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KNICKERBOCKER,WILLIAM & GEORGE EAGLE, THE CRYSTAL PALACE and More (partIII)
ebay by Gary Guest nasa

....Knickerbocker, the name is synonymous with old New York.Since the days of the Dutch to the 1950’s, with JacobRuppert’s associating a “Father Knickerbocker”(complete in colonial garb) with beer drinking--- theKnickerbocker name has always been a part of New York folklore.

Fourbottles that bear the Knickerbocker name. The two stonewares anddated glass "1848"bottle to the right are from William Pond (c 1848-1863). The S.S(Samuel Smith) stoneware is from the early 1850's.


Actually the first Knickerbocker was a real person, and as far aswe know had nothing to do with beer or bottles. Harmen JansenKnikkerbakker (which was later anglicized to Knickerbocker andoriginally meant “baker of marbles”) migrated to thenewly renamed English colony of New York in 1674.

By the early 1800’s the Knickerbocker name was furtherlinked to New York and particularly to New York City by thewritings of Washington Irving. In 1809, Irving published“A History of New York From The Beginnings Of The World ToThe End Of The Dutch Dynasty”. In it, and in many ofIrving’s short stories that followed, the idea of a mythicalfather figure for the city took hold. There was even aKnickerbocker magazine published from 1837 to 1865 that regularlyfeatured articles about the city, highlighting local travel,humor, and literary stories for its loyal readers.
So it should come as no surprise that by the 1840’s manybusinesses were capitalizing on the Knickerbocker name. If itcould be canned, eaten, stored or bottled, products often didbetter on the market if they were associated with some sort ofKnickerbocker slogan. There was Knickerbocker ice, shoe and stovepolish, Knickerbocker insurance, and of course, Knickerbockersoda and mineral water.

The S.Smith iron pontil example is from the late 1840's. Manhattandirectories first list Samuel Smith as a brewer in 1844. By 1850additional listings include; Brewer and Congress Water bottlerand soda water.


For collectors of early sodas the bottles that most often come tomind when your thinking Knickerbocker are those of W.P. (WilliamPond) and S.S. (Samuel Smith) Knickerbocker. Although the two mencollectively produced a number of round sodas and mineral waters,porter and ales, and stoneware bottles, only a few are embossedwith the Knickerbocker name in addition to there own initials. Asyou might expect, the Knickerbocker name was simply a draw forconsumers and did not represent a real person.
The most familiar Knickerbockers from both William Pond andSamuel Smith are the sided cobalt-blue sodas embossed with the164 18th Street address and the 1848 date. Predictably, bothsided variants date from the ‘heyday’ of sided sodasand mineral waters --- the late 1840’s to the early1850’s.

Samuel Smith’s sided bottles are known in medium blue andemerald-green, and rarer shades of aqua-green and truecobalt-blue. The earliest lips are typically what you’dexpect to find on sodas from this period --- wide sloping collarsrather than a thicker standard looking blob.

Inaddition to the three Brockway bottles, there is a fourth glassvariation similar to the one on the left (with more of a slopingshoulder). An 8 oz. small sized stoneware is also known debossed,W.E. Brockway. Note the tops - very uncharacteristic for New Yorkbottles.

Another ten-sided soda from Smithwith a later 1852 date (embossed “18 SS 52”) is alsoknown in cobalt-blue with a bulbous blob more characteristic ofthe 1850’s. Unlike most other sided examples from SamuelSmith, it is a lot harder to find than ones embossed with theaddress and 1848 date. Additional Smith bottles carrying theKnickerbocker name include: a round iron pontil example embossedS. Smith’s Knickerbocker Mineral & Soda Waters, from thelater 1840’s, and an 8oz. stoneware in a dark Albany slipglaze debossed, S.S. Knickerbocker Porter 1849, as well as acommoner 8oz. S.S. Knickerbocker, with no additional debossment.
As for W.P. (William Pond) there are also several bottles known,both glass and stoneware, that bear the Knickerbocker name.Perhaps the best known sided bottles from
New York City are WilliamPond’s Knickerbocker Soda Waters. Pond’s sided sodasare embossed with the same 164 18th Street address as are SamuelSmith’s bottles. Given that both are embossed the same, andrepresent different individuals, it’s likely that theaddress was a bottling house shared by both businesses. Inaddition to the familiar 10 sided examples there are at least two8oz. stoneware bottles known from William Pond, and a round glassbottle with date and address that bear Pond’s initials andthe Knickerbocker name.

TheCrystal Palace opened in New York City in 1853. To help WilliamEagle, the Union Glass Works produce the bottle in four colors,dark green, teal green, aqua, and cobalt blue.


Sided W.P. Knickerbockers are known in cobalt, sapphire, and tealblue, aqua, and varying shades of green, both with slopingcollars and a traditional looking blob. Stoneware bottles arewhat you might expect --- colors ranging from earthy browns tovarying shades of gray.
Another familiar name from New York City’s soda past alsohappens to have produced one of the nicest looking pontil bottlesof the 1850’s. The bottles of William Eagle, particularlyhis “Crystal Palace” sodas, which commemoratedthe Crystal Palace in London, and later in New York City; belongto a select group of iron-pontil “picture”sodas from that period.
In essence, the exhibit was America’s first Worlds Fair, andwas a replica of the original built in London in 1851.America’s Crystal Palace opened on July 14, 1853 withPresident Franklin Pierce and a host of congressmen and New Yorkdignitaries on hand for the opening day festivities. From theSecretary of State (Jefferson Davis) to the city’s mayor --if you were known politically, you were on hand that first day.
The building itself was a huge glass and iron dome structure thatonce stood just west of the old 42nd Street Croton Reservoirpumping station, between Fifth and Sixth avenues in today’s “midtown”area of Manhattan. In addition to specialty shops and individualexhibits there was a 225 foot cast iron tower built(Latting’s Observatory) adjacent to the palace complex thatalso featured small shops, ice cream and soda parlors, and agrand view of open country as far north as the village of Harlem,and southward, toward the encroaching city that was movingsteadily north.

To be sure, in its day the Crystal Palace was the talk of thetown. There were crystal fruit stalls and livery stables,billiard parlors, and hotels all named in honor of theexhibition. On the streets, vendors and cartmen sold all types ofpalace memorabilia, from banners and pins to exotic foods andtableware, all imported for the gala event.

A 10-sidedpontil soda from Samuel Smith. William Pond (W.P.) also produced "KnickerbockerSided Bottles". Both are among themost common of sided bottles from New York City.


What better way for a young enterprising soda maker like WilliamEagle to sell his brands of bottled sodas and mineral waters thanto immortalize the Palace forever on some of his embossedbottles.
The business began in 1845 at 150 Fulton Street not far from thesite of today’s World Trade Center. Judging from theearliest listing William must have been related to George Eagle(presumably a son) because residences for both in 1845 were 150Fulton. Also given the fact that George was in the porterbusiness as early as 1840 at another location, and in 1843 onFulton Street makes it likely that the two were definitelyrelated. By the time of the Crystal Palace William Eagle hadmoved his business uptown a bit to Canal and Varick streets. Likemost other soda bottlers at the time he also bottled mineralwaters, porters, and ales, champagne ciders, and a variety ofimports. An 1851 advertisement lists premium mineral waters, aleand bottles elder (elder was a popular term used in thenineteenth century bottling industry meaning “older oraged”.

Judging from the amount of Eagle bottles thebusiness was certainly prolific, and remained at the samelocation all through its most productive years, the 1850’s and 60’s.The last listing found for Eagle was in 1885, and by thefollowing year William Eagle had passed away. An 1886 listingrefers to the business as, “Eagle, William (estate of),ales, 1 Vestry St.”
Another great looking “soda” of the1850’s belonged to George Eagle. In business in 1840 (andprobably earlier) on Broadway he had moved to Fulton Street by1843. Unlike William, most of the listings found for Georgeindicate he mostly dealt in ales and bottled porter; only from1851 till 1854 is there any additional mention of sodas andmineral waters. By the time of the Civil War it seems GeorgeEagle has left Fulton Street and entered into semi-retirement.From 1861 till 1864 he is listed as an “ale dealer”from his home at 109 Kings. Later listings (1866-1867) no longergive mention of an occupation. Finally, in 1874, the onlyreference to anyone living at 109 Kings was a “Margaret,wid George”.

Unlikemost other bottlers and beverage makers of the 1850's, GeorgeEagle is known to have used only two different bottle styles. The"swirl" bottle (illustrated) anda mug based mineral water embossed "G.Eagle New York". Both bottles in anycolor are pretty hard to come by!


To date, no stoneware bottles are knownfrom either individual, but who knows, one may surface as aresult of digging or be discovered at a bottle show some day.
Another individual who was bottling sodas, mineral waters andbrewing ale at an early date was William (aka W.E) Brockway. Thebusiness began (1853), like most others at the time, bottlingmineral and soda water, and by 1858, had managed to also become abrewer of various ales and porter.
It seems that Brockway had become more of a brewer than sodamaker or bottler --- listings after 1858 only mention him as abrewer. An 1864 advertisement refers to “W.E.Brockway’s Spa Brewery” at 82 to 92 E. 11th Streetin Manhattan. A similar ad run between 1869 and 1870 gives theaddress as 315 to 321 E. 11 Street and reflects the re-numberingof residences and businesses that was occurring on many streetsat the time.
It’s unlikely that Brockway was doing much bottling by the1860’s because numerous ads only refer to various alesavailable by the barrel, and give no mention of them beingbottled. Moreover, the only known Brockway glass bottles arepontiled, making it likely that they date from the 1850’s.One early aqua example that is iron-pontiled even has the earlierstreet numbers. Even the 8oz. stoneware bottles that are knownare reminiscent of the 1850 period. Generally, most Brockwaybottles are pretty easy to find, and don’t go for a lot ofbucks.
That’s about it for now. A little historical background onjust a few of the many beverage makers and bottlers that seemedto burst on the scene beginning in the mid-1840’s. A specialthanks to my digging cohorts and friends, Richie Johnson (forletting me borrow some of his sodas for drawing) and JackFortmeyer for updated information of New York’s many creamsodas.....

REFERENCES FORTHE THREE PART SERIES:

Tweed’s New York - Another Look,
Leo Hershkowitw,Garden City, N.Y. 1977
The Historical Atlas of New York City,
Eric Homberger, N.Y. 1994
Incredible New York, Lloyd Morris, 1951, 1975

 


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