The Bluefield Coca Cola bottling company started out as H. B. Shelton & Co. sometime before 1893 at 17 McColloch Ave, with Harvey B. Shelton and George S. Stradler listed.(1) By 1904 it is listed in the city directory as the Hygeia Distilled Water Company at the same location.(1) A 1939 ad in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph claims that the Bluefield Coca-Cola Company had been bottling the Coca-Cola brand in Blufield WV for thirty five years (5), which would put its picking up the brand squarely in 1904. Indeed by 1910 the company has changed its name to the Bluefield Bottling Company. The plant is still located at 15-17 McCulloch Avenue, and Edgar W. Akers is listed as manager, and he would remain in this position until at least 1915.(1) An interesting classified ran in the “American Bottler”, a bottling industry magazine, from the Bluefield Bottling Company, which among other items were selling two Hutchinson Tables, and 100 gross Hutchinson Stopper Bottles.(6) This is proof of something I knew had to exist and that is Bluefield, WV Hutchinson type bottles which employed a metal wire with a rubber gasket which would seal the bottle by being pulled against the inside of the neck. Unfortunately none have turned up in my six years of collecting so far.

November 23, 1915 the Bluefield Daily Telegraph announced that work had started on the new bottling plant for the Bluefield Bottling Company.(5) The blurb goes on to note that the old two story frame structure that the company had been occupying on McCulloch Avenue since its inception was torn down to make way for a new three story fire proof building, which still stands today.(5) In the National Association of Creditmen's January 1916 issue there is a listing for a new member of the association in the form of H. Milnor Mitchell listed as being over The Keystone Bottling Company of Bluefield, West Virginia.(3) This is the only mention of the Bluefield Bottling Company being called the Keystone Bottling Company that I have found so far. On August 14, 1916 it is announced in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph that the company has picked up a grape soda by the name of Grape Smash.(5) The entire Keystone Bottling Group is distributing Reif’s Special, which was a hops flavored temperance drink, in 1917.(5)

In order to understand the history of the Bluefield Bottling Company you have to know something of the bottling group known as the Keystone Bottling Company who they were a part of. The Keystone Bottling Company, whose principal office was located in Keystone, West Virginia, was incorporated on February 2, 1907.(4) The stockholders of the company was C. S. Angel of Northfork W. VA, C. C. Hale of Keystone, VA, C. W. Elliot of Northfork, W. VA, W. E. Stuart of Keystone, W. VA, and T. W. Zink of Keystone, W. VA.(4) This company was a group of bottlers with branches in Keystone, W. VA(4), Welch, W. VA(2), North Fork, W. VA(2), Bluefield, W. VA(3), and finally Pikeville, KY(5). The main product of this bottling group was Coca-Cola, and eventually Nu-Grape. This bottling group identified its bottles not by using a town name on them, although there are some examples of them doing so, but by using the initials K. B. Co. which is usually located on the bottom of the bottles including their Coca-Cola Bottles. In 1909 the main office of the company were moved to Northfork, WV, and on April 23, 1930 they would change the name of the corporation to the Northfork Coca-Cola Bottling Company.(7) It was also around 1930 when the Rock Mineral Springs Company, makers of the Rock Cliff Ginger Ale brand, was added to the bottling group.

By 1919 Charles M. Perdue has taken over as manager of the Bluefield Bottling Company, and the company moves from McColloch Ave. to 1217-1221 Bluefield Ave around 1921.(1) The company is now operating with C. S. Angel as president, W. E. Stewart as Vice President, H. Milnor Mitchell as Treasurer, and J. H. Bowman as Secretary.(1) Polk's City Directory also notes that they are bottling Coca-Cola, Cherry Blossom, and Southern Breeze Ginger Ale (1). In 1923 William McKinley Mays is listed as manager of the company, with Waverly T. Jackson taking over the reins by 1925.(1) Around 1924 they change their name to The Bluefield Coca Cola bottling company, and introduce a new chocolate drink named Mil-Coa, which was created in Cincinnati, OH, and Nu-Grape to the area in 1926.(5) Jackson Continues as manager until around 1930 when J. J. Huddleston takes over as President, with Thomas B. Hoilman as Secretary, and H. Milnor Mitchell as Treasurer.(1) In 1933 the Northfork Coca-Cola Bottling Company group has move their main offices to Welch, WV.(7) In 1931 the Bluefield Coca-Cola Bottling Company are distributing Rock Cliff Ginger Ale, which is made in Rock, WV.(5)

In 1933, like many bottling companies after the repeal of Prohibition, the company starts distributing Budweiser beer. By 1934 H. Milnor Mitchell is listed as general manager a position he will keep until 1955 when W. Otis Bivins took over the position after Mitchell’s death. In 1935 the company has also started distributing Old Topper Snappy Ale.(5) The main offices for the Northfork Coca-Cola Company were moved to Bluefield WV in 1958, and the equipment of the Rock Mineral Springs Company would be moved there around the same time.(7) James G. Connor takes over the position during the 1960’s and is responsible for buying out the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company of Bluefield, VA in the summer of 1968, Connor requests earlier retirement in 1970 due to health reasons, with Thomas B. Hoilman taking over.(5) The Northfork Coca-Cola Bottling Company is merged into a new Northfork Coca-Cola Company which is incorporated in the state of Deleware.(7) Bluefield Coca-Cola Bottling Company will continue to operate at the Bluefield Avenue location until around 1977.(1) There is still a Coca-Cola distribution center in Bluefield, WV; however, they don’t operate out of the building on Bluefield Avenue.

The original McColloch Ave. location for the Bluefield Bottling Company, and it still stands today; however, not in it's original 1893 form of course.

Post card depicting the Bluefield Avenue Coca-Cola plant

Coca Cola of Bluefield, WV as it stands today

Straight Side Coca-Cola “Block Letter” bottle dated 1913 with K. B. Co. embossed on the bottom. The rule of thumb in Coca Cola bottle collecting is that if a straight side bottle doesn’t have the Coca Cola script then it wasn’t used to bottle Coca Cola itself, but was used to bottle a flavor line. Most of these block letter bottles have Coca Cola Bottling Company or some other variation; however, they usually don’t have the Coca-Cola name by itself, and they never have Trademark Registered below the block letter name. That makes this one a bit of a mystery, maybe the Keystone Bottling Company got cheap and ordered these bottles ignoring the general rule.

Straight Side Coca-Cola bottle dated 1916 with K. B. Co. embossed on the bottom which may have been used at the Bluefield Coca-Cola Bottling Company.

Amber version of the above bottle.

Bluewine bottle from Bluefield W VA

The bottom of the bottle.

A vintage pickup truck beside the Bluefield Avenue plant

"Nov. 16, 1915" Coca-Cola bottle with K. B. Co. embossed on the bottom dated 1921, which may have been used at the Bluefield Coca-Cola Bottling Company.

The bottom of the bottle.

Orange Soda cap from Bluefield

6 1/2oz "C. C. Soda" Soda Water bottle from the Bluefield Coca-Cola Bottling Company, with K. B. Co. embossed on the bottom, dated 1923

The bottom of the bottle.

1925 advertisement from the City Directory

A paper label bottle dated 1922 with K. B. Co. embossed on the bottom which may have been used at the Bluefield Coca-Cola Bottling Company. This bottle was possibly used to bottle Ginger Ale.

Ad announcing the introduction of Nu-Grape to Bluefield, WVA

6oz Nu-Grape bottle dated 1925.

6oz Nu-Grape bottle dated 1926.Due to a ruling handed down by the Federal Trade Commission the Nu-Grape Company had to start putting “Not Grape Juice” on their bottles starting in 1926.

6oz Bluefield Bottling Company deco bottle dated 1927

According to an August 6, 1926 blurb from the Graham news section of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph a "local bottler" was offering a new drink called Mil-Coa (which was a Milk Chocolate Drink Bottles) and it was doing well.(4) Unfortunately it was never made clear which "local bottler" was bottling Mil-Coa; however, now I have found information that it was in fact being bottled by the Bluefield Bottling Company of Bluefield, WVA.(4)

9oz Bluefield Bottling Company deco bottle dated 1927

The bottom of the bottle.

December 13, 1933 ad for Budweiser

6oz "Nov. 16, 1915" Coca-Cola bottle with Bluefield W. VA embossed on the bottom dated 1930. This bottle would be used after the Bluefield Bottling Company was sold.

The bottom of the bottle.

Early Coca-Cola bottle cap from Bluefield

September 23, 1936 ad for Rock Cliff Ginger Ale which was distributed by the Bluefield Bottling Company. Rock Mineral Springs Company was part of the Northfork Coca-Cola Bottling group.

6oz "Dec. 25, 1923" or "Christmas Coke" dated 1934

The bottom of the bottle.

Due to the glass shortages of the late 1930’s Bluefield Coca-Cola placed this ad encouraging their customers to return their bottles.

6oz Pat. D-105529 coca cola bottle dated 1950.

The bottom of the bottle.

Another Coca-Cola bottle cap from Bluefield

Coca Cola of Bluefield WVA tall crate dated 1947

6oz "Tradmark registered in patent office" Coca Cola bottle dated 1957

The bottom of the bottle.

A 1970 ad from the City Directories for the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company of Bluefield Inc. which of course now is a division of the Northfork Coca-Cola Bottling Company, and is of course being bottled in the Bluefield Coca-Cola Bottling Company plant.

10oz Rock Cliff Ginger Ale bottle dated 1960

As we know the Rock Mineral Springs equipment and supplies where moved to Bluefield in the early 1960’s; however, what surprised me was that it appears that when they picked up the Canada Dry Ginger Ale franchise the company used the old Rock Cliff bottles to bottle the new brand as this cap shows.

16 oz "Coke / Coca-Cola" acl bottle dated 1973

The bottom of the bottle.

6 1/2 oz "Coke / Coca-Cola" acl bottle dated 1975

The bottom of the bottle.

In 1971 they acquire a Canada Dry franchise which they bottle until the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company of Princeton takes over the franchise in August 1973. The bottle above is from the time period, unfortunately it doesn’t have a town name on the bottle; however, the cap is ironically marked The Rock Mineral Springs Company of Bluefield, WV.

A 10oz clear Canada Dry bottle capped with a Canada Dry Grape bottle cap marked The Rock Mineral Springs Company of Bluefield, WV.

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(1) Polk's Bluefield City Directory

(2) West Virginia Directory of Industries 1922

(3) National Association of Credit men January 1916 issue

(4) West Virginia Corporation Report of Secretary of State March 4, 1905 to March 1, 1907

(5) Bluefield Daily Telegraph

(6) The American Bottler

(7) Mercer County Courthouse records