Wisconsin antique bottle and advertising club

M. Kom Mineral Water / Great Western

Wisconsin’s earliest bottle?

The May-June edition of Bottles & Extras included an article by Tod van Meechow about L.R. Comstock that also mentioned the M Kom “maverick” soda. The fact that two of them were found in Wisconsin got me curious so I did some research. It turns out that this bottle is in fact Milwaukee in origin.

Michael Kom ran an ad in the German language daily rag called the Tagliche Wisconsin-Banner in summer of 1850 offering carbonated Lemon Mineral Water in bottles. It ran regularly May 21 through June of 1850. I could not find any other ads from or after that. The ad mentions an assistant named Moris Morgenshein. Moris is listed as a saloon keeper in the 1851 city directory. His saloon was about eight blocks away on Market Street.


Original AdAd Translated to English

Michael Kom is difficult to track down. There was no city directory published in 1850 and Michael is not listed in the 1849 or ’51 directories, nor is he listed in the 1850 Milwaukee census. We do know that he was married on December 9, 1850 to a Milwaukee woman named Friederica Altreuter. One witness was Jacob Fuchs who is listed in the 1851 city directory as a saloon keeper. Michael Kom is listed as a resident of Burlington, Wisconsin. It is possible that he lived in Burlington and came to Milwaukee for the summer soda bottling season or that he moved to Burlington after.

His factory was located at the foot of Huron St. near the city pier. In 1850 there was no rail connection yet so almost every Milwaukee immigrant walked right past his factory. It was a block away from the Lake Brewery where John and Joseph Taylor rented space and bottled small beer and mineral water that same summer. It is very likely that Kom and the Taylors, as contemporaries and competitors, knew each other.

Mr. Kom may have gotten the idea for the “Great Western” slogan on the back from the Great Western Steamship Co. which ran from Bristol to New York. The Great Western wood paddle ship delivered thousands of immigrants from Europe to New York from 1838 to 1846. It is certainly possible that Kom was conveyed to the US on this ship and was paying tribute to his transportation to America.

This bottle is important to Wisconsin collectors for several reasons. It is only the third company from Milwaukee known to use embossed colored pontil marked soda bottles, the others being Taylor and Brother (1850/51) and Wm. Hopkins (late 1850’s). It may be the oldest Wisconsin soda bottle discovered so far. Technically, the Kom bottle is tied with the Taylor Brothers cobalt sided soda for the "earliest Wisconsin soda" title since the 1850 census shows they were also bottling in Milwaukee that summer. It is the only Wisconsin green pontil marked soda and with the slogan on the back, great color and crudely applied cone top it has to rank as Wisconsin’s best soda.

In 1858 Michael Kom and Friederica moved to Oquaqua, Illinois which is a small town in northern part of the state on the Mississippi river. He is listed as a grocer there. Michael died in 1863 at the age of 49 and is buried in Oquaqua. The circumstances of his death are unknown. Friederica remarried in 1865 and their daughter Bertha was married in 1872.  Friederica passed away in 1904.


Author: Peter Maas
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Categories: Soda/Mineral Water, DiscoveryNumber of views: 2233

Tags: Milwaukee

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