Tag Archives: Soda Machine

Collecting Codd Bottles

A sample of the Codd bottles in our collection.

A sample of the Codd bottles in our collection.

As part of our on going search to find yet more exciting collections to fill W. Smith’s Chemist and Photographers’, our office is slowly being invaded by funny shaped old bottles…

They’re called ‘Codd’ bottles and were the most common type of bottle used for containing fizzy drinks from the late 19th century until the early 1930s. Patented in 1872 by Hariam Codd, the bottle was sealed by a marble that was forced against the mouth of the bottle by the pressure of the gas produced by the aerated water .inside. To drink the aerated waters inside you used a special opener to push the marble down. Then when tilted upwards, the marble was captured by two checks on either side of the bottle, allowing the drink to flow out.

Locally made Codd bottles.

Locally made Codd bottles.

 

For the marble feature to work the bottles had to be filled upside down using an inverted bottler. These bottlers are now incredibly rare, we only know of four that are left in the entire country. We are planning to use a modern Japanese version of the Codd bottle, which have screw tops, so that they can be filled upright using a type of bottler that we have in our collections. This also reduces the chance of any potential choking hazards the marble might cause!

A rare surviving Codd bottler, held at the Museum of Bath at Work.

A rare surviving Codd bottler, held at the Museum of Bath at Work.

Jim is particularly interested in  Codd bottles as a way of telling local history, as each manufacturer of fizzy drinks had their own branded bottles. So far, some of the more  unusual examples that we have collected include, one from Newcastle made by R. Emmerson Junior that shows a man riding a penny-farthing, and one from Gateshead with a picture of a bird sitting in a tree. We also have bottles from Stockton, Morpeth, Kirbymoorside, Houghton-le-Spring and many other local places. Our dream is to eventually have a bottle from every village in the North East. Please let us know if you have any that you would like to donate.

Jim is particularly excited about our growing Codd bottle collection.

Jim is particularly excited about our growing Codd bottle collection.

 

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W. Smith’s amazing aerated waters!

As well as housing a chemist and photographer’s, the new corner building will also be home to a working soda plant that will produce flavoured aerated waters for our visitors to sample.

carbonation-machines

Advert for a small soda water machine of the type that chemists used.

In the 19th century soda water enjoyed massive popularity, particularly after the 1870’s when a bewildering variety of more reliable bottle closures were patented, as safer alternatives to corks (which were usually forced out by the pressure of the gas from the soda water). This fashion had a number of drivers. Along with the obvious attraction of how the fizzy drinks tasted, they was a real need for a safe and reliable, non-alcoholic drinks when away from home, when many areas still did not yet have clean, piped drinking water. The aerated drinks were also presumed to share the same health benefits as non-artificial ‘mineral waters’, which had enjoyed such popularity from early Georgian times at Bath, Leamington, Harrogate and many other spas. It is because of the guise that they were somehow healthy, that chemists became one of the main manufacturers of aerated waters.

Initial attempts at manufacturing carbonated water reportedly began in the 16th century with the experiments of Mr Thurneisser in 1560. However, the first ‘carbonation’ patent wasn’t granted until 1810, to the American partnership Simmons and Rundell. Other patents for aeration pumps were soon developed. One of the earliest was made by the Englishman Joseph Matthews in New York City in 1832. It basically consisted of a cast iron box lined with lead, in which carbonic acid gas was formed by reacting sulphuric acid with marble dust. The gas was then passed through water and agitated by hand to create soda water, after which is was mixed with salts to mimic the naturally occurring spa mineral waters. Reputedly the enterprising Matthews made twenty five million gallons of his soda water using marble off-cuts from the construction of St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York!

Our Bradford engine that is being restored so that it can power our soda pump.

Our Bradford engine that is being restored so that it can power our soda pump.

Other pumps in both Britain and America used the more commercial viable ‘whiting’ or chalk dust instead of marble chips. Both large plants for high volume production and smaller versions for individual enterprises were available to order from catalogues, such as Bratby and Hinchliffes (an 1884 copy of which is in our collections). The smaller pumps, driven either by hand or by electric or gas motors, were intended for use by businesses like our Chemist, as part of a wider operation. Companies like Barnett and Forsters even sent pumps to the colonies. It would be fair to say that nearly every town in the British Empire contained a soda machine.

The soda pump that we have in our collections, which we are planning to restore, was donated in 1976 by a small family business called Innes, which operated out of Windermere Terrace in North Shields. To drive it we have recently collected a little Bradford gas engine, which is about the right scale for the size of operation that a chemist like ours would run. It has recently been sent away to experts to be returned to working condition.

In February members of the project team visited a Victorian soda plant formerly from the factory of J. B. Bowler, which had been moved and set up to its originally operational scale and layout (including the tank, pump, bottlers etc.), at the Museum of Bath at Work. While this set up was clearly too big for us to attempt to replicate, it did give us an excellent understanding of how aerated water was actually manufactured and packaged.

It also provided us with a good idea of what a ‘flavour laboratory’ may have looked like. A flavour laboratory was where the pre-made syrups would have been either stored or where new flavours were created. Pre-made syrups could be bought from wholesalers; for example in 1898 Barnett and Forster catalogue flavours include Lemon, ‘Kola’ and Ginger Beer. However, like the patent cures that were produced by chemist, every soda manufacturer appeared to have had their own recipes. These often had exotic names or alluded to have herbal or curative properties. Indeed, in an 1892 Mineral Waters Maker’s Manual, recipes are included for consumptive cough mixture, scented ointment for pimples and cattle medicine. This connection to the mixology of the chemists was also apparent at Bowler’s lab; the concentrated syrups were held in Carboys and salts measured with pharmaceutical scales. It is clear why chemists became one of the biggest outlets for soda waters.

J Bowler's 'flavour laboratory' recreated at the Museum of Bath at Work.

J Bowler’s ‘flavour laboratory’ recreated at the Museum of Bath at Work.

 

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