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Soda bottlers lamented over rising prices

By: Bob Cudmore

Date: 2017-10-14

Soda bottlers lamented over rising prices
By Bob Cudmore, Focus on History, Daily Gazette, 10-14-17

In an 1886 article on the carbonated soda industry, an Amsterdam newspaper painted a bleak picture. The heavy glass bottles sometimes exploded when they were being filled, injuring workers. The workload was heavy in the busy summer months.

The Daily Democrat article stated, “A soda water manufacturer said that it was unquestionably true that the majority of hands taken on for the summer trade were men in the habit of getting drunk. But it was in a degree excusable, he said, by the extremely hard labor required of them during the busy season.”

Just over three decades later, soda bottlers in Montgomery and Fulton counties were raising prices on carbonated beverages a month after America entered World War I in 1917. The Bottlers’ Association of Fulton and Montgomery counties bought a newspaper ad to explain the price hike to customers.

The 1917 ad stated that raw material costs were going up: sugar up 100 percent and extracts up 50 percent. The price of soda cases had risen 30 percent and labor costs had increased 15 percent.

A case of 12 pints of soda now cost customers 75 cents and a case of 12 quarts cost $1.25. Plus the bottlers required a deposit of two cents for each small bottle and a nickel for each large bottle.

Members of the trade group in 1917 were companies named Fitzgerald, Case, Welch and Redding in Amsterdam, Jones bottling works in Fonda and Gross bottling works in Gloversville. Fitzgerald’s bottling works, founded in 1882, lasted almost a century. The bottling plant relocated in 1915 to 465 East Main Street in the town of Amsterdam on what is now Chapman Drive.

Glass bottles can survive a long time. When it comes to history, as New Yorker editor William Maxwell once observed, “The odds are on objects.”

Bob Ray, a reader from Halfmoon, found a heavy soda bottle produced by Case’s Bottling Works of Amsterdam in a hunt for bottles a couple years ago near Ballston Spa and would gladly donate the bottle if an historical organization wants it. Several old Case’s bottles are listed on eBay, priced from twelve to twenty dollars. A wooden Case’s Bottling Works soda box from Amsterdam was priced online at forty dollars.


An Amsterdam retail store, Holzheimer & Shaul, had three lives downtown. It began as a four-floor department store on the south side of Main Street.

At the 1925 Progress Exhibition in Amsterdam, Holzheimer & Shaul occupied several booths that looked like store window displays. A cardboard cutout of a young girl was behind a Hoover vacuum cleaner, offered with “unusually easy terms.”

One of the firm’s principals, P. Dater Shaul, was pictured at a planning session for the Exposition, held in a field in the city’s East End. To tout Amsterdam’s role in making rugs, Holzheimer & Shaul put a Sanford carpet on the sidewalk in front of its East Main Street store during the Exposition.

In the 1940s, the store moved to the north side corner of Church and East Main streets and sold ladies fashions on two floors. A large atomizer hung from the storefront dispensing perfume into the air.

In 1946, a Holzheimer & Shaul ad offered nylon sweaters for $3.98, “It’s a sweater sensation, this nylon classic. Just feel its butter-soft, cashmere-like texture! Washes and dries in a jiffy, won’t shrink, won’t shed.”

When many buildings were slated to be torn down for urban renewal, Holzheimer & Shaul, then headed by Sam Fox, relocated to the new downtown Amsterdam Mall in 1977. The store finally closed at that location in 1987.