Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, January 19, 2003, pg. 15
A special thanks to all those who attended my talk on January 9 about the history of the Albion Malleable Iron Company. It was aired later that afternoon on our “Hometown TV” cable channel. If you’d like your own copy of the 2-hour videotape, contact Larry Brooks at (517) 629-9683 for further information. I’m also looking for copies of the Albion Malleable Iron Company “Circle-A-Tor” newsletter from 1946-1949, and certain specific issues in the 1950s and 1960s after that for my archives. If you have any of these, please give me a call at 629-5402 or by e-mail at: email@example.com. I’ll put them to good use and research.
When flavored soda pop (soft drinks) was invented and became popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, numerous bottling operations sprang up across the country in order to quench the thirst of thousands of new drinkers. These provided “local flavor” alternatives to the national brands. Albion was no exception, and had its own local “pop works.”
Oliver L. Gassette was an entrepreneur who came to town circa 1900 and opened his soda bottling operations here. He lived at 402½ S. Superior St. in the Peabody Block in downtown Albion, and is listed in the 1901 Michigan Gazetteer simply as a “bottler.”
By the following year Albion plumber William J. Porr had bought into the growing business and it became known as Porr and Gassette. Porr was well known in town as the superintendent of the sewer department for the City of Albion. He was also in charge of laying Albion’s original water and sewer system, and the filling of the “Black Ditch” into a sewer line. Porr subsequently purchased the bottling business outright from Gassette and it became known as the Albion Bottling Works. The 1903-04 Gazetteer lists Porr as the owner, and the firm as manufacturing soda, mineral water, and soft drinks.
The novelty apparently was quite successful. A local news item dated June 19, 1902 stated, “The pop works is doing a rushing business nowadays. A few days ago one order was received for 270 dozen [NOTE: 3,240 bottles] bottles of pop and it was necessary for W. J. Porr to go to Jackson after a carload of empty bottles.” The firm was in existence for only a few years, as state and national enterprises gained the foothold in the competitive soft drink business. Today, people will occasionally dig up one of the local Albion bottles manufactured by this firm, reminding us of its existence a century ago.
The bottles will either state “Porr & Gassette,” or later, “Albion Bottling Works.” The bottle we are featuring here is 3½ inches in diameter, and 9½ inches tall including the lip. It weighs 1 lb, and holds just under 1 liter of liquid. The opening at the top is 7/8 inches in diameter, where a cork would be placed to seal the contents. A metal wire mechanism was placed around the top to hold the cork in place. The glass itself is thick, and has an uneven bottom thickness due to its individual production. In the center within a circle appears the legend: “PORR & GASSETTE BOTTLERS ALBION, MICH.” No consideration was made to allow air to easily enter when pouring. Thus there is not an even flow when pouring, but instead an irregular slow moving gurgling mix of liquid and air. This particular bottle would probably date 1901-02.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of a local Porr & Gassette bottle, owned by Bob VanEck. I’ve temporarily colored the clear glass raised lettering in order that it could be easily discerned, and filled the bottle with white beads for our photographing purposes. How many of our readers have any similar bottles from Albion today?
Porr & Gassette bottle
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic