1950s Big Brand Sodas

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shadeone

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Over the past few years I've been hyper focused on collecting every available bottle variant of the few brands that I collected. Fellow collectors will confirm that once you get all the easy ones, finding that last hard rare one can be be quite frustrating, both on the brain and also the wallet.
After running myself nearly bankrupt finishing off a couple of collections, I decided to step back from the high dollar stuff and set my sights on an easier task. Those of you who know me, know of my obsession with all things 1950s. The cars, the music, the style etc, but mostly it's because I see the 50s as the golden age of soda. The post-war boom of brands available as well as the intense push to advertise them was really at it's creative best in the 50s.
Part of my obsession with the 50s involves trying to incorporate various elements of the vintage lifestyle into my own daily life, whether it be having furniture that was popular at the time, using a vintage watch, typewriter or other analog technology wherever I can, or just cooking old recipes and drinking the same stuff they did back then. To me it's the closest I can get to time travel and sort of a way to connect with the past. It makes me happy to know that when I come in from yard work on a hot day and grab a cold glass-bottled soda to refresh myself, my grandparents probably did the exact same thing 70 years ago.

Because of all this, I made it my goal to collect an example of all of the "common" nationwide big-name soda brands that existed specifically in that decade... The ones that were probably actually in my grandparent's fridge at one point. I poured through all the material I could find to make my list of brands.

Magazine and newspaper advertisements where multiple brands are represented:





Pictures of actual store soda displays:



and also my own observations on what bottles seem to always be around at antique stores and flea markets. The main help though was an archive of 1950s American Bottler magazines that featured listings of all advertisers in each issue, but also had articles with surveys showing consumer preference and popularity rankings and that type of stuff:







The other main help was the vast archive of newspapers available on newspapers.com where you can type in your search term (soda brand), narrow it down to 1950-1959, and visually see on a map how many states that term came up in and how many times it was mentioned in that state. It makes it really easy to see if a particular soda was extremely regional or not:

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The task at hand seemed like an easy one as these bottles are always the ones sitting around with a $2 price tag on them at the flea market. I made it a goal to try to get the best possible condition example I could of each one, but this turned out to be the hard part. Being so popular, the majority of these brands had mass amounts of bottles that were bought, drank, returned and refilled multiple times so finding a mint one was actually somewhat difficult. I had to "upgrade" some of the bottles I purchased, some more than once.
Another hard part was finding examples specifically dated in the 1950s decade. You wouldn't believe the number of ebay sellers that don't photograph the bottom of the bottles where the important data is, and some of those that actually do couldn't even take a picture of the sky if their life depended on it. The number of people on ebay that just plain ignored me when I asked for more information on a bottle was quite annoying too.

Here is the "completed" collection:
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Close-ups:
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You will notice that there are two bottles for each brand. This is because just about every company modified their bottles as the decade progressed, some very drastically. I decided to collect both an "early" and "late" version of each brand to show the changes. Some of them barely changed at all, only adding a neck logo or very-slight shape change or something, while others completely revamped their entire appearance. I also tried to get the most common version of the bottles, no rare wordings or designs that only one bottling company used or anything. Most companies used a standardized bottle in their advertisements so I tried to get the ones represented in them.
You will also notice that the bottles are full and capped. With the exception of some brands that don't exist anymore, all of these have been filled with their respective current day version of the soda. Dead brands have been filled with their closest possible color match based on vintage color advertisements. Everyone collects empty bottles, but I find a full bottle way more visually appealing. When the people who originally created the bottle design and the ACL logo chose the colors for it, they did so while keeping the color of the beverage in mind. The main logo color on some was meant to contrast or compliment the color of the soda inside to appeal to you on the shelf. Plus, something about holding a full, heavy bottle of a vintage soda in your hand, the way it was first presented to the initial consumer from the cooler or store display, just feels right. It's another one of those little "time travel" moments for me.

I know there are some brands that some of you might feel deserve to be here but aren't, so please let me know if I'm forgetting one. But remember that some brands you may think were huge in the 50s, may have only been distributed in a couple states in the mid 50s and then suddenly exploded in 1960 or something... People remember history different. Also, I only focused on carbonated soda drinks. No Tru-Ade, Bireleys, Virginia Dare or any of the other juice-style bottled beverages.
And yes, I know Mountain Dew was in one or two states until the early 60s, but it's one of my favorites and my one exception to my otherwise strict standards ;)
 

Bad3555

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Well written my friend, very informative!! I so appreciate your analytical mind and zeal for research! Once again thank you for sharing with us. Do to my lack of reference material I find members like you and this forum one of my main sources for accurate information pertaining to my soda pop collection. Thank You!
 

bottle-o-pop

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I lived through all of the 1950s and recall drinking many of those brands. Living in Washington State, we would never ever use the word soda. We would call it pop instead.

What I remember most about this time period is getting a pop out of a vending machine before I was 10 years old. It was a daunting thing. I'd open that weird tall door and look at all the pop bottle caps in there. After determining which one I wanted to drink, I'd put my dime in the slot, open that weird door again, grab my choice, and pull as hard as I could. Those springs were strong in there and the weird bottle shape made it even more difficult to pull it out!

Another kind of pop vending machine had a maze in it. You'd lift up the big door and look at all the bottles hanging by their necks in this steel maze of canals. You'd move your bottle around in the maze to its gated entrance to be able to pull out your prize.
 

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