Wisconsin antique bottle and advertising club

Otto Zwietusch


"As you enter the door, you sniff what seems to be the perfume of a thousand roses, but after becoming accustomed to the laden atmosphere the odors are easily traced to the bottles of sarsaparilla on the adjacent shelf. The proprietor was found a typical German; round faced, good-natured, and at once made the news hunter feel that he was welcome."
Milwaukee Sentinel - July 5, 1878.
0. Zwietusch is a very familiar name to diggers and collectors in the southeastern Wisconsin area where soda bottles with his name are regularly found. Styles range from long neck blob sodas to early hutch - a span of 30 years. There are also some very unusual and interesting bottles from this company. Hoping to learn more about the man and his business, I did some research and the following is what I learned.

Otto came to Milwaukee from Germany in spring of 1856 at the age of 24 and worked in a machine shop for two years. In 1858 he started a brewery with Christian Forester, who had been a partner of brewer George Wehr since 1853. Zwietusch & Wehr were together until 1862. After that, Otto continued the business at the same location, but it is not known what became of Mr. Forster, and no bottles are known to exist from the partnership.

In the early 1860's city directories list Otto Zwietusch as a brewer. However, by 1864 Zwietusch stopped advertising beer, and instead advertised in the "Mineral Water Manufacturer" and the "Soda Water Manufacturer" sections of the Milwaukee city directories. Based on the size of these ads, he apparently sold more mineral water than soda. Most of the Zwietusch glass bottles from this period are traditional long neck blobs. It was reported that in 1866 a fire damaged part of his building. Aside from this report, there is little other information is available about the business in the 1860's.

In December, 1872 Zwietusch started a $40,000 addition to his manufacturing and bottling plant. Besides adding capacity, new equipment was installed to enable him to bottle champagne and wine. Otto designed and built the bottling equipment used at his plant. The addition was completed in June, 1873. He invited a number of guests for a grand opening to see the new facility and introduce them to domestic champagne - a product formerly available only from foreign sources. According to the Sentinel, the guests "pronounced themselves highly delighted at the sparkle and vim of the Milwaukee imitation of a popular and fashionable exhilarant."

1872 also marked the first of over 50 patents eventually granted to him. This first patent was for equipment used to purify carbonic acid gas (carbon dioxide). Many of his later patents dealt with gas as well. It was said that he had a "decided genius for invention" and was a regular customer of the U.S. Patent office until about 1900. However, many of his later patents were related to the production of beer rather than soda. Designing, building and selling of bottlers' equipment was an important part of Zwietusch's business.

In 1873 he purchased the John Luddemann farm located two miles north of the soda works on the Milwaukee River for $9,000. His purpose was two-fold. The natural spring on the grounds which he called "Apollo Spring" provided a source for mineral water for the bottling operation. The resort also helped promote his products. He named the resort "Mineral Spring Park" and erected a 40' by 80' frame building on the site of the Luddemann home. It contained 16 apartments, parlors, a billiard room, and a restaurant. 480 trees were planted along the walkway to the river, which was also lined with "rustic seats, chairs, and tables."

In 1876 he purchased the Barstow Spring in Waukesha and opened a soda works in the basement of a building on Barstow's block to take advantage of the mineral spring water craze centered in Waukesha. Later that same year the building was destroyed by fire. His equipment was insured for $500, which suggests that the operation was rather limited in size. It is not known if this bottling works later reopened.

Zwietusch's business continued to grow,and by 1880 he employed 26 men. A large part of his business was the manufacture and sales of soda water fountains, draught and generating apparatus, patent beer preservers and other equipment. His soda fountain equipment was displayed at the Milwaukee Exposition and was widely used throughout the city. The 1881 "History of Milwaukee" noted that his manufactory is more complete than any west of New York, and that he supplies the trade throughout the Northwestern, Middle and Southwestern states. His wine cellar was originally used by the Blossom Brewery for beer storage in the late 1840's and early 1850's and was the first vault used for lager beer storage by the Phillip Best Brewing Company (later Pabst).

In 1880 Zwietusch was sued for $20,000 in damages by the G.H. Mumm & Co. Of Reim, France and the Appolinaris Co. of London for champagne and mineral water Trademark violations. He eventually won these cases.

Despite the fact that Zwietusch was a past President of the Anti-Prohibition Society, he recognized the potential of the growing temperance movement. In 1881 he purchased the patent rights to a non-alcoholic malt beverage from Dr. Charles H. Frings of Denver. The next year Otto founded a business called the New Era Brewing Company to market the product. In 1883 he founded the Milwaukee Malt Extract Company which purchased the rights to brew the product from the New Era Brewing Company, then purchased C. Muntzenberger Brewery in Kenosha to brew New Era Beer. Otto's brother Rudolph became the brewery superintendent and Dr. Frings was made general manager. The main sales office was located in Milwaukee with branch offices in Jacksonville, Florida and Philadelphia.

In the later 1880's Zwietusch founded or helped start several other businesses, including the Henry Schinz Bottling Company, the E. Griesbach Brewing Company, and the Joseph Shaver Granite & Marble Company.

Otto was active in local civic groups and politics. He served as the second ward assemblyman, trustee of the Milwaukee Turnverein and the Eintracht Society, and President of the Liberal Reform Union. He also served as the President of the Anti-Prohibition Society and as a delegate to the brewer’s convention.

By 1890, Zwietusch had stopped bottling soda, ending a thirty year era of soda bottling in Milwaukee. Instead, he focused all of his attention to making and selling brewing and soda water bottling supplies and equipment. He continued to develop and patent processes and equipment for brewing until his death about 1904. His business was continued by his sons for a few years after his death.

Other than the old bottles that are found periodically, there is nothing left of his once-thriving business. The site of the business is now parking lot. Otto's most lasting achievement was the creation of Mineral Spring Park, which is now known as Riverside Park. It is one on Milwaukee's most charming parks. A small piece of flat land inside a bend of the Milwaukee River, it is completely cut off from the city by a hill and a limestone railroad trestle. There are no signs of the spring or resort, but it's not hard to imagine the nineteenth century visitors taking the Apollo Spring waters and enjoying this natural beauty of the park.

Zwietusch Bottles
One of the earliest Zwietusch bottles is a salt glazed stoneware beer, probably dating from the early 1860's when Zwietusch was primarily a brewer. There are also salt glazed jugs incised with the same stamp. This is interesting because some of the jugs were clearly made by the C. Hermann & Co. stoneware factory in Milwaukee. Local stoneware bottles are not marked by the maker so you can't tell who made them. The jug not only seems to prove that Hermann made the Zwietusch beer, but also suggests that Hermann made bottles for several other bottlers (such as Meister & Gipfel) based on the similarity of the stamps and glaze. The Jugs are probably the ones referred to in Zwietusch's 1870 newspaper ad as "original jugs". One of his patents was for a process for making stoneware impervious to acids. The glaze on the inside of stoneware containers often have pinholes that allow liquids to penetrate the glaze. The patented process involved immersing the jug in hot paraffin and some additives to seal the pores. It is possible that these jugs were treated in this fashion.

A very interesting Zwietusch bottle has a tall, tapered shape. The mold cutter had some trouble with the name. It is embossed Z. WIETUSCH / MILWAUKEE. There is only one known example of this bottle which was found in St. Louis. It is a smooth base, but it appears to date from the 1860's. It could have been used for either beer or soda.

Another unusual Zwietusch bottle is an aqua smooth base soda or mineral water with an abnormally large blob. It houses a coiled spring that rests on a ledge at the inside bottom of the blob. A rubber gasket is suspended from a wire attached to the top of the spring, which keeps the bottle sealed at all times unless the spring is depressed. The curious thing about the closure is that it would be nearly impossible to pour or drink from the bottle without some type of retainer to keep the spring depressed. It would also seem to be difficult to wash the bottle because the closure is not removable. This appears to be one of the first types of bottles that Zwietusch used. A Michigan digger found a topless green one and reported saw iron pontil marked fragments. Bottles with the same closure were used by J. & A. Lindestrom of Madison, Wisconsin. I've also seen an eastern American soda with a similar lip finish but no internal spring. Given Otto's creativity and tendency to design his own equipment it is possible that designed the bottle and closure and sold it to other bottlers.

Most of the early soda and mineral bottles were the traditional long neck aqua blobs, although they tended to be somewhat more tapered than contemporary bottles. All are smooth base.

During the 1870's Zwietusch apparently mostly used bottles with the Matthews gravitating closure. They are very common in these parts and turn up regularly in 1870's period dumps and privies, attesting to the popularity of his products. It is interesting to note that very few have the usual Matthews bottom embossing (most simply have the initials O.Z.) and that he apparently used mostly wooden Gravitating stoppers. Zwietusch was also one of only a handful of bottles in the U.S to use an amber gravitating stopper bottle. In later years Zwietusch switched to Hutchinson style bottles which are also very common. The most recent of them appear to date from the late 1880’s

Zwietusch's business continued to grow,and by 1880 he employed 26 men. A large part of his business was the manufacture and sales of soda water fountains, draught and generating apparatus, patent beer preservers and other equipment. His soda fountain equipment was displayed at the Milwaukee Exposition and was widely used throughout the city. The 1881 "History of Milwaukee" noted that his manufactory is more complete than any west of New York, and that he supplies the trade throughout the Northwestern, Middle and Southwestern states. His wine cellar was originally used by the Blossom Brewery for beer storage in the late 1840's and early 1850's and was the first vault used for lager beer storage by the Phillip Best Brewing Company (later Pabst).

In 1880 Zwietusch was sued for $20,000 in damages by the G.H. Mumm & Co. Of Reim, France and the Appolinaris Co. of London for champagne and mineral water Trademark violations. He eventually won these cases.

Despite the fact that Zwietusch was a past President of the Anti-Prohibition Society, he recognized the potential of the growing temperance movement. In 1881 he purchased the patent rights to a non-alcoholic malt beverage from Dr. Charles H. Frings of Denver. The next year Otto founded a business called the New Era Brewing Company to market the product. In 1883 he founded the Milwaukee Malt Extract Company which purchased the rights to brew the product from the New Era Brewing Company, then purchased C. Muntzenberger Brewery in Kenosha to brew New Era Beer. Otto's brother Rudolph became the brewery superintendent and Dr. Frings was made general manager. The main sales office was located in Milwaukee with branch offices in Jacksonville, Florida and Philadelphia.

In the later 1880's Zwietusch founded or helped start several other businesses, including the Henry Schinz Bottling Company, the E. Griesbach Brewing Company, and the Joseph Shaver Granite & Marble Company.

Otto was active in local civic groups and politics. He served as the second ward assemblyman, trustee of the Milwaukee Turnverein and the Eintracht Society, and President of the Liberal Reform Union. He also served as the President of the Anti-Prohibition Society and as a delegate to the brewer’s convention.

By 1890, Zwietusch had stopped bottling soda, ending a thirty year era of soda bottling in Milwaukee. Instead, he focused all of his attention to making and selling brewing and soda water bottling supplies and equipment. He continued to develop and patent processes and equipment for brewing until his death about 1904. His business was continued by his sons for a few years after his death.

Other than the old bottles that are found periodically, there is nothing left of his once-thriving business. The site of the business is now parking lot. Otto's most lasting achievement was the creation of Mineral Spring Park, which is now known as Riverside Park. It is one on Milwaukee's most charming parks. A small piece of flat land inside a bend of the Milwaukee River, it is completely cut off from the city by a hill and a limestone railroad trestle. There are no signs of the spring or resort, but it's not hard to imagine the nineteenth century visitors taking the Apollo Spring waters and enjoying this natural beauty of the park.

Zwietusch Bottles
One of the earliest Zwietusch bottles is a salt glazed stoneware beer, probably dating from the early 1860's when Zwietusch was primarily a brewer. There are also salt glazed jugs incised with the same stamp. This is interesting because some of the jugs were clearly made by the C. Hermann & Co. stoneware factory in Milwaukee. Local stoneware bottles are not marked by the maker so you can't tell who made them. The jug not only seems to prove that Hermann made the Zwietusch beer, but also suggests that Hermann made bottles for several other bottlers (such as Meister & Gipfel) based on the similarity of the stamps and glaze. The Jugs are probably the ones referred to in Zwietusch's 1870 newspaper ad as "original jugs". One of his patents was for a process for making stoneware impervious to acids. The glaze on the inside of stoneware containers often have pinholes that allow liquids to penetrate the glaze. The patented process involved immersing the jug in hot paraffin and some additives to seal the pores. It is possible that these jugs were treated in this fashion.

A very interesting Zwietusch bottle has a tall, tapered shape. The mold cutter had some trouble with the name. It is embossed Z. WIETUSCH / MILWAUKEE. There is only one known example of this bottle which was found in St. Louis. It is a smooth base, but it appears to date from the 1860's. It could have been used for either beer or soda.

Another unusual Zwietusch bottle is an aqua smooth base soda or mineral water with an abnormally large blob. It houses a coiled spring that rests on a ledge at the inside bottom of the blob. A rubber gasket is suspended from a wire attached to the top of the spring, which keeps the bottle sealed at all times unless the spring is depressed. The curious thing about the closure is that it would be nearly impossible to pour or drink from the bottle without some type of retainer to keep the spring depressed. It would also seem to be difficult to wash the bottle because the closure is not removable. This appears to be one of the first types of bottles that Zwietusch used. A Michigan digger found a topless green one and reported saw iron pontil marked fragments. Bottles with the same closure were used by J. & A. Lindestrom of Madison, Wisconsin. I've also seen an eastern American soda with a similar lip finish but no internal spring. Given Otto's creativity and tendency to design his own equipment it is possible that designed the bottle and closure and sold it to other bottlers.

Most of the early soda and mineral bottles were the traditional long neck aqua blobs, although they tended to be somewhat more tapered than contemporary bottles. All are smooth base.

During the 1870's Zwietusch apparently mostly used bottles with the Matthews gravitating closure. They are very common in these parts and turn up regularly in 1870's period dumps and privies, attesting to the popularity of his products. It is interesting to note that very few have the usual Matthews bottom embossing (most simply have the initials O.Z.) and that he apparently used mostly wooden Gravitating stoppers. Zwietusch was also one of only a handful of bottles in the U.S to use an amber gravitating stopper bottle. In later years Zwietusch switched to Hutchinson style bottles which are also very common. The most recent of them appear to date from the late 1880’s
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Author: Peter Maas
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