August 4 , 2014
Carl Sandburg doesn't mention soda water in his autobiography, Always the Young Strangers. Surely his friends, who called themselves the Dirty Dozen, may have consumed a bottle or two on hot summer days after playing baseball or gathering in the evening to sing four-part harmony.
In the 1880s Galesburg had two soda water manufacturers. I.R. Edwards was located on the north side of the Public Square. He dealt in the retail and wholesale distribution of his soda water, mineral water and champagne cider. J. Robert Inness manufactured soda water, gingerale and seltzer at 532 South Cherry Street. His company also bottled beer and mineral water for clients. There were eighteen salesmen working for the company.
Carbonated water is produced by dissolving carbon dioxide gas under pressure in chilled water. It can be consumed unsweetened and unflavored and is called soda water, club soda or seltzer. Mineral water is naturally carbonated water from springs. Perrier is an example from France.
Soda water may contain salt, sodium citrate, sodium bicarbonate, potassium bicarbonate, potassium citrate, potassium sulfate or disodium phosphate. These minerals are added to produce a slightly salty taste.
In 1767, Joseph Priestly (1733-1804) discovered the method of infusing carbon dioxide gas into water. He thought it had a pleasant taste and offered it to his friends as a cool, refreshing drink. In the United States, it was known as soda water because of the sodium salts it contained. The New York Times reported in July, 1877, that 200,000 glasses a day were being consumed in the city.
Soda pop first appeared in Philadelphia in the 1830s. By 1900, there were 2,763 bottling plants in the United States. It was a $25 million industry. A glass of soda water, plain, cost two cents from a street vendor. Drug stores and restaurants charged as much as a dime. The popularity of the drink has grown steadily since that time.
Harry Golden, the editor of The Carolina Israelite, became a close friend of Carl Sandburg after the Sandburgs moved to North Carolina. He wrote a book entitled For Two Cents Plain. During the Great Depression Golden lived in the slums of New York and recalled purchasing a glass of soda water, plain, for two cents. If flavoring was added, the cost was five cents.
Soda pop or soft drinks are carbonated beverages containing sweeteners and flavorings. Fruit flavors such as orange and lemon-lime are popular as well as gingerale and rootbeer. Cola beverages have been popular for decades. They contain a small amount of caffeine plus other ingredients which prolong the shelf life of the product.
Specially made glass bottles were produced as containers for soda water. Some had a wire bale and a rubber gasket to keep the container sealed. Others had a glass ball inside the container which was held in place by the gas pressure inside. These containers are now very collectible and prices may range up to $30 each.
Today soda pop is packaged in aluminum cans and plastic bottles so light that the liquid inside helps to maintain the shape of the container. When we open a can or bottle, pressure is released allowing the gas to come out of solution forming bubbles. It is a familiar sound to each of us.