Rochester’s 19th Century Bottling Industry – Doerner


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.

George’s milk business is also mentioned in a 1918 publication of “Milk Plant Monthly, Vol. 7” (see here). The article is titled “Rochester Milk Dealers Consolidate”, and it says that “The Consolidated Milk Company is the name of a company at Rochester, N.Y., which has taken over the business of Benjamin P. Masseth, Lucius A. Mertz, F.A. Cramer, F.J. Woodworth, and George L. Doerner. …The organizers expect to effect large economies by the elimination of duplication of milk routes and separate plants, and eventually bring down the price of milk, as well as to conserve power, light, etc.”
Below is an aerial view of the location of the business, 10 Whalin Street, Rochester NY
Another (much later) mention of George can be found in the “Rochester Daily Record” (see here) from Friday, January 21, 1938. It states: “Doerner, Geo L, et ano, d/b/a. Doerner’s Bottling Works to Genesee Valley Tr. co part lot 445, Hamilton St, etc., $9750.”
It is my assumption that with the consolidation of George’s milk business, he proceeded to create another bottling industry in Rochester, this time producing sparkling beverages. Referred to as Doerner Bottling Inc., Doerner Beverages INC, Doerner’s Bottling Works, or Doerner’s Beverages. I own several of the bottles from this era of the business, including the image to the right, which is a small (single sized, 6 oz.) bottle form some sort of sparking beverage.
Above is the back of this 6 0z. bottle. Nothing particularly interesting, just noting the Doerner signature label and Rochester NY location. The label is painted on the small bottle featured above, indicating a later production of. The bottle to the right has a paper label, indicating that it was likely produced in the 1930’s when paper labels were the general trend in bottle production and design.

DSC_0044This 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.

Interestingly, this particular bottle also has the Doerner name in raised relief on the back of the bottle.  This is the only one out of the 3 bottles that I have with any sort of glass-design, and the reason I was so interested in the photograph that was emailed to me yesterday – it’s the second raised relief Doerner bottle I’ve seen.


This is the third bottle, a 30 fl. oz. container for another unnamed sparkling beverage. This label is painted, not paper, and is aesthetically similar to the 6 oz. bottle, leading me to believe they are contemporaneous (probably produced within the same year). Unlike the other bottles, this one has the Doerner label painted twice on the front, as well as a label on the back. This is the back of the bottle shown above. If you compare it to the back label of the 6 oz. bottle, they are exactly the same, again indicating contemporaneous production. Since the paper labelled bottle can be tentatively dated to the 1930’s, these two bottles are likely from the 1940’s or 1950’s.

Screen Shot 2013-03-10 at 1.11.22 PM

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.

In this online version of the Rochester Daily Record, (see here) it is noted that in 1941, Doerner Bottling Works was issued its first commercial automobile license, allowing the company to grow geographically and distribute bottled goods to a wider area.
To the right is another advertisement, this one from the 1935 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (see here). Again, Doerner Bottling Works is listed among Monroe County Bottlers, and the price of the beverages remains 2 for 25 cents.

Screen Shot 2013-03-10 at 1.19.14 PM

The study of Rochester’s production industry is quite interesting, as well as relevant to the development of Rochester throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. What interested me the most about the history of the milk industry and bottling industry in Rochester is the continuity of George L. Doerner’s milk business, and its transition into the more modernized and broader based sparkling beverages industry.  Not only does this study constitute an important part of local Rochester history, but it is also family history, and therefore was fascinating to delve into. If anyone out there is looking to do any further research into the Rochester milk industries or bottling industry, feel free to contact me for more information, I accumulated quite a few sources while researching the Doerner family and their involvement in the development of Rochesterian production of goods.



5 responses to “Rochester’s 19th Century Bottling Industry – Doerner

  1. Although I have in my collection a paper label DOERNER’S” bottle I’ve never seen (or heard of) an acl (applied color label) from that bottler. It’s is awesome, as is the article.

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