Thompson’s Hygeia Wild Cherry Phosphate Chicago
Hygeia Wild Cherry Phosphate
Amund G. Thompson, Thompson Manufacturing Co.
Aquamarine Rectangular Medicine
Provenance: Dick Boosted Collection
Our “Thompson’s Hygeia Wild Cherry Phosphate Chicago” bottle is robust and is almost 12 inches tall. The specimen was imaged at the FOHBC Reno 2022 National Antique Bottle Convention.
The rectangular bottle contained Hygeia Wild Cherry Phosphate, advertised alternately as a medicine and a mineral water soda drink. An 1892 advertisement said, “Hygeia Wild Cherry Phosphate. We want dealers and agents to handle the original and only genuine Thompson’s Hygeia Wild Cherry Phosphate, a delicious beverage condensed. One teaspoonful to a tumbler of water. Best tonic and nervine on earth. Send 25 cents for sample bottle. Thompson M’F’G’ Company, 103 to 109 Fulton street, Chicago.” (The Gerard Press, November 3, 1892) Another newspaper post in 1895 stated, “Thompson’s Hygeia Phosphate. Drank by millions of men and children–cost them twenty-five cents the bottle–and they gladly pay the price–no cost to you for a trial this week–made while you wait, served free–as cold as ice can make it–come.” (The Meriden Daily Journal, May 31, 1895)
At the turn of the century, Cherry Phosphate and Wild Cherry Phosphate were drinks found at every soda fountain. The less popular version, often referred to as a Tame Cherry Phosphate in old manuals, used cherry syrup, raspberry syrup, and sugar as the key flavor components. It wasn’t this tame version that was popular at the soda fountain; it was the Wild Cherry version which used cherry bark for the flavor that thrilled everyone.
The subject bottle is embossed on the front face in three horizontal lines bisected with a vertical line of embossed sans-serif copy. There are four separate recessed chamfered flared vertical windows creating a distinct cross shape that dominates the face of the bottle. ‘THOMPSON’S’ is arched in a top band creating the bottle shoulder. ‘WILD CHERRY’ occurs in the center horizontal cross band. ‘CHICAGO’ is embossed in a bottom band connecting to the bottle base. ‘HYGEIA’ and ‘PHOSPHATE’ is embossed vertically on the top and bottom vertical cross. The bottle is smooth-based and has a tall neck and a short, tapered mouth. The glassmaker is unknown. The three other bottle sides of the bottle are smooth and is where the proprietor would have placed a paper label, of which none are known to exist. This large size can also be found in amber glass.
Smaller 10-inch and 8-inch (+/-) rectangular Thompson’s Hygeia Wild Cherry Phosphate bottles in aqua and amber were also made that were similar but covered in embossed copy that read ‘THOMPSON’S HYGEIA WILD CHERRY PHOSPHATE CHICAGO’ on the face side and the opposite side ‘THOMPSON’S ORIGINAL HYGEIA WILD CHERRY PHOSPHATE / DIRECTIONS USE ONE TEASPOONFUL EXTRACT THREE OF SUGAR ONE GLASS WATER USE HOT OR COLD DRINK FREELY AS YOU WOULD LEMONADE / THOMPSON PHOSPHATE CO. CHICAGO.’ Examples are pictured in the museum. A sample bottle 5 ½ inches tall was also made along with dose glasses with the brand name.
Amund Gustave Thompson was the man behind Thompson Manufacturing Co. in Chicago, Illinois. He was born in Amherst, Portage County, Wisconsin, on January 22, 1857, and was the son of Andrew and Mary (Chase) Thompson. His parents were natives of Norway, who, after coming to America, were one of the earliest settlers in Chicago. Andrew Thompson, for many years, was engaged in the paint business and real estate. Later the family moved to Wisconsin, where Amund Thompson’s early education was gained in the public schools of Scandinavia, Wisconsin. He attended the college at Decorah, Iowa, from which he graduated in 1878.
At that time, one of the biggest attractions in Wisconsin was Hygeia Spring, named after the Greek Goddess of health. A Greek temple pavilion greeted visitors. Albert Carver and Edward Flannery opened the spring in 1872, later selling the spring to James C. McElroy. McElroy intended to create a pipeline from Hygeia Spring to the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition to provide Waukesha’s renowned spring water “directly from the source.” While the village of Waukesha initially approved the pipeline, the community and other spring businesses successfully pressured village leaders to rescind the approval. McElroy was determined to see his vision fulfilled, resulting in what was referred to as the “Great Pipeline Battle.” Access to the Hygeia water certainly inspired Amund Thompson and his Hygeia Wild Cherry Phosphate.
After college, Thompson was employed as a traveling salesman by a musical instrument house. After spending several years on the road representing different music houses, he located to Aurora, Illinois, where he opened a music store. Thompson remained there for two years and enjoyed a growing business. He would sell his music business and move to Chicago to commence the manufacture of his “Wild Cherry Phosphate,” of which he was the originator. The inception year was 1887, and the business steadily grew until it assumed enormous proportions. Thompson’s Wild Cherry Phosphate Manufacturing Co. was known all over the United States and Europe, with branch offices in many major cities. Their business listings in the late 1880s and early 1890s said that they were Cider and Vinegar Manufacturers also dealing in Phosphate, which was the base for effervescent soft drinks containing phosphoric acid, soda water, and flavoring.
Hygeia Spring was closed after the pipeline controversy. In 1896, J. K. Anderson, who had been involved in Silurian, Arcadian, and Lithia Springs and was the brother of William H. Anderson, purchased the Hygeia Spring that had once been valued at more than $1,000,000 for only $20,000. He formed the Waukesha Water Company with the purchase of Glenn Spring too. Anderson gained public popularity with free admission to the spring. Shortly after his purchase, Anderson proposed that the City of Chicago buy water using the old pipeline that was eventually installed for the Exposition. Within six years, the Waukesha Water Company went into receivership, and company assets were sold off to pay a $50,000-$60,000 debt. Hygeia Spring underwent a series of owners without renewed success until Amund G. Thompson stepped in with his plan and marketing scheme. The Greek temple pavilion was demolished in 1914.
On July 7, 1885, Thompson married Rose E. Johnson in Floyd, Iowa, a highly educated and accomplished lady. They had one child, a daughter. Thompson was exceedingly popular with a large circle of friends and acquaintances and evolved into an established businessman who took a position among the leading men of Chicago. In 1905, Amund G. Thompson was given patent number 50,701 for a “Medicinal Beverage” associated with his facsimile signature and the word “Phosferale.” He filed on September 2, 1905. Serial No. 12,159. (Published January 30, 1906 – Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office).
Though Thompson was a natural musician and could master any instrument he chose to make music, he never went back to the music business. He certainly played instruments and entertained his friends and family for his gratification. Later in life, Thompson was a manufacturer’s representative and sold stocks and bonds. He would die on February 9, 1921.
Primary Image: “Thompson’s Hygeia Wild Cherry Phosphate Chicago” bottle imaged by Alan DeMaison at the FOHBC Reno 2022 National Antique Bottle Convention mobile imaging station.
Support: Reference to A Biographical History with Portraits of Prominent Men of the Great West. Illustrations in Steel, 1894
Support: Reference to Waukesha Hygeia Mineral Spring Water, Chicago World’s Fair, 1893
Support: Hygeia Spring 1897 photo, University of Wisconsin – Madison Library
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