Our Times

Brian Spangle

At one time, Vincennes had many bottlers of beverages, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic. One of the most successful that fell into the latter category was the Star Bottling Works, which bottled soft drinks for over two decades in the early part of the 20th century. Virtually everyone who lived in the city would have quenched his thirst with one of Star’s tasty products.

The Star Bottling Works was started by William Richter in September 1907. It was originally in a small brick building at 11 N. 10th St., on the block between Main and Busseron streets. Richter was very familiar with this line of work, since he had been a bottler for Frank A. Thuis’ bottling works. Thuis bottled ginger ale, ciders, seltzer and mineral waters.

In those years, small bottlers made all kinds of soft drinks. One of the first varieties produced at the Star Bottling Works was called Rye-Ola, advertised somewhat pretentiously as the “Most Refreshing and Invigorating Drink on Earth.”

Products, such as Rye-Ola were considered “copycat sodas” of the industry giant, the nationally known Coca-Cola. With limited advertising budgets, they were mostly known only in specific regions and couldn’t compete with the major brands. Most eventually faded away.

Star also sold a cherry-flavored soda called Cherry Blossom, which was very popular for many years. A 1923 Star ad listed Cherry Blossom soda 24 bottles for 70 cents. As with the other sodas, the syrup was shipped in and the product then mixed at the bottling works. Daily deliveries were made to grocery stores, saloons, and restaurants.

In May 1923, the Star Bottling Works moved to 910 Main St., where it would remain for its final years of operation. In 1924, the business got a franchise for one of the most popular soft drinks of the day, a grape flavored soda called NuGrape. A bottle of NuGrape sold for a nickel. The motto for the soda was “A Flavor You Can’t Forget.” NuGrape can still be purchased today, mostly in the southern states.

Ownership of the Star Bottling Works changed several times over the years. Richter sold the business to Roy McGiffen in about 1914. It was then owned by Leo Brown, McGiffen’s brother-in-law, for a time, who sold it back to McGiffen in 1923. Brown went on to manage the Chero-Cola Bottling Works at 14 South Third Street and is best known in local history as starting Vincennes’ Royal Crown Cola Bottling Co.

The number of flavors available from Star increased over the years. Along with NuGrape and Cherry Blossom, by 1925 Star was selling the following carbonated drinks: Cinderella orange, blood orange, ginger ale, strawberry, peach whip, lemon cola, lemon sour, lemon soda, and cream soda.

McGiffen later began offering the EYE-SE brand (pronounced “icy”), which had nine flavors, including lemon-lime, root beer, and peach.

Soft drinks were pretty much seasonal in those days, with little or no production taking place during the winter months.

In 1929, McGiffen’s mother, Ada, sued her son in the Knox County Superior Court, claiming the business was insolvent and requesting that a receiver be appointed. Former owner Leo Brown was named by the court as receiver for Star and he was ordered to sell all the personal property. Ada McGiffen then purchased all of the assets for $1,685 and the business closed.

In the 1930s, another Star Bottling Works was operated by Glenn Burnett, moving to South 15th Street. Burnett offered virtually every flavor of fruit juice type drinks.

That bottling works remained open for just a few years.

Brian Spangle can be reached at brianrspangle60@outlook.com.

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