T. H. Muller & Co. Cincinnati Oh

Provenance: Doug Shutler Collection

Before soft drinks, there was a large mineral and soda water industry in the United States, mostly populated by regional manufacturers. In 1851, the mineral water business was very competitive in Cincinnati, as the city was host to eight mineral water factories with 64 employees who produced over $100,000 in annual output.

When looking at the rapidly expanding, year-to-year Cincinnati city directories in the Mineral Water business section, there was an evolving group of mineral water and soda manufacturers from the late 1840s to mid-1870s or so. Some were small operations while others appeared in bold type listings. Others seem to be small operators that were listed for only one year and then they vanish. One reason might be that the business was not successful and the person moved on to another city.

This may be the case with our subject 7-5/8″ tall cylindrical glass soda bottle. Made by an unknown glass house, the green-aqua bottle is iron pontiled and has an applied tapered collar or mouth. The copy is embossed on the face of the bottle in four centered horizontal lines in a sans-serifed typestyle. The top and the first line read, ‘T. H. Muller,’ while the second line reads ‘& Co.’ The ‘O’ is smaller and raised. The ampersand is leaning left rather severely. The third line reads ‘CINCINNATI’ while the fourth and last line reads ‘O H’. The reverse side is blank.

When consulting Cincinnati city directories in the early 1850s, the only name that appears to suggest a relationship to our bottle embossed T. H. Muller & Co., is Thomas H. Muller located on Court Street between Vine and Race Streets in 1851 and 1852. In 1855, he is listed in enlarged bold type as T. H. Muller, native wines, Manchester Bldgs. corner of 3rd and Sycamore Streets. In 1856, he is simply listed as a wine maker at 305 Walnut. He is not listed in the preceding 1848, 1849, 1853, or following 1857 and 1858 directories. As it happens, historical copies of the 1854 Cincinnati directory may not exist. This directory could have listed “T. H. Muller & Co.’ His business does not appear in newspaper listings or other records. No other examples of bottles can be found though we know they exist from online written records from Tod Von Mechow, a leading soda, and beer bottle authority.

When we look under Cincinnati Mineral Water Manufacturers for 1855, we see Chauncey Owen, H. & J. Alwes, John Damm, Charles M. Hartwell & Co., H. & C. Overdick, John Postel, A. Ritter, Jacob Schuler, and Wm. Wilke and Co. There is not a T. H. Muller listing who did not emboss’ Mineral Water’ on his bottle as was typically done during this period. Therefore, his bottle could have been a labeled, multi-purpose container for sodas or ciders.

As an aside, during our research for T. H. Muller, there is also an 1850-51 listing in the Cincinnati city directory for Henry T. Muller, mineral water manufacturer, west side Vine between Canal and 12th. Could the first and middle initial have been mistakenly transposed and the bottle embossed incorrectly? This is a real possibility.

Support: Reference to The American Pontiled Soda Database Project, Tod von Mechow

Support: Reference to Soda & Beer Bottles of North America, Tod von Mechow

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