"The Mar-Cola Co." with Eagle & Stars, Bessemer, Ala.

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elliott 123

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Hoping someone can shed some light on this straight side aqua embossed soda. As dug with dirt from the eighties.

Is it a fairly common bottle? Are there other variants? Other colors? Was Mar-Cola one of those companies that tried to compete with Coca-Cola? What is the best way to clean these old bottles? Help. I'm a newbie. :)

Eagle on front. Four stars around shoulder.
Above eagle: "The MAR-COLA Co."
Around base: BESSEMER, ALA
On shoulder: CONTENTS 6 1/2 OZ.
On bottom: MAR COLA
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Hezezilla

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Check the neck for a line (called a mold seam). If it disappears short of the lip, it is most likely a pre-1910 bottle. The type of lip on this bottle is called a "crown-top" because of the bottle caps. They started making these around 1900-1905 and still use the same style today. I've never seen this bottle before but if my memory serves me right, bottles from Bessemer Alabama are much more sought after than those from Birmingham. A lot of bottles from Alabama pre-1920 certainly copied Coca-Cola. Most people back then were illiterate so if it looked visually similar or had a similar name, their beverage could ride off of Coca-Cola's popularity. Chero-Cola and Ala-Cola are two other common Alabama brands from this era.

Cleaning bottles is a fickle business. Try soap and water with a good scrub and bottle brush or maybe a soak in vinegar or bleach. Some people dip their bottles in lightly diluted Muriatic acid (very dangerous but very effective if done right). These methods work but if done improperly (especially strong acids) can damage or destroy your bottles. The safest method is tumbling. There are a lot of other posts and online videos showing how to make your own or buy from a reputable dealer. However, the downside is that it is rather technical and you need to have a little bit of know-how and ingenuity to get it to work smoothly. It is also quite expensive, especially for beginners like me. I myself am working on a DIY tumbling rig using PVC pipe, a plastic funnel, and a lathe. Hope that answers your question.
 

elliott 123

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A lot of bottles from Alabama pre-1920 certainly copied Coca-Cola. Most people back then were illiterate so if it looked visually similar or had a similar name, their beverage could ride off of Coca-Cola's popularity. Chero-Cola and Ala-Cola are two other common Alabama brands from this era.
Wow. It looked like Coca-Cola and they didn't know the difference if they couldn't read. I never thought of that but it makes complete sense. I have one of those Ala-Cola straight side bottles in amber. I don't know why, but it's one of my favorites.
Some people dip their bottles in lightly diluted Muriatic acid (very dangerous but very effective if done right). These methods work but if done improperly (especially strong acids) can damage or destroy your bottles.
Some of these bottles are as dug, with the dirt still in them from the 1970's and 80's. They've been boxed up since mid 80's so I'm sure you can imagine - the ones that were put away with dirt in them. Baked on now after 40 years in a hot attic. :)
 

Hezezilla

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Wow. It looked like Coca-Cola and they didn't know the difference if they couldn't read. I never thought of that but it makes complete sense. I have one of those Ala-Cola straight side bottles in amber. I don't know why, but it's one of my favorites.
The Amber Ala-Cola is a rare variant I think. If my memory serves me right, they mostly come in clear or aqua.
 

DeepSeaDan

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Hi E123! Are you familiar with "Adventure Archaeology and Southern Diggers?" Brandon Nichols runs a pretty big YouTube Channel which focuses mainly on digging / creek walking in Alabama. There is also "Adventure Archaeology Antique Bottle Group" on Facebook. Brandon is very knowledgeable regarding Alabama bottles and could likely answer a lot of your questions.
 

elliott 123

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Hi DeepSeaDan. Thanks for your reply. After I saw your post earlier today, I followed his Bottle Group page. Thanks for the heads up!
 

elliott 123

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Looks like the Mar-Cola Company was sold in 1919 after three people filed lawsuits against Joseph L. Wood, manufacturer of Mar-Cola. BhamWiki lists operation dates of 1916-1920, but clearly Mar-Cola was sold and ended operation in March 1919. By April 1919 it was rebranded as Birmingham Smile Bottling Co - orange drink - although still using the Mar-Cola eagle bottles.
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The Birmingham Age-Herald. (Birmingham, AL), February 28, 1916, 9.

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The Birmingham Age-Herald. (Birmingham, AL), March 01, 1919, 2.

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The Birmingham Age-Herald. (Birmingham, AL), April 03, 1919, 10. The Birmingham Age-Herald. (Birmingham, AL), April 09, 1919, 7.
 

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