Just yesterday I received an interesting email from a fellow Rochesterian , with a photo of a ‘Doerner’ bottle and an inquiry as to whether it may have been a milk bottle. I’m guessing this individual found an old blog post of mine about the history of bottling in early 20th century Rochester and my family’s involvement in this industry. I thought this would be a great opportunity to share the research I’ve done on the Doerner bottling company, (hallmark of a material culture enthusiast, right?) and show this new photo of what I deemed to be a soda bottle rather than a milk bottle. Check it out!
This is the photograph that was emailed to me. Looking at it, although simplistic, you can tell a few things right off the bat. The logo on the bottle is imprinted, rather than on a paper label or painted on – indicating it is most likely from the late 1930’s or early 1940’s. The bottle prominently display’s the business’s address – ’10 Whalen Street, Rochester NY’ – a location which you can read more about below. This one object presents an interesting perspective into Rochester’s early 20th century industries and culture. The next section is comprised of the information that I have been able to gather regarding this industry (and a little bit of family history mixed in) – I am a Doerner, after all.
Much of the early history of Rochester, NY deals with the production of goods – the earliest being hard cider and ash, and most notably flour. Nineteenth-century Rochesterian production of goods was equally lucrative, and my current examination of production regards milk and bottled beverages. The family name on my father’s side (Doerner) is associated with some of the earliest milk companies in Rochester, and the same family later took up the production of bottled beverages (mostly pale dry ales and sparking water).
My great great grandfather George L. Doerner owned one of the early successful milk companies in Rochester. (He is the man sitting on the left of the image). Born in 1875, George’s milk business in Rochester fell into the late 19th century and early 20th century. Few listings of the company exist (as there as unfortunately been little research on 19th century milk production in Rochester). However I have found some mentions here and there of the company, mostly in Rochester business directories. George’s milk business operated out of a location on 10 Whalin Street, in Rochester NY. I am unsure of whether or not the building that currently stands at this location is the original one, but it is very possible.
His milk business is briefly mentioned in the series “The Milk Dealer,” published in 1918 by Pennsylvania state university. In Volume 7 of this publication (which you can view here), it states: “The Consolidated Milk Co., Rochester, has incorporated with capital stock of $95,000 and the following incorporators: F. J. Woodworth, B.P. Masseth, and G.L. Doerner, all of Rochester.” I am not aware of the dates that the milk business ran, but seeing as the “Milk Dealer” was published in 1918 and describes the consolidation of George’s milk business, I would assume that it ran somewhere between 1895 and 1918. Also, note the horse-drawn milk cart! I have unfortunately never come across any Doerner milk bottles (but I know they’re out there). I do however own several of the Doerner sparkling beverage bottles, which I will discuss shortly.
This label is actually quite well preserved, as paper labels don’t generally survive very well. It is a bit stained and torn, but otherwise in quite good (and definitely readable) condition. Note the address as the bottom of the label, indicating that the business is still operating out of 10 Whalin Street in Rochester.
Doerner Bottling Works INC is also mentioned in some 20th century newspapers, generally as advertisements.
In an online copy of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle from Sunday, December 8th 1935 (see here), is an advertisement for sparkling beverages. As you can see, this advertisement gives and idea of the cost of sparkling beverages, and lists the Doerner Bottling Works as some one of the companies in Rochester that produced these goods.
– “The Milk Dealer” vol. 7
– “Milk Plant Monthly” vol. 7
– “Rochester Daily Record” – 1938
– Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – 1935
– Rochester Daily Record – 1941
– Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – 1935