Cecil once boasted many local soda companies
Special to the Whig
— How do you keep the bubbles in a bottle without it exploding from the buildup of gas?
Bottling increasingly popular carbonated beverages in the late 19th century presented a unique problem. William Painter, a Baltimore machine shop operator, patented the “Crown Cork Bottle Seal” in 1892. This invention successfully kept the bubbles in the bottle. Initially glass bottles were handblown, but in 1899 the first patent for a glass-blowing machine that enabled the automatic production of glass bottles was issued.
This invention was first operated by Michael Owens, an employee of the Libby Glass Company, and production of glass bottles was soon a thriving business.
Soft drinks go back as far as 1676 when fruit-flavored drinks like lemonade were developed. Vendors in Paris carried this concoction in tanks on their backs and dispensed the mixture of lemon juice, water and honey to Parisians. Carbonated water didn’t come along until 1767, when an Englishman, Joseph Priestley, first discovered a method of infusing water with carbon dioxide. Carbonated water is the major component of most soft drinks.
It was not long before flavoring was combined with carbonated water with the earliest reference being to ginger beer in 1809. Johann Jacob Schweppe developed carbonated mineral water and founded the Schweppes Company in 1783. Pharmacists selling mineral waters began to add herbs and chemicals such as birch bark, dandelion, sarsaparilla and fruit extracts to add flavoring. Soft drinks became so appealing that they soon progressed beyond the medical world and were a widely consumed beverage.
Soda fountains were first manufactured in the 1830s and initially they were the popular destination for Americans. Coca-Cola began in 1886 when an Atlanta pharmacist, Dr. John S. Pemberton, created a distinctive tasting soft drink to be sold at soda fountains.
Bottled drinks were less popular, however, due to problems in the U.S. glass industry. But Joseph Biedenharn was so impressed by the growing demand for Coke that in 1894 he installed bottling machinery in the rear of his Mississippi soda fountain becoming the first to bottle Coke. Soon after, large-scale bottling
increased dramatically and most towns had a bottling company.
Elkton had several, including Perkins & Perkins, Mo Ro Company, Cecil Spring Bottling Company, C. McAteer, S&C, and H. Carroll. Meanwhile, Alexander’s, Geo. H. Queck and A.E. Hague operated out of Chesapeake City, Star Bottling Co. was located in Cowentown and C. Mohrlein in Port Deposit.
Mo Ro, formulated by D.S. Terrell, was produced and distributed from about 1915-20. Terrell was the owner/manager of Well’s Drug Store on Main Street, located near the intersection of North and Main streets. They offered a full line of “pure, delicious bottled sodas,” including flavors such as ginger ale, sarsaparilla, root beer, orange, lemon and grape smash. The drink was manufactured in the basement, but when the drug store moved to North Street, production was discontinued.
Perkins & Perkins operated from 1913-1923 in a two-story wooden building on the corner of Singerly Avenue and the old ball field. It began when Joseph H. Perkins left Charles E. Hires Company in Philadelphia where he was chief chemist to start a business with his father, J. Will Perkins, whose harness shop was virtually wiped out by the introduction of the automobile. Pure fruit juice or flavoring was bottled in small bottles and quarts and were used in soda fountains. It had a countrywide distribution, however when artificial flavorings were introduced the natural product was no longer competitive and the company closed.
Glass bottling companies are yet another business that thrived until technology made them obsolete, and owners had to reinvent themselves and their businesses. Technology continues to close one door, but open another.
The Historical Society of Cecil County has a few bottles from the nowdefunct Mo- Ro Co. soda bottling company.
This November 1917 Cecil County News ad promoted Mo-Ro Co., an Elktonbased soda company.
The Historical Society of Cecil County has a few bottles from the nowdefunct Cecil Spring Bottling Co., which produced bottled soda around the start of the 20th century.
This August 1918 Cecil County News ad promoted Mo-Ro Co., an Elktonbased soda company.
Perkins & Perkins was another Elkton-based bottled soda company that flourished at the start of the 20th century.