Misconceptions about hutch bottles and the full depth case
© 2014 Blaine Martin
Recently on ebay I have noticed many full depth Coca-Cola cases being misrepresented as cases that once held early Coca-Cola Hutchinson bottles. These misrepresentations (accidental or not) lead to unknowing collectors paying a lot of money for items that simply are not what they think. Below I attempt to accurately date these full depth cases and provide the information needed to refute any future unfounded claims from ill-informed sellers.
The hutchinson bottle and its use by early Coca-Cola bottlers
Coca-Cola was first bottled informally by The Biedenharn Candy Company of Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1894. The Biedenharn Candy Company operated a soda fountain, and simply bottled the product during the hot summer months for transport to picnics and similar events. During this same time before the turn of the century, there were at least a dozen other bottlers informally bottling Coca-Cola in Florida, Colorado, Gerogia, South Carolina, Texas, Mississippi and New England. (as recalled by 1919-1922 Coca-Cola Company president and cousin of Asa Candler — Samuel Dobbs).
In 1899 a bottling contract between the Coca-Cola Company and Benjamin Thomas and Joseph Whitehead was signed that allowed Thomas and Whitehead exclusive bottling rights (with a couple of small exceptions) for the entire United States.
These first bottling companies (with a couple of exceptions) used the Hutchinson stoppered bottle to distribute the drink. The Hutchinson bottle dated from 1879 and used a primitive looping wire apparatus and rubber gasket to seal the bottle. This bottle was stored upside down to keep pressure on the fastener, thus maintaining a tight seal between the glass and the rubber gasket. The Hutchinson bottle was costly, hard to fill, and unsanitary. Bottlers needed a better option and found one with the crown, cork and seal bottle.
The bottle crown with a cork seal inside was patented in 1892 to William Painter. In 1898 the first foot-powered crowner that could cap 24 bottles a minute was introduced. But this new crowner was of limited usefulness until the Owen's Automatic Bottle Machine was introduced to bottle manufacturers in 1903. This bottle machine allowed for the production of highly standardized bottles with highly standardized lips. These new standardized bottles made the crown closure easy to use and very economical. They were soon widely accepted and its is thought that all new Coca-Cola bottlers after 1904 purchased only crown top bottles.
Wooden cases for Hutchinson bottles generally held 24 bottles and had false bottom with 24 holes into which the inverted "neck downwards" Hutchinson bottles were placed. Placing the bottle in an upside down position helped prevent accidental opening, and also kept the Hutchinson rubber disk gasket moist, helping to ensure a tight seal. The cases typically displayed with the bottler’s name and the bottler's city. They came in two distinct forms – patent shipping cases, and city delivery cases.
The "patent" shipping case
Patent shipping cases were fitted with partitions or "racks" to keep the bottles separated during shipping, and covered with a hinged lid. These cases were primarily used for shipments to other towns on railroad cars.
The "city delivery" case
The city delivery cases were smaller than patent shipping cases and didn’t have partitions or lids. They still had false bottoms with drilled holes for the bottles placement. These cases were used for delivery to local customers by a horse and wagon.
Early Coca-Cola bottling plants and the first bottles they used
1894 - Biedenharn Candy Company (Hutch)
1897 - Valdosta Electric Bottling Works (Hutch)
1899 - Chattanooga, Tennessee (Hutch)
1900 - Atlanta, Georgia (Hutch)
1900 - Nashville, Tennessee (Straight-sided)
1901 - Chicago, Illinois (Straight-sided)
1901 - Cincinnati, Ohio (Straight-sided)
1901 - Louisville, Kentucky (Straight-sided)
1901 - Shelbyville, Kentucky (Straight-sided)
1901 - Campblesville, Kentucky (Straight-sided)
1901 - Elizabethtown, Kentucky (Straight-sided)
1902 - Jasper, Alabama (Hutch)
1902 - Birmingham, Alabama (Hutch)
1902 - 32 additional plants - (Straight-sided)
among them Los Angeles, CA., Augusta, AL., Huntsville,
AL., Mobile, AL., Columbus, GA., Augusta, GA., Macon, GA., Savannah, GA., Buffalo, NY., Charlotte, NC., Oklahoma City, OK., Shawnee, OK., Harrisburg, PA., Columbia, SC., Knoxville, TN., Dallas, TX., Houston TX., Roanoke, VA.,
1903 - Bessemer, Alabama (Hutch)
1903 - Gadsden, Alabama (Hutch)
1903 - Brunswick, Georgia (Hutch)
1903 - Tuskegee, Alabama (Hutch)
1903 - 28 additional plants (Hutch)
1904 - Talladega, Alabama (Hutch)
1904 - 46 additional plants (Straight-sided)
As seen by reading the previous information, one can see that a Coca-Cola marked case being used for hutch bottles (like many claim) would be very rare. Based upon the form of the logo displayed on the case, the case would have to date from before 1904. Also, the bottler named on the case would have had to be in operation during the period leading up to 1904. Even if the bottler was in operation, one would need proof that the bottler actually used Hutchinson bottles (either generic, embossed with the bottler name, or actually marked Coca-Cola) in their operation. Very few cases and bottlers meet all these qualifications.
Left: An example of the hutchinson stopper used to seal the hutchinson bottle. Center: A Coca-Cola hutch bottle typical of those used by a few bottlers just before the turn of the century. Right: A Coca-Cola straight sided bottle similar to what most bottling plants used when they began their franchise.
Examples of two 24 bottle "Patent Shipping Cases" dating to about 1892-1900 that could have contained Hutchinson bottles. No known named hutch bottles are known from these two companies.
c. 1912 photo postcard from Beatrice, Nebraska showing the "City Delivery Case" on a horse drawn wagon.
Examples of the two logos that appear on cases that would have contained Hutchinson bottles. These logos date from 1892 (left) and 1904 (right).
Examples of full depth cases from the 1904 to 1931 period.
These cases would have held either straight sided bottles and then after 1915 , they would have held the hobbleskirt bottle. For years many bottlers held onto the old idea that it was best to ship bottles upside down, to avoid breakage and so the cork would stay wet. By the beginning of the Second World War few bottlers were still using full depth cases.
Examples of full depth cases from 1929 and later.
These cases would have held hobbleskirt bottles. 1929 The page above from the Bottlers Standards manual show the standardized manner in which these cases should be painted. By 1935, the full depth case was no longer included in the standards manual, leading one to assume that usage of the case was either minimal or non-existent by that time.
Interior of a "City Delivery Case" showing only the false bottom with holes.
An interior of a 24 bottle "Patent Shipping Case" showing the partition or "rack" that could have held Hutch bottles.