Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

September 27, 2012

Dalton column: Mystery - and history - of 1930s bottle

Bill Dalton
The Andover Townsman

---- — The beautiful

green bottle pictured on page 15 was discovered in an antique store by Tara Masih, a local editor, writer and former antiques dealer. She found the bottle in a nearby antique store and asked if I could help her discover more information about its history. The bottle says, “Shawsheen Bottling Company, Shawsheen Village, Andover, Mass.,” and its volume is stated as “1 pint 10 ounces.”

I know Shawsheen Dairy was on Tantallon Road, a now nonexistent road that ran between Haverhill Street and Riverina Road, but the bottle doesn’t look like anything a dairy used.

Since Shawsheen Village was called Frye Village until 1919, and the 1920 street directory lists Shawsheen Mills as being the only “Shawsheen” business, Shawsheen Bottling Company likely came into existence after 1920.

In 1926, there was a Shawsheen Spring Bottling Company in Shawsheen Village, according to the book “Andover, A Century of Change” (Eleanor Motley Richardson, Andover Historical Society, 1995), but no location is given. However, I found a document saying that, in 1932, Shawsheen Bottling Company acquired 11-13 Stevens St., Lawrence, and used that location for manufacturing, selling, and distributing carbonated waters until June 11,1946, when the property and bottling equipment was sold to Royal Crown. Furthermore, online I found a bottle for sale that resembles our bottle, only it’s not green. The seller dates it at 1933, and it has “Shawsheen Bottling Co. Lawrence Mass.” on its label, not mentioning either Shawsheen Village or Andover. This would all indicate that our green bottle must have been made in Shawsheen Village between 1921 and 1932.

And what was the bottle used for? The fact that the sturdy-looking, reusable bottle advertises itself rather than any contents suggests to me that some folks could have used it in a way to bypass Prohibition. The dates of the bottling company’s existence in Shawsheen are within the period of Prohibition, 1920-1933, which outlawed the sale, manufacture or transportation of alcohol, but did not prohibit its private ownership or consumption. Additionally, wine could be made at home, under the legal fiction that it was fruit juice, and books about Prohibition mention that homemade wine and beer was plentiful. Of course, the bottle may have contained more innocent products as well.

This reminds me that 45 years ago I once, only once, made beer in my house; it was kind of an “in” thing to do. I bought bottles, caps, and a press that capped the bottles and then followed a recipe that was in a popular magazine. After capping, the beer was supposed to sit for a certain time, say three weeks, and was then ready to drink.

Almost three weeks after the bottling, I heard a loud pop, like a .22 caliber rifle, and the source of the noise was one of the three dozen bottles of beer I made. It blew its lid with such violence that I was afraid to touch the other bottles. Within hours, they blew as well, leaving the closet that contained them looking like a scene that deserved a CSI visit. I tasted some of the liquid that didn’t explode on the closet’s contents and thought it was something only a rummy might consume. Strangely, I kind of liked it.



Bill Dalton writes a weekly column for the Andover Townsman, and his email address is BillDalton@AndoverTownie.com.