Sandburg's Hometown

August 4, 2014

Soda Water Machine - 1878

Soda Water

by Barbara Schock

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.


Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
August 11, 2014 Soda Water
August 4, 2014 Sweet Corn
July 28, 2014 Marching Through Georgia
July 21, 2014 The Knox County Fair
July 14, 2014 The Panic of 1893
July 7, 2014 The Rev. T. N. Hasselquist
June 30, 2014 The Knox County Courthouse
June 23, 2014 The Family Photograph Album
June 16, 2014 Parades
June 9, 2014 Lingonberries
June 2, 2014 Where We Live
May 26, 2014 Old Main
May 19, 2014 Rhythms of the Railroad
May 12, 2014 Spring Tonic
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013  Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013  Lace Curtains 
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity