competed in numerous tasting competitions all across the world.
But quickly, soda became big business. Really big business.
- 1767 Joseph Priestly discovers a way to carbonate water
- 1783 Jacob Schweppe invents a machine to artificially carbonate water
- 1819 The "soda fountain" patented by Samuel Fahnestock.
- 1835 The first bottled soda water in the U.S.
- 1836 New York City has 626 different soda fountains
- 1850 A manual hand & foot operated filling & corking device is first used for bottling soda water
- 1851 Ginger ale created in by Joseph Priestly in Ireland
- 1876 Root beer mass produced for public sale for the first time
- 1881 The first cola-flavored beverage introduced
- 1885 Charles Aderton invents "Dr Pepper" in Waco, Texas
- 1886 Dr. John S. Pemberton invents "Coca-Cola" in Atlanta, Georgia
- 1892 William Painter invents the crown bottle cap
- 1898 "Pepsi-Cola" is invented by Caleb Bradham
- 1899 The US Patent Office issues the first patent for a glass blowing machine
- 1911 100,000 soda fountains in the US
- 1920 The U.S. Census reports that the US has more than 5,000 soda bottlers
- 1923 Six-pack soft drink cartons called "Hom-Paks" created
- 1929 The Howdy Company debuts its new drink "Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Sodas". They later changed the name to the slightly catchier "7 Up"
- 1934 Silkscreening ("applied color label") is first used on soft drink bottles. The coloring is baked on the face of the bottle
- 1952 The first diet soft drink sold. It's called "No-Cal Beverage"
- 1957 Aluminum cans first used for soda
- 1965 Soft drinks in cans dispensed from vending machines
- 1971 High Fructose Corn Syrup Invented
- 1973 The PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) bottle created
- 1977 US Government imposes tariffs on imported sugar
- 1984 Coke and Pepsi replace sugar with High Fructose Corn Syrup
- 2004 Jordan has too many gin and tonics with lousy tonic water...