CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY

Bottle Up and Go
A Look at the Independent Bottlers & Beer Distributors
of Camden NJ 

Bottling soft drinks and soda has a long history in Camden. The City Directories in years spanning 1887 through 1891 reveal at least three bottling concerns, Ezra Horner in East Camden, William O. Lusk at 705 North 3rd Street, and Adam Rumpp at 329 Arch Street. Both Horner and Rumpp had been in the saloon and restaurant trade, and there were many other saloon operators that took shots at the bottling business in these years as soft drinks and soda pop gained popularity.

In 1893 a German immigrant, John Schimpf founded the Crescent Bottling Company on River Avenue at 25th Street. His business prospered, and the Crescent Bottling Company is still in business at its original location in 2004. Another East Camden operation was the East Side Bottling Works. In Parkside and in the Kaighn Avenue shopping area, Jewish business man such as Samuel Tarter and Israel Weitzmann got into the business. Both of the these families would play a role in Camden's business and civic life for many decades. Descendant David Weitzman's business in the Wilson Building at Broadway and Cooper Street, Weitzman Liquors, was a Camden landmark for decades. Gustav Schwoeri engaged in brewing and bottling at 7th and Chestnut Streets, while the Camden Brewery bottled beer at South 6th and Bulson Streets under different ownerships including the Camden Bottling Company and the Camden County Beverage Co. from the 19th Century through the 1960s. Cipriano Moles got out of the saloon business and opened up a bottling business at 900 South 2nd street around 1914. The Moles' family business later became known as the South Jersey Bottling Company

By the time Prohibition was enacted in 1919 Coca Cola had become a well known national brand, and in time Coke would establish a bottling plant in Camden. A 1921 business directory shows several operations besides Crescent Bottling, including those of John G. Foehl & Sons, Maurice Hertz, Teofil Knast, K. Olesiewicz, Vincent Raczykowski, Oscar Wiedenhammer, and John B. Boullion. Of these operations Raczykowski's Thirteenth Ward Bottling Works at 1101 Morton Street was probably the most successful, making the transition to beer distribution and remaining in operation into the 1960s. The Knast family's Liberty Bottling Works, first at 929 Liberty Street and later at 1135-1137 Liberty operated into the 1970s as well. Teofil Knast's family returned to bar and retail liquor sales after Prohibition was repealed. Besides a retail liquor store at 1135-1137 Liberty, the family operated Knast's Cafe in Camden for many years before moving their business to Pennsauken. 

Through the 1920s and 1930s other  bottling business would open in Camden, including the Valeriani Bottling Company on Pine Street, and the New Jersey Bottling Company at 524 Liberty Street, the Booth Bottling Company at 250 Atlantic Avenue, and the Liberty Bottling Works at 1135 Liberty Street. The Garden State Bottling Company at 1140 South 8th Street was in business in the 1950s. Anthony Dolinski operated the Keystone Bottling Company around the corner from Liberty Bottling on Mechanic Street.  

When Prohibition was repealed several of the bottlers added beer distribution to their product line. Crescent Bottling opened up a retail liquor store on their premises. In retrospect diversification was a good move, as national brands such as Coca Cola and Seven-Up had established plants locally. Another soda line, Frostie Root Beer, was made locally through the 1970s but this was the exception rather than the rule. As time went by some of the old family-owned businesses either closed or were sold to new owners. Keystone Bottling obtained a package goods license and became a liquor store.

Mike Pietrafesa, whose family eventually purchased the Valeriani Bottling Company, mentioned that all the small distributors right after Prohibition did some bottling, but that there was some sort of problem getting syrup or some other thing. Perhaps the big syrup manufactures didn't need all the competition.  

Some of the larger breweries set up distributors in Camden. C. Schmidt and Sons of Philadelphia maintained a presence in Camden until the company folded, around 1980. Hub Beer Distributors Inc. primarily handled the Miller line out of their facility at 1181 Fairview Street.   

By the 1970s after Hub and Schmidt there were only three independent beer distributors left in Camden, South Jersey Bottling Company, Valeriani Bottling Company, and the Newport Bottling Works, which was originally Vincent Raczykowski's operation. The independents distributed the smaller, lesser known brands. Just as the smaller breweries were being driven out of business by the national brands, eventually the independent beer distributors left the scene as well.

Mike Pietrafesa told John Cianfrani about the end of the line for the small bottlers:

John writes: We discussed why a lot of the successful bottlers gave up. Until about 30-35 years ago the soda gun was very expensive to buy and install, and little places still used compressed air instead of CO2 for power. When I was first old enough to drink, even before in states where you could drink at 18 like  New York and Virginia, if anyone wanted a chaser or mix the bartender poured from a bottle. Crescent seemed to be every where around here. Mike says that bottled soda was much better tasting, with club soda being really noticeable.

Advances in technology and new business practices spelled the end of the independent bottlers and beer distributors. Today there are a few new business that sell canned soda and soft drinks to the grocery trade, but only Crescent Bottling in Cramer Hill is left from the "Golden Age" of Camden's bottlers.    

Israel Weitzman's
Union Bottling Company

Louis & Chestnut Street

Abdon H. Olsen

Bottle Cap is from about 1906. 
This business was then located at 1723-1725 Broadway

William M. Dilmore
339 Kaighn Avenue

Bottle Cap is from about 1906. His father George Dilmore 
ran a saloon out of 339-341 Kaighn at the same time

George Griffin

Bottle is from about 1906. 
This business was at 833 Market Street.
George B. McC. Griffin then lived around the corner
at
842 Carpenter Street

Reliable Bottling Works

P. Saulino & Son

"2nd & Arch Sts. Camden, N.J."

Bottle is from about 1917.
This business was at 201 Arch Street

Reliable Bottling Works

EAST SIDE BOTTLING WORKS
1800 Federal Street - Henry Schultz, Proprietor

11 Ounce Deposit Bottle
from the
S. Tarter Bottling Company
1142 South 6th Street
Camden N. J.

Click on Image to Enlarge

O.B. Weidenhammer's
High Grade
Soft Drinks
Sold Here

Fourth of July, 1923
at
 Pyne Point Park

The baby is Carl. W. Weber

Liberty Bottling Works
Click on Image to Enlarge

Crescent Beverage

Deposit
Seltzer Bottle

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Crescent Beverage

February 1, 2004

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Camden Bottling Company

Camden Courier-Post - August 14, 1933

Garden State Bottling Company

Another business that was a part of the bottling scene in Camden was the Lansdowne Bottle Exchange, which was owned by Frank Pierzynski at 906 Lansdowne Avenue Avenue. This one must remember was the era of the returnable deposit bottle. Frank Pierzynski had been involved with the bar at 303 Kaighn Avenue in the 1930s and early 1940s.

John Cianfrani asked Mike Pietrafesa, whose family owned the Valeriani Bottling Company from 1951 to 1971, about the Lansdowne Bottle Exchange. 

John writes: Because there were so many bottlers in those days, cases of empties would have different bottles sometimes mixed into the wrong cases. The bottle exchange would sort bottles and return them to the correct bottling plant. I asked if they cleaned the bottles. He said no, they only sorted.

The development of throwaway bottles and canned beer meant the end of this business, which was gone by 1959. 

Camden Courier-Post
July 1, 1941

New Jersey Bottling Company

Click on Image to Enlarge

Camden Courier-Post
July 23, 1941

Samuel Johnson

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Camden Courier-Post
July 25, 1941

Thurman Bottling Company

Thurman Street

Click on Image to Enlarge

Camden Courier-Post
July 30, 1941

South Jersey Bottling Company

Pine Street

Click on Image to Enlarge

Thanks to John Cianfrani and Mike Pietrafesa for helping to create this page

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