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Reflections by Sammy Way: Sumter Bottling Works was a 1st for city

By SAMMY WAY
Posted 12/28/19

Reflections features what is thought to be Sumter's first soft drink bottling company known as Sumter Bottling Works. This enterprise bottled and distributed many of Sumter's first soft drinks including Bludwine, Satanet (fruit juice drink) and …

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Reflections by Sammy Way: Sumter Bottling Works was a 1st for city

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Reflections features what is thought to be Sumter's first soft drink bottling company known as Sumter Bottling Works. This enterprise bottled and distributed many of Sumter's first soft drinks including Bludwine, Satanet (fruit juice drink) and Hires (root beer), to name a few. Information used to produce this article was acquired from The Item archives with the photos being provided.

According to the late Mayor McElveen, the bottling facility was built by the Witherspoon Bros. (who started the Sumter Casket Co. in 1894) as a bottling company circa 1899. Very little information is found concerning the types of sodas bottled there except for the previously mentioned products. It is thought that Mr. B.F. Estridge was the proprietor of the plant in 1916. Little information is available about the bottling works ceasing operation. One of the products produced at the plant mentioned earlier was "Bludwine" soda, which required a disclaimer so it could be sold to the general public.

The ensuing advertisement appeared in the Watchman and Southron on March 18, 1916. "Our analysis shows that the product (Bludwine) does not contain any poisonous matter or injurious alkaloid. No chemical preservative or soap bark has been used in its preparation. No coloring matter other than a harmless one permitted by the United States Government is present. Our analysis shows the product to be composed of fruit or fruit flavors and cereal and pure cane sugar. There is nothing present which is not in accordance with the statement on the label regarding the composition of the beverage. It has value as a food imparted to it by the carbohydrates present. J.A. Deghune, Ph.D., director, Department of Chemistry, The Laderie Laboratories."

The following information was obtained from The Item archives in an article written and published on Oct. 16, 1930. This article discusses the advent of automation in the process of bottling soft drinks.

Latest Developments In Automatic Machinery Are Used in Bottling Plant.

"Automatic machinery used in the preparation and packing of food products in glass has been developed or advanced in recent years far more than the public can even imagine. Strict food laws, keen competition and the natural desire of the manufacturer to make his product as perfect as possible have kept chemists and engineers busy developing machinery to meet all of these conditions.

"It is indeed interesting to watch the process of washing and filling the bottles in our local bottling plant. There we find a large building filled with machinery, all of it operating automatically, and so sensitive that it handles the glass containers or bottles through the whole operation without breaking or cracking a bottle.

"The big bottle washing machine, after it is given the bottle on a board, pushes it into a steel pocket, washes out the sand or straws that might be in it, then for 14 minutes it is washed continuously in a strong caustic solution, equal to concentrated lye, heated to 170 degrees, almost boiling. The action of the caustic and high temperature destroys all vegetable, mineral and animal matter that might be in the bottle. The hot caustic water is then washed out of the bottle, and the bottles are brushed outside and inside twice. After this, they are cooled and washed out with clear, cool water. In all of the operations, the bottle is inverted or upside down.

"An automatic feature of the washing machine throws out the clutch and stops the machine if the bottle is placed in the machine with any foreign substance inside which prevents the feelers and brushes from going all the way to the bottom of the bottle.

"After this operation, the washing machine delivers the bottle to the filling machine automatically, where it is given the correct amount of syrup and carbonated water and then passed to the crowner, where it is capped or crowned automatically by a machine into which the crowns or caps are poured. This machine dusts and separates the crowns and is so sensitive that if a bottle is broken in the operation of capping, the machine will not receive another cap or crown if there is the smallest particle of glass left in the capper which puts crowns on the bottle, and the next bottle would come out without a crown on it, if the machine should fail to shut off automatically. The crowns are placed on the bottles so gently that the contents are not disturbed in the operation.

"About 70 tons of coal a year is used in heating the caustic washing solution, and even the big boiler is fed coal automatically by an Iron Fireman, as well as being supplied with water by a pump operated automatically by the water level in the boiler.

"Automatic machinery has the advantage over man in that it never tires, and it is used whenever possible in Sumter's model bottling plant, even though the men who would be employed in a non-automatic plant are still kept on the payroll to watch the machinery and act as inspectors."

Cassie Nichols in her text Historical Sketches of Sumter County Vol. II notes "that Alfred Taylor Heath organized another bottling works known as the Carolina Coca Cola Bottling Co. in 1920 and became its president, which position he held until his death, on April 12, 1950."

Other bottling companies found in the Sumter community will be the topic for a future Reflection.