Pop was popular in 1890s
MONMOUTH, Ill. — With the sales of bottled water growing steadily in recent years, the long-term future of carbonated beverages is uncertain, but 130 years ago Monmouth residents were enthusiastic about the relatively new phenomenon of bottled soda, or “pop,” as it was known even back then.
That fact was brought to light when I received a recent query from Ken Allaman of West Burlington, Iowa — a super-collector of historical Monmouth memorabilia. He has in his collection an unusually shaped green beverage bottle embossed with “E. B. W./MONMOUTH/ILLS.” Allaman assumed the B. W. stood for bottling works, but wondered what the E. stood for.
Some scanning of online historical newspapers finally turned up the name Joseph J. Ward, who in 1892 located in Monmouth and opened the Enterprise Bottling Works, investing $3,000 for a plant at 501 South E St. A year later, he relocated the plant to 519 West 4th Ave., keeping the South E property as his residence.
In 1894, a local newspaper reported that Ward was “making pop from early morn till late at night in order to supply demand. He makes the finest of summer beverages, some so excellent in fact, that he has a great many orders from Chicago.”
In September 1894, the editor of the Warren County Democrat wrote that Ward was putting out more than $1,000 worth of bottled goods per month and his trade extended into every village in the county and beyond. “His drinks,” the editor wrote, “are absolutely pure and warranted not to make men go home and rip and kick and tear around… Wherever it goes it makes men milder in disposition, and it is absolutely pure, using nothing but vegetable flavors.”
Another newspaper report from 1897 noted that Ward “possesses the most superior facilities and conveniences…including the latest and most highly improved machinery and apparatus for bottling purposes. He manufactures and bottles a pure and most select brand of soda water, ginger ale, lemon sour, root and birch beer, mineral water, etc.”
The paper said Ward’s force of men and delivery wagons were kept busy, and that families, hotels and restaurants were supplied promptly with bottled goods.
Born in Aurora, Illinois, in 1860, Ward did indeed have considerable experience in bottling before arriving in the Maple City. He had spent his youth in Sterling, where in 1884 he entered the grocery business. By 1889, he was engaged in bottling in Fairbury, Illinois, and later that year purchased a bottling works in Fairfield, Iowa.
In early 1891, Ward sold his stake in the business to his partner and moved to Galesburg, where he manufactured mineral waters, but the following year he pulled up stakes again and moved to Monmouth. By 1895, Ward was serving as a Monmouth alderman, and when Mayor F. L. Hall was elected in 1897, he named Ward first assistant fire marshal.
Around this time, Ward became involved in the wholesale liquor business, serving as a traveling agent for the Popel & Giller brewing firm in Warsaw, Ill. , which leased a cold storage building on East 1st Avenue. As temperance support grew in Monmouth, Ward occasionally went up against the law, being charged with selling liquor without a license. He was soon operating a wholesale liquor warehouse in Gladstone, possibly to stay clear of Monmouth authorities.
In 1899, a grocer named Madison Cunningham opened a new grocery store in the building on West 4th Avenue formerly occupied by Enterprise Bottling Works. By this time, Ward was operating a saloon at 114 South Main St., in addition to serving as an agent for the Warsaw liquor distributor.
Ward sold his bottling company in 1903 to C. W. Hill of Pontiac, Ill., who located at 108 South 1st St. His own fortunes may not have been doing very well, however, for in 1905 he was working as a laborer, and by 1910 had moved to Galesburg, where he was a sewing machine salesman. Around 1912, he moved to Davenport, Iowa, and by 1920 was working as a foreman for the Rock Island Arsenal.
When his wife died in 1924, Ward moved back to Galesburg, where he worked in retirement as a cabinetmaker. He died Sept. 7, 1935, and was buried in Monmouth, next to a son, who had died in 1918.
Jeff Rankin is an editor and historian for Monmouth College. He has been researching, writing and speaking about western Illinois history for more than 40 years.