Wisconsin antique bottle and advertising club

M. Kom Superior Mineral Water / Great Western

One of Wisconsin’s earliest embossed soda bottles

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 newspaper called the Tagliche Wisconsin-Banner in summer of 1850 offering carbonated Lemon Mineral Water in bottles. It ran regularly from May 21 through June of 1850. I could not find any other ads from before or after that. The ad mentions an assistant named Moris Morgenshien. Moris is listed as a saloon keeper in the 1851 Milwaukee 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 Milwaukee city directory published in 1850 and Kom is not listed in the 1849 or 1851 directories, nor is he listed in the 1850 Federal Census for Milwaukee. We do know that he was married on December 9, 1850 to a Milwaukee woman named Friedricka Altreuter. Jacob Funk signed the Marriage Certificate as a witness. Funk is listed in the 1851 Milwaukee city directory as a saloon keeper. Michael Kom put on the marriage certificate that he was 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 the 1850 season.

Kom's factory was located at 38 Huron St. near the city pier. In 1850 there was no rail connection to Milwaukee 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 of 1850. 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 of his bottles from the Great Western Steamship Co. which ran from Bristol to New York. The steam-powered Great Western wood paddle ship delivered thousands of immigrants from Europe to New York from 1838 to 1846. While Michael Kom came to the US on the ship Geraldine from Rotterdam to New York in May, 1846, he may have gotten the idea from the Great Western ship which was well known at the time.

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 (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. Another contender for oldest Wisconsin embossed bottle is the Blossom's Badger Ale. The earliest reference to this brand is late 1850 but it could be earlier.

Between 1852 and 1854 Michael Kom and Friedricka 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 in the 1860 census. Michael died in 1863 at the age of 49 and is buried in Oquaqua. The circumstances of his death are unknown. Friedricka 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, Discovery, PopularNumber of views: 5969

Tags: Milwaukee

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