Artifacts of the Month: Vintage regional soda bottles

Before the era of “Big Soda,” regional soft drinks occupied a greater share of retail shelves than they do today. Our November Artifacts of the Month offer a window into that time.

Sun-Rise and Smith's bottles

bottle backs

We found these two rather ordinary looking vintage soda bottles last year at an antique store in Burlington, N.C.  These brands are no longer made but serve as a reminder of the many different carbonated beverages once sold alongside soft drink giants Pepsi and Coca-Cola. We’ll add these bottles to Gallery holdings related to North Carolina and the history of carbonated beverages.

Sun-Rise Beverages began selling soda in 1910 in North Tazewell, Virginia. The Sun-Rise line offered root beer and fruit-flavored drinks such as Black Cherry and Lemon Sour. The company was sold a number of times in the twentieth century before Coca-Cola took over bottling and distribution in the 1950s. This bottle from the 1960s or 70s comes from the Burlington, N.C. Coca-Cola bottling plant. 

Our research into the story of the Smith Beverage Company has been less fruitful. The company was located in Burlington, but little information exists about it. An advertisement in the Burlington Daily-Times News of January 24, 1950 indicates that the Smith Beverage Company also distributed Cheerwine, a soft drink introduced in Salisbury by Lewis D. Peeler in 1917. 

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Before Cheerwine, Peeler first held a bottling franchise for a short-lived brand of soda called Mint Cola, which was headquartered in Tennessee. 

Mint Cola bottle

Peeler developed the less sweet cherry-flavored Cheerwine in response to sugar shortages during World War I.   

Do you know anything more about Smith Beverage Company in Burlington? Please tell us in the comments!

8 thoughts on “Artifacts of the Month: Vintage regional soda bottles”

  1. Can’t find any recent numbers on this, but for many years North Carolina had the highest consumption of soda pop in the country, a distinction I’ve heard attributed anecdotally to the neat fit of a cold drink into the brief break time allowed mill workers…. Similarly, it may more than coincidental that North Carolina was the mother lode of supposedly “fast acting” headache powders…..

  2. I have a bottle Pepsi Cola Brown Bros form wilson N.C. I cant seem to find one like the one I have can you help

  3. My gg uncle Landrus McCauley “Mack” Squires owned the Pepsi bottling company here in Burlington NC for several years in the early teens. The building still stands on Spring Street in downtown Burlington. He purchased the company when his boss and owner Zeb Waller was struck and killed by a train. When the sugar ration hit in WW1 there were locals claiming Mack was sweetening the Pepsi with molasses, this hurt his business so he sold it after operating it for only a few years, thus making LMS stamped bottles rare. Not sure if this helps but it’s Burlington NC soda history.

  4. I have a Mint Cola Bottle that is date coded either 1950 or 1960, its hard to make out. Its a large bottle, 16oz. My understanding was that Mint Cola was not made past the 1930’s, but this bottle would seem to prove that wrong. I would love to know more about the history of Mint Cola, but I can’t seem to find any more information about it.

  5. I have a vintage Burlington NC coke bottle. Light green in great condition. I would love to know the value.

    1. My father was John Haywood Loy owner of the Loy’s Carolina Beverage Co, Graham, NC. One of his bottles recently sold for $40.00 as research will prove. I would like to see a photo and would love to purchase for my sons, if you want to sell. Sincerely, MJ Sothoron

      1. Hi MJ,
        Thanks for writing about your father’s beverage company. Unfortunately, we don’t have any bottles from Loy’s Carolina Beverage Company in our collection. Have you tried antique stores in Burlington and Graham? I bought several bottles from local beverage companies in a store in downtown Burlington a few years ago.

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